Category: Artur Ghazinyan

Putin's Nuke Missile Campaign: Who Is Targeted, Who Will Lose?


The presidential elections in Russia are coming soon, and in a few days, Russian citizens will elect the head of the country for the next six years.  At the beginning of the campaign, the process promised to be boring and over-staged, with a predetermined outcome.  However, further developments show that the incumbent president and the main favorite, Vladimir Putin, is facing serious problems both on the internal and the external fronts.

The political career of the president of the Russian Federation is threatened by an invisible enemy that cannot be combated by such traditional methods as folders of compromising materials, black P.R., harassment, bullying, and isolation.  This foe is too strong and is going to become invincible over time.  This challenger defeated many irreplaceable dictators who had all the necessary resources to remain at the helm of power and rule the country forever.  This opponent is the indifference and fatigue that the citizens of Russia demonstrate, the call and the dream of changes, renewed generation, and evolution of thinking.

It is necessary to fight this enemy in a completely different way, using unconventional means and strategy.  The goal of the battle would be to convince voters not to ignore the electoral process, to come to the polls and vote, despite the fact that there is no alternative to the incumbent president, and the desired choice has already been made from the moment you enter the polling station.  So what does Putin have to offer his voters?  What should he promise?  At first glance, it seems that it is possible to suggest almost everything.  Moreover, the result will be guaranteed, given the conditions of total supervision and a well led information strategy.

But things are not that simple.  Thus, Putin’s political technologists and strategies are faced with a severe problem.  They have to find, devise, develop, package, and present to voters proposals that were not made during the elections of the last 20 years.  After studying the electoral processes in Russia over the past 20 years, it can be concluded that all promises and proposals have already been made.

During the first two terms of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, Russia recorded real economic and political success that was to a large extent due to fantastic high energy prices and favorable international conditions rather than efficient and fair governance.  After 2007, the global economy experienced a severe crisis that affected the Russian economy.  As a result of this crisis, the life of an average Russian citizen entered an irreversible course of negative dynamics.  It happened because of a decrease in world prices for energy and other natural resources, a monopolistic economy, the highly defective work of state institutions, and large-scale corruption.  The situation was further aggravated by the fact that the USA and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and annexation of Crimea.  As a result, Russian industrialists lost the opportunity to obtain long-term loans from American and European financial institutions.

Given the conditions of the deficit of foreign currency, the national currency exchange rate of Russia was devalued twice, and prices for basic necessities increased, while the incomes of citizens gradually decreased.  Apart from that, Russia’s participation in the Syrian conflict and its possible interference in the electoral processes of the United States and the E.U. exacerbated relations between Russia and the West.  Those are, by the way, characterized by unprecedented tension from 1991 to this day, with a high probability of a “cold war.”

In this extremely complicated internal and external situation, Putin decided to run for president of Russia using his constitutional right in the second, legally fourth, and de facto fifth time.  Actually, he never did leave the post of Russian leader and continued to remain head of the state during Medvedev’s presidency.  So what ideological basis and propaganda platform should Putin use during the elections now?  What layer of Russian society is Putin’s potential electorate this year?  The answers to these questions were presented on March 1, 2018, in Putin’s message addressed to the enlarged Federal Council.  He introduced himself not as head of the state, but as supreme commander-in-chief of the country.  The major part of the speech was devoted to the latest achievements of the Russian military-industrial complex.  They were presented as proof of power and invincibility of the Russian Federation that is ready to resist any possible military acts against the state.

Introduction of these innovations by the president, as well as their use in the electoral campaign, indicate that the Russian president has exhausted the resources of communication with society on a number of issues of mutual interest.  There is nothing left to promise and offer except for nuclear missiles that can be launched dependably and bypass the anti-missile defense systems of, let’s say, the United States.  Posing himself as the supreme commander-in-chief of the country, Putin sent a message to his voters.  It says the existence of the country is under threat, the enemy is at the borders of the homeland, and the existence of the empire can be guaranteed by one candidate only.  Bringing this message to an average Russian person is just a technical matter that will be carried out by the pro-Kremlin expert environment and state-controlled media (popular talk shows, for instance).  Taking into account the personality cult that exists in Russia, it takes little time to convince people that it is immoral to demand social security, justice, fair governance, and equal opportunities in these conditions since the very “existence of the empire” is questionable.

