Regime change in Russia? Think again, neocons
However, the chances of them achieving their ambitious goal are as slender as was the prospect of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs turning up in Iraq. The new neocon instigated ‘Cold War’ on Russia, which was supposed to weaken the Russian economy and lead to Maidan-style anti-government protests in the country, has actually boosted President Vladimir Putin’s popularity, as new polls show.
The approval ratings of the man who Western neocons have demonized for the last twelve years is at record levels - with almost 90 percent of Russians saying they had a positive view of the president.
Support for President Putin’s foreign policies is also strong - with 70 percent supporting him on Ukraine.
As British antiwar politician George Galloway tweeted:
It’s not only Putin’s popularity that is the stumbling block to neocon plans for ‘regime change’. The main opposition to Putin and his United Russia party, are not pro-NATO, pro-Israel ‘liberals’, but the Communist Party, which is the second most popular party in the country.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov polled over 17 percent in the last presidential election, while the Communists won 92 seats in the 450 State Duma elections in December 2011.
The Communists have urged Putin to be even more assertive against those they regard as Russia’s enemies. In May 2013, they called for Russia to convene a meeting of the UN Security Council after Israel had illegally bombed Syria.
“Syria is not the first, and obviously not the last victim of the global expansion of the US and its NATO allies. Events of the past twenty years show that Russia is also in the crosshairs. Therefore, our country borders’ protection passes through the Syrian cities, which have now become the scene of fierce fighting. The Russian side should not turn a blind eye to the subversion of America and its satellites directed against our allies,” the Communist Party Central Committee statement declared.
The serial regime changers in the West are faced with a situation that the most credible opposition to the person they want to see toppled would actually follow policies that they would hate even more.
So what do they do? With breathtaking disdain for the views of the Russian people, they completely ignore the fact that the Communists are the second largest party in Russia - and instead portray so-called ‘liberals’ - who have minimal levels of popular support (currently around 1 percent), as the ‘democratic opposition’.
The neocon line is: ‘in the name of democracy, the parties whose views are the most unpopular with the electorate, should be running Russia.’ Their interpretation of the word ‘democracy’ is beyond Orwellian.
“Although ‘regime change’ has become a dirty phrase, the best thing that could happen to Russia, its neighbors and the world would be a change from Vladimir Putin’s brand of strongman authoritarianism to some form of democracy,” opined Alexander Motyl in Newsweek in January. The article first appeared on the Atlantic Council’s blog.
So, in other words, the man with sky-high approval ratings needs to be toppled, so someone much less popular can rule Russia. And all in the name of spreading “democracy”!
In any case, the neocon plans for promoting their form of undemocratic democracy in Russia face another big stumbling block, namely Russia’s foreign agents law. This legislation requires all NGOs which receive funding from abroad and that engage in political activities to register as ‘foreign agents’. Russian political parties are also forbidden to receive sponsorship or enter into any business deals with NGOs that have ‘foreign agent’ status.
This makes the possibility of a foreign-funded ‘color coded revolution’ in Russia much harder to pull off. Neocons, needless to say, don’t like the law:
The neocon plans for regime change in Russia predate the current Ukraine crisis and the conflict in Syria. They be traced back to 2003 when it became clear that Vladimir Putin would stand up for Russia’s legitimate interests, in contrast to the more compliant Boris Yeltsin. The first post-Perestroika president stood by, vodka bottle in hand, and brown envelopes in pocket, as NATO illegally bombed Yugoslavia and Western-supported oligarchs plundered the country, impoverishing millions of ordinary Russians in the process.
As I argued in a previous Op-Edge, the turning point was the action taken against corrupt oligarchs who had strong links to the West.
Rebuilding the economy and improving living standards for ordinary Russians inevitably meant action being taken against certain oligarchs, who had made vast fortunes in the Yeltsin years. These oligarchs, such as Boris Berezovksy and Mikhail Khodorkovsky had powerful supporters in the West. As I detailed in an article for the New Statesman in November 2003, influential neocons in Washington, who had links to Russian oligarchs, used the arrest of Khodorkovsky for fraud and tax evasion to push for a hardening of US policy towards Moscow.
The arrest of Khodorkovsky led to neocon calls for sanctions on Russia - calls which were to be repeated over the following years. This anti-Putin crusade was ratcheted up to a new level when Russia had the temerity to block ‘regime change’ plans for Syria.
In his article ‘How war on Syria lost its way’, former CIA officer Ray McGovern told of how he was in the same CNN studio as two uberhawks Paul Wolfowitz and Joe Lieberman, after the US’s plans to bomb Syria in 2013 had been dropped.
McGovern described the atmosphere as “distinctly funereal.”
“I felt I had come to a wake with somberly dressed folks (no pastel ties this time) grieving for a recently, dearly-departed war.”
