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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Now Again Speaking the Language of Molotov-Ribbentrop to the West, Pastukhov Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 14 – The evolution of the Kremlin’s versions of the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny calls attention to a disturbing development, Vladimir Pastukhov says. Moscow is now speaking “in the language of the diplomacy of Molotov-Ribbentrop” because “the resolution of similar tasks gives rise to stylistic similarities.”

            No one should dismiss the Kremlin’s approach to the Navalny poisoning, the London-based Russian analyst says, because it reveals the nature of the Putin regime, “its deep and essential elements” which in other situations have been less clearly on display (

            After a brief vacillation, the Kremlin went on the attack to defend itself against charges that it poisoned Navalny. Now it agrees that he was poisoned “not in Russia but in Germany, either in the German airplane which brought him to Berlin or in the hospital where he was treated.” More details of this version will likely emerge.

            The Russian claims are absurd only in terms of the facts, but it isn’t the Kremlin that has gone insane. “In the Kremlin work sober and cynical people and everything is in order in their heads. This spectacle of the absurd is playing out exclusively for the viewers,” the Europeans who should be shocked into action but who aren’t.

            The reason for their confusion and inaction is simple: “Over the last several years,” the Russian analyst says, “Russia has achieved a balance with the West as far as sanctions are concerned.” The West has imposed sanctions up to the point where they don’t hurt its own economy more than Russia and are not willing to go further and take losses at home.

            “Representatives of the Western establishment openly acknowledge this,” Pastukhov says. And there is another reason for the Kremlin’s boldness: the situation of the Russian economy now is much better placed to resist anything the West does than the Kremlin was at the end of Soviet times when Moscow was dependent on Western food supplies.

            That means that those who love to draw analogies between the late 1980s and now often go far beyond what a sober assessment of this difference permit. Moreover, Pastukhov says, in the West itself, there has been “a total corruption of its elites by Russian money” and these people aren’t willing to challenge Russia especially under current conditions.

            As a result, the analyst continues, “the Kremlin feels completely confident and knows very well that whatever it does today, it will not have to pay a price,” short of trying to kill the US president which it won’t do because “as experience shows, it is sometimes easier to buy him than to kill him.”

            This is why is it putting out ever more absurd explanations about the Navalny case, Pastukhov argues. “The Putin regime wants to break Europe, to force it to understand that it cannot do anything by force and that it must enter into negotiations” with Moscow. “Swallow the poisoning of Navalany, you’ll swallow all the rest. And they are swallowing it.”

            This is “a very Putin” tactic, choose the strongest player, destroy it and then make all the others fall in line. That is what he did with Yukos, and now, with the help of the Navalny case, the Kremlin wants to bring Europe to heel and show the entire West its place” as far as Russia is concerned.

            For such a strategy to work, Moscow has to act boldly and say things that are consistent only if one adopts a Kafkaesque view of reality. But that is what Putin and his team are doing. Indeed, today, they are “speaking the language of Molotov-Ribbentrop diplomacy – and this is natural as the solution of similar tasks gives rise to stylistic similarities” as well.


Window on Eurasia — New Series