The voice of the progressive part of Russian society will be stunned by the noise of patriotic pathos.  The minority’s demand for democracy, protection of human rights, and the rule of law will be enshrined as “serving the interests of the enemy.”  Moreover, their claims will be isolated from the agenda of the political and public life of the state.  Yet anyone who obtained a higher education and is more or less familiar with security issues will destroy this thesis in five minutes, since Russia will not have the opportunity to put the exposed weapons into practice.  In the 21st century, geopolitical problems between superpowers are solved not by nuclear weapons, but by a person who is offered guarantees of political, economic, legal, and social protection.  The issues are also addressed by innovations that improve the quality of a citizen’s daily life and civilized solutions to existing problems.

“Homo Sovieticus” is still alive in Russian society.  In the subconscious of that species, NATO is the enemy to be fought, and the only resource of struggle is internal “stability” and support of the leader.  The Soviet Union, which had a clear ideology and a serious influence on geopolitical processes, managed to survive only 40 years with this ideology.  In a modern Russia that has no specific ideological platform and relatively open society without the Iron Curtain, such a concept is exceptionally vulnerable and unviable.  The Kremlin understands this.  It can be demonstrated by viewing Putin’s interview with NBC.  That interview, in fact, it was merely an edited version of his message to the Federal Council.  It shows that the latter was addressed exclusively to the domestic audience and was extremely propagandistic.

Artur Ghazinyan is the director of the Center of European Studies.

The presidential elections in Russia are coming soon, and in a few days, Russian citizens will elect the head of the country for the next six years.  At the beginning of the campaign, the process promised to be boring and over-staged, with a predetermined outcome.  However, further developments show that the incumbent president and the main favorite, Vladimir Putin, is facing serious problems both on the internal and the external fronts.

The political career of the president of the Russian Federation is threatened by an invisible enemy that cannot be combated by such traditional methods as folders of compromising materials, black P.R., harassment, bullying, and isolation.  This foe is too strong and is going to become invincible over time.  This challenger defeated many irreplaceable dictators who had all the necessary resources to remain at the helm of power and rule the country forever.  This opponent is the indifference and fatigue that the citizens of Russia demonstrate, the call and the dream of changes, renewed generation, and evolution of thinking.

It is necessary to fight this enemy in a completely different way, using unconventional means and strategy.  The goal of the battle would be to convince voters not to ignore the electoral process, to come to the polls and vote, despite the fact that there is no alternative to the incumbent president, and the desired choice has already been made from the moment you enter the polling station.  So what does Putin have to offer his voters?  What should he promise?  At first glance, it seems that it is possible to suggest almost everything.  Moreover, the result will be guaranteed, given the conditions of total supervision and a well led information strategy.

But things are not that simple.  Thus, Putin’s political technologists and strategies are faced with a severe problem.  They have to find, devise, develop, package, and present to voters proposals that were not made during the elections of the last 20 years.  After studying the electoral processes in Russia over the past 20 years, it can be concluded that all promises and proposals have already been made.

During the first two terms of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, Russia recorded real economic and political success that was to a large extent due to fantastic high energy prices and favorable international conditions rather than efficient and fair governance.  After 2007, the global economy experienced a severe crisis that affected the Russian economy.  As a result of this crisis, the life of an average Russian citizen entered an irreversible course of negative dynamics.  It happened because of a decrease in world prices for energy and other natural resources, a monopolistic economy, the highly defective work of state institutions, and large-scale corruption.  The situation was further aggravated by the fact that the USA and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and annexation of Crimea.  As a result, Russian industrialists lost the opportunity to obtain long-term loans from American and European financial institutions.

Given the conditions of the deficit of foreign currency, the national currency exchange rate of Russia was devalued twice, and prices for basic necessities increased, while the incomes of citizens gradually decreased.  Apart from that, Russia’s participation in the Syrian conflict and its possible interference in the electoral processes of the United States and the E.U. exacerbated relations between Russia and the West.  Those are, by the way, characterized by unprecedented tension from 1991 to this day, with a high probability of a “cold war.”

