The Saker — The Unz Review June 19, 2017
Russia has often been in the news over the past years, mostly as the demonized “Empire of Mordor” responsible for all the bad things on the planet, especially Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, the Russian intervention in Syria and, of course, the “imminent” Russian invasion of the Baltics, Poland or even all of Western Europe. I won’t even dignify all this puerile nonsense with any attention, but instead I will focus on what I think are important developments which are either misunderstood or completely ignored in the West.
First, a few key dots:
1) The Russian intervention in Syria
There are so many aspects of the Russian military intervention in Syria which ought to be carefully studied that I am confident that many PhD theses will be written on this topic in the future. While I have mostly focused my work on the purely military aspects of this campaign, it is important to look at the bigger picture. To do that, I will make the admittedly risky assumption that the civil war in Syria is pretty much over. That is not my conclusion only, but also an opinion voiced by an increasing number of analysts including a Russian general during an official briefing. With the fall of Aleppo and now the latest Syrian-Hezbollah-Russian move to cut off the US controlled forces from their planned move to the Iraqi border, things do indeed looks pretty bleak for the terrorists, both the “good ones” and the “bad ones”. In the Syrian-Russian-Hezbollah controlled areas, normal life is gradually returning and the Russians are pouring huge amounts of aid (food, medical supplies, de-mining, engineering, etc.) into the liberated areas. When Aleppo was under Takfiri control it was the centre of attention of the western media, now that this city has been liberated, nobody wants to hear about it lest anybody become aware of what is a huge Russian success.
Even more impressive is the nature of the Russian forces in Tartus and, especially, in Khmeinim. The Russian military TV Channel “Red Star” has recently aired two long documentaries about the Russian facilities in Syria and two things are clear: first, the Russians are going to stay for a very long time and, second, they have now completed an advanced resupply and augmentation infrastructure which can accommodate not only small and mid size aircraft and ships, but even the immense An-124. The Russian have dug in, very very deep, and they will fight very hard if attacked. Most importantly, they now have the means of bringing in more forces, including heavy equipment, in a very short time.
Again, this might be a premature conclusion, but barring any (always possible) surprises, the Russians are in, Assad stays in power, the Takfiris are out and the civil war is over.
Conversely this means that: the US lost the war, as did the KSA, Qatar, Israel, France, the UK and all the other so-called “friends of Syria”. The Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians have won.
So what does all this really mean?
The most radical consequence of this process is that Russia is back in the Middle-East. But even that is not the full story. Not only is Russia back, but she is back in force. Even though Iran has actually made a bigger effort to save Syria, the Russian intervention, which was much smaller than the Iranian one, was far more visible and it sure looked like “Russia saved Assad”. In reality, “Russia saved Assad” is a gross over-simplification, it should be “the Syrian people, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia saved Syria”, but that is how most people will see it, for better or for worse. Of course, there is more than a kernel of truth in that view as without the Russian intervention Damascus would have probably fallen to the Daesh crazies and all the other Christian or Muslim denominations would have been more or less wiped out. Still, the perception is that Russia single-handedly changed what appeared as an inevitable outcome.
The Russian success was especially amazing when compared to the apparently endless series of defeats for the United States: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and now the latest mess with the Saudi blockade against Qatar – the Americans just don’t see to be able to get anything done. Just the contrast between the way the US betrayed Hosni Mubarak with how the Russians stood by Assad is a powerful message to all the regional leaders: better to have the Russians on your side than the Americans.
2) How Russia transformed Turkey from an enemy to a potential ally
To say that Turkey is a crucial ally of the US and a vital member of NATO is an understatement. For one thing, Turkey has the 2nd largest army in NATO (the US being the biggest one, of course). Turkey also holds the keys to the Mediterranean, NATO’s southern flank and the northern Middle-East. Turkey has a common border with Iran and a maritime boundary with Russia (over the Black Sea). When Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 bomber (with US complicity) the situation became so tense that many observers feared that a full-scale war would break out between the two countries and, possibly, the NATO alliance. Initially, nothing happened, the Turks took a hard stance, but following the coup against Erdogan (also with US complicity), the Turks suddenly did an amazing 180 and turned to Russia for help. The Russians were only glad too help, of course.
We will never really know what role the Russians really played in saving Erdogan, but it is pretty clear, even by his own words, that Putin did something absolutely crucial. What is indisputable is that Erdogan suddenly moved away from the US, NATO and the EU and turned to the Russians who immediately used Turkey’s ties with the Takfiris to get them out of Aleppo. Then they invited Turkey and Iran to negotiate a three way deal to end the civil war. As for the Americans, were not even consulted.
The example of Turkey is the perfect illustration of how the Russians turn “enemies into neutrals, neutrals into friends and friends into allies”. Oh sure, Erdogan is an unpredictable and, frankly, unstable character, the Americans and NATO are still in Turkey, and the Russians will never forget the Turkish support for the Takfiris in Chechnia, Crimea and Syria or, for that matter, the Turkish treacherous attack on their SU-24. But neither will they show any external signs of that. Just like with Israel, there is no love fest between Russia and Turkey, but all the parties are supremely pragmatic and so everybody is all smiles.
Why does this matter?
Because it shows how sophisticated the Russians are, how instead of using military force to avenge their SU-24, which is what the Americans would have done, they quietly but with great resolve and effort did what had to be done to “de-fuse” Turkey and “turn” it. The day following the Turkish attack Putin warned that Turkey would not “get away with just some tomatoes” (referring to the Russians sanctions against Turkish imports). Less than a year later, the Turkish military and security services got almost completely de-fanged in the purges following the coup against Erdogan and Erdogan himself flew to Moscow to ask to be accepted by the Kremlin as a friend and ally. Pretty darn impressive, if you ask me.
3) Russia and the “Chechen model” as a unique case in the Muslim world
Many observers have commented in awe at the miracle Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov pulled-off in Chechnia: after the region was absolutely devastated by two vicious and brutal wars and after being a “black hole” for assorted terrorists and common thugs, Chechnia turned into one of the most peaceful and safe parts of Russia (even while neighboring Dagestan is still suffering from violence and corruption). I won’t revisit it all and describe all the dramatic changes in Chechnia, but I will focus on a often ignored aspect of the “Chechen model”: Chechnia has become an extremely strict and traditional Sunni Muslim region. Not only that, but it is also one which has basically comprehensively defeated not only the Wahabis themselves but also their Wahabi ideology. In other words, Chechnia today is unique in that this is a Sunni Muslim culture which is strictly Islamic but with no risk whatsoever of being re-infected by the Wahabi virus. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this unique feature.
In the 1990s most of the Muslim world supported the Wahabi insurgency in Chechnia in a completely knee-jerk reaction I call “wrong or right – my Ummah”. This is largely the result of the very sophisticated AngloZionist propaganda aimed at the Muslim world which completely distorted the truth about the conflict taking place there (the same happened in Bosnia, by the way). Nowadays, however, the “Chechen example” is attracting a great deal of attention in the Muslim world and the personality of Ramzan Kadyrov is