After Damascus avoided airstrikes, a wave of full-on attacks on Russia appeared in the elite media. British ‘left’ neocon Nick Cohen, who in 2012 had written a piece on Syria entitled ‘Russia is playing Western democrats for dupes’ complained that Putin had made Barack Obama “look like a conman’s stooge.”
His thoughts echoed those of Michael Weiss, who, writing for the ultra-neocon Henry Jackson Society in 2012, berated the Obama administration for “still trying to woo the Kremlin” after Russia had vetoed two attempts to pass a UN Security Resolution “condemning the Assad regime.”
Ukraine was where the neocons sought to get their revenge for being thwarted on Syria. As I argued in an earlier op-edge piece: “The US sponsored regime change in Kiev, an enterprise in which the State Department’s Victoria Nuland, the wife of the Project for a New American Century co-founder Robert Kagan, played a prominent role, finally enabled the hawks to get what they been dreaming of for over 10 years – the sanctioning of Russia. The ‘get tough with Russia’ stance they’ve long been calling for has finally become the official policy of the US and leading EU countries. The demonization of President Putin in the West has become ‘mainstream’.”
Neocons were banking on sanctions leading to mass protests against Putin’s rule. But as we see from the polls the opposite has occurred and Putin is more popular than ever. The bullying of Russia has only made the Russian people more determined than ever not to do what the Western hawks want.
The question is now - what will the neocons do next? There have been calls for even tougher sanctions on Russia - sanctions that would ban Russia from the SWIFT banking system.
In February, an editorial entitled “No More Appeasement” in the Rupert Murdoch owned Times, Britain’s most hardline neocon newspaper, declared its support for “tougher sanctions than those already in force.” Meanwhile, Victoria Nuland warned a few days ago that “the costs will go up” for Russia if violence increases in Donetsk and Lugansk, although of course she did not mean violence initiated by Kiev, or violence between the Kiev authorities and the Right Sector.
However, the problem for Ms Nuland and the London Times is that European countries are itching for sanctions on Russia to be eased, not intensified, as their economies are hurting due to counter-measures taken by the Kremlin. How much longer will leading Western Europeans companies allow their profits to be hit because a bunch of political extremists have an obsession with toppling Putin? And how much longer will European governments sign up to a sanctions policy clearly not in their countries’ interest?
Some believe that fanatical neocons would even go as far as provoke war with Russia to get their way.
“The most determined push for war in 2015 will come from neocons and interventionists who want a US-Putin confrontation and regime change in Russia,” warned America paleoconservative commentator, Patrick J. Buchanan earlier this year.
Certainly, during the worst of the fighting in Ukraine, it has seemed that escalation is what some in the West desired. “Putin must be stopped. And sometimes only guns can stop guns” was the title of a bellicose piece by Timothy Garton-Ash. who praised the serial warmongering US Senator John McCain for spurring on US Congress to pass the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which allocated funds for the supply of military equipment to Ukraine.
It’s worth noting though that neocons like to attack countries that are weak and not ones that are strong. Iraq got ‘Shock and Awe’ not because it possessed WMDs, but because it didn’t. Libya was vulnerable because its defenses were weak and Muammar Gaddafi had surrendered his WMDs. Russia, by contrast has a large nuclear arsenal, up-to-date conventional weaponry, and 771,000 active military personnel.
A neocon-instigated military attack on Russia is unlikely, but we can’t rule it out completely, given the fanaticism of the people we are dealing with. In December, Robert Parry wrote of the insanity of the neocon-driven regime change scheme to take down President Putin.
“What we’re seeing here is the usual step-by-step progress towards a neocon regime change scenario, as the targeted foreign ‘demon’ fails to take ‘reasonable steps’ dictated by Washington and thus must be confronted, with endless escalations, all the more severe to force the demon to submit or until ultimately the sufferings of his people creates openings for ‘regime change’”.
Perry warned that “the future of the planet” was at stake if Western efforts to ‘regime change’ in Russia continue.
Veteran award winning journalist John Pilger has warned of a ‘new holocaust’ if the serial warmongers aren’t stopped. “Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk who handed his country’s economy to the West. His successor, Vladimir Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation, that is his crime.”
A few days ago the New York Times published an op-edge by Yelstin’s former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, entitled ‘Russia‘s coming regime change’. Kozyrev said that regime change was “inevitable, maybe imminent.” But polls showing the country’s leader with 90 percent approval ratings don’t really back that assessment up.
Despite all their obsessive efforts, pulling off a regime change in Russia does look too big a project even for the neocons. The Russian people don’t wish to the return to the 1990s, and they quite clearly don’t want a neocon-approved puppet to lead them. And Russia is ready and able to defend itself if the nightmare scenario of war does come to pass - just take a look at the pictures of the Victory Day military parade if you have any doubts.
As to how we can end the ‘new Cold War’, it’s not up to Russia to change its stance, as it has done nothing wrong, but the neocons in the West… What part of ‘Nyet’ don’t these people understand?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.