In this extremely complicated internal and external situation, Putin decided to run for president of Russia using his constitutional right in the second, legally fourth, and de facto fifth time.  Actually, he never did leave the post of Russian leader and continued to remain head of the state during Medvedev’s presidency.  So what ideological basis and propaganda platform should Putin use during the elections now?  What layer of Russian society is Putin’s potential electorate this year?  The answers to these questions were presented on March 1, 2018, in Putin’s message addressed to the enlarged Federal Council.  He introduced himself not as head of the state, but as supreme commander-in-chief of the country.  The major part of the speech was devoted to the latest achievements of the Russian military-industrial complex.  They were presented as proof of power and invincibility of the Russian Federation that is ready to resist any possible military acts against the state.

Introduction of these innovations by the president, as well as their use in the electoral campaign, indicate that the Russian president has exhausted the resources of communication with society on a number of issues of mutual interest.  There is nothing left to promise and offer except for nuclear missiles that can be launched dependably and bypass the anti-missile defense systems of, let’s say, the United States.  Posing himself as the supreme commander-in-chief of the country, Putin sent a message to his voters.  It says the existence of the country is under threat, the enemy is at the borders of the homeland, and the existence of the empire can be guaranteed by one candidate only.  Bringing this message to an average Russian person is just a technical matter that will be carried out by the pro-Kremlin expert environment and state-controlled media (popular talk shows, for instance).  Taking into account the personality cult that exists in Russia, it takes little time to convince people that it is immoral to demand social security, justice, fair governance, and equal opportunities in these conditions since the very “existence of the empire” is questionable.

The voice of the progressive part of Russian society will be stunned by the noise of patriotic pathos.  The minority’s demand for democracy, protection of human rights, and the rule of law will be enshrined as “serving the interests of the enemy.”  Moreover, their claims will be isolated from the agenda of the political and public life of the state.  Yet anyone who obtained a higher education and is more or less familiar with security issues will destroy this thesis in five minutes, since Russia will not have the opportunity to put the exposed weapons into practice.  In the 21st century, geopolitical problems between superpowers are solved not by nuclear weapons, but by a person who is offered guarantees of political, economic, legal, and social protection.  The issues are also addressed by innovations that improve the quality of a citizen’s daily life and civilized solutions to existing problems.

“Homo Sovieticus” is still alive in Russian society.  In the subconscious of that species, NATO is the enemy to be fought, and the only resource of struggle is internal “stability” and support of the leader.  The Soviet Union, which had a clear ideology and a serious influence on geopolitical processes, managed to survive only 40 years with this ideology.  In a modern Russia that has no specific ideological platform and relatively open society without the Iron Curtain, such a concept is exceptionally vulnerable and unviable.  The Kremlin understands this.  It can be demonstrated by viewing Putin’s interview with NBC.  That interview, in fact, it was merely an edited version of his message to the Federal Council.  It shows that the latter was addressed exclusively to the domestic audience and was extremely propagandistic.

Artur Ghazinyan is the director of the Center of European Studies.



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How the President Trump is gaining leverage on Putin (as his critics smirk)


Criticism and mockery accompanied publication of the US Department of the Treasury’s long-awaited report on the Russian authorities and President Putin’s closest associates (the “oligarchs list”). But a close analysis of the context and form of the report indicates that President Trump may once again gain leverage as his clueless critics smirk at his presumed incompetence.  

The open part of the report, submitted by Treasury 11 minutes before the statutory expiry date, contains the names of 210 individuals, including high-ranking officials from Russia’s Presidential Administration, government members, and representatives of large businesses with a fortune of more than $ 1 billion.

Publication of the report was mandated by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed by Congress in July 2017. The bill resembles a politico-strategic document in the form of a law, the purpose of which is to force President Trump to remain within the agenda of the political establishment and not to let him pursue any political rapprochement with Russia.

The document provoked many negative reactions among prominent members of Congress, academic experts and media. The list was criticized for being devised in an amateurish and primitive way. The list’s authors included some people that advocated normalization of relations with the United States, in particular, and the West in general, as well as some businesspeople that are not related to the closest circle of Putin and are not part of the Russian corruption hierarchy pyramid. At the same time, the creators of the report were accused of missing some odious representatives of the ruling regime that caused severe damage to the United States and its allies by their actions, who deserve to be at the top of that list.

The authors of the report were also reproached for lack of professionalism and absence of specific goals. There was widespread joking that Trump’s had provided Congress with some names from the Kremlin phone book and Forbes Magazine’s Russian edition. The Atlantic Council, a think-tank, charged that the Department of the Treasury had changed the document at the last minute, so that Congress received an entirely different list from what was prepared originally by the White House experts.

In Russia, the reaction was completely mixed. The ruling political elite perceived the publication of the “oligarchs list” with sarcasm, mocking the administration of the US President for the simplicity of the document. Nevertheless, I am deeply convinced that this reaction was in fact aimed at an internal audience, especially the ruling elite. The goal was to show that this list does not pose any threats to the Russian authorities and Putin personally. Meanwhile, the Russian President’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, accused the US of interfering in the presidential elections in the Russian Federation.

In fact, this document comprises the entire political and economic elite of Russia.  The architects of the whole process have sent an alarm to warn them about potential forthcoming disaster – sanctions – but gave the enough time to avoid restrictions on the part of the United States. These billionaires now face a choice in what to do tin protect themselves and their wealth.

Most of these entrepreneurs hold dual or even triple citizenship. Considering the fact that the legal system of Russia does not guarantee the right to private property and anyone can lose hisher property at the will of one person, it is logical to assume that much of their accumulated wealth already has been exported from Russia to other countries or offshore zones. According to various sources, over the past 22 years, the outflow of capital from Russia has amounted to about $700 billion.

It should also be noted that most of these businesspeople are not tax residents of the Russian Federation, since they do not reside on its territory for more than six months during a year.  While living abroad, especially in the USA and EU, many have managed to establish strong business relations with large Western companies, take part in large-scale investment projects, purchase expensive real estate and personal property, and open and maintain accounts in Western banks, as well as get long-term loans at low interest.

But having been included in what is seen as a blacklist of the US Treasury, they face a dilemma: remaining loyal to the Russian ruling regime and risking losing major parts of  their wealth from forthcoming sanctions, or trying to shield themselves and their capital through American lobbying organizations, leaving Russia, and taking away as much as possible of their remaining wealth there.

From a business standpoint, the first option is less attractive, as the potential for the security and growth of their wealth in Russia is limited, owing to the existing tough economic and political circumstances, while the possible loss from US sanctions could be considerable. Consequently, it is likely that the majority of them will prefer to keep their fortunes, business ties and contacts overseas, leaving Russia.

It is also important to note that many of these people originally acquired most of their wealth in conjunction with the state, having by various means appropriated its financial flows or natural resources. This means that they obtained crucial information about the peculiarities of the corruption pyramid and the schemes used in Russia. This kind of knowledge is of enormous value to the United States.

Given all the above-mentioned context, it is possible to say with near certainty that America’s lobbying organizations will be put to work in the upcoming months by Russian oligarchs, and new folders with compromising materials that are extremely dangerous for Putin’s administration will appear at the disposal of the US federal investigative bodies.

Thus, the Trump Administration is likely to gain a significant lever of influence on the political and economic elite of Russia. If it is put to efficient use, it will be possible to shake the monolithic power structure created by Putin, and seed distrust among the ruling elite of the country. If we take into account the fact that this process takes place on the eve of the presidential elections in Russia, it becomes much more threatening for the Russian authorities.

In this context, the seemingly pro forma statement by Putin’s Press Secretary, accusing the United States of America of interfering in the presidential elections in the Russian Federation, may actually have some truth to it.

Artur Ghazinya PhD, is Head of the Center for European Studies.

Criticism and mockery accompanied publication of the US Department of the Treasury’s long-awaited report on the Russian authorities and President Putin’s closest associates (the “oligarchs list”). But a close analysis of the context and form of the report indicates that President Trump may once again gain leverage as his clueless critics smirk at his presumed incompetence.  

The open part of the report, submitted by Treasury 11 minutes before the statutory expiry date, contains the names of 210 individuals, including high-ranking officials from Russia’s Presidential Administration, government members, and representatives of large businesses with a fortune of more than $ 1 billion.

Publication of the report was mandated by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed by Congress in July 2017. The bill resembles a politico-strategic document in the form of a law, the purpose of which is to force President Trump to remain within the agenda of the political establishment and not to let him pursue any political rapprochement with Russia.

The document provoked many negative reactions among prominent members of Congress, academic experts and media. The list was criticized for being devised in an amateurish and primitive way. The list’s authors included some people that advocated normalization of relations with the United States, in particular, and the West in general, as well as some businesspeople that are not related to the closest circle of Putin and are not part of the Russian corruption hierarchy pyramid. At the same time, the creators of the report were accused of missing some odious representatives of the ruling regime that caused severe damage to the United States and its allies by their actions, who deserve to be at the top of that list.

The authors of the report were also reproached for lack of professionalism and absence of specific goals. There was widespread joking that Trump’s had provided Congress with some names from the Kremlin phone book and Forbes Magazine’s Russian edition. The Atlantic Council, a think-tank, charged that the Department of the Treasury had changed the document at the last minute, so that Congress received an entirely different list from what was prepared originally by the White House experts.

In Russia, the reaction was completely mixed. The ruling political elite perceived the publication of the “oligarchs list” with sarcasm, mocking the administration of the US President for the simplicity of the document. Nevertheless, I am deeply convinced that this reaction was in fact aimed at an internal audience, especially the ruling elite. The goal was to show that this list does not pose any threats to the Russian authorities and Putin personally. Meanwhile, the Russian President’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, accused the US of interfering in the presidential elections in the Russian Federation.

In fact, this document comprises the entire political and economic elite of Russia.  The architects of the whole process have sent an alarm to warn them about potential forthcoming disaster – sanctions – but gave the enough time to avoid restrictions on the part of the United States. These billionaires now face a choice in what to do tin protect themselves and their wealth.

Most of these entrepreneurs hold dual or even triple citizenship. Considering the fact that the legal system of Russia does not guarantee the right to private property and anyone can lose hisher property at the will of one person, it is logical to assume that much of their accumulated wealth already has been exported from Russia to other countries or offshore zones. According to various sources, over the past 22 years, the outflow of capital from Russia has amounted to about $700 billion.

It should also be noted that most of these businesspeople are not tax residents of the Russian Federation, since they do not reside on its territory for more than six months during a year.  While living abroad, especially in the USA and EU, many have managed to establish strong business relations with large Western companies, take part in large-scale investment projects, purchase expensive real estate and personal property, and open and maintain accounts in Western banks, as well as get long-term loans at low interest.

But having been included in what is seen as a blacklist of the US Treasury, they face a dilemma: remaining loyal to the Russian ruling regime and risking losing major parts of  their wealth from forthcoming sanctions, or trying to shield themselves and their capital through American lobbying organizations, leaving Russia, and taking away as much as possible of their remaining wealth there.

From a business standpoint, the first option is less attractive, as the potential for the security and growth of their wealth in Russia is limited, owing to the existing tough economic and political circumstances, while the possible loss from US sanctions could be considerable. Consequently, it is likely that the majority of them will prefer to keep their fortunes, business ties and contacts overseas, leaving Russia.

It is also important to note that many of these people originally acquired most of their wealth in conjunction with the state, having by various means appropriated its financial flows or natural resources. This means that they obtained crucial information about the peculiarities of the corruption pyramid and the schemes used in Russia. This kind of knowledge is of enormous value to the United States.

Given all the above-mentioned context, it is possible to say with near certainty that America’s lobbying organizations will be put to work in the upcoming months by Russian oligarchs, and new folders with compromising materials that are extremely dangerous for Putin’s administration will appear at the disposal of the US federal investigative bodies.

Thus, the Trump Administration is likely to gain a significant lever of influence on the political and economic elite of Russia. If it is put to efficient use, it will be possible to shake the monolithic power structure created by Putin, and seed distrust among the ruling elite of the country. If we take into account the fact that this process takes place on the eve of the presidential elections in Russia, it becomes much more threatening for the Russian authorities.

In this context, the seemingly pro forma statement by Putin’s Press Secretary, accusing the United States of America of interfering in the presidential elections in the Russian Federation, may actually have some truth to it.

Artur Ghazinya PhD, is Head of the Center for European Studies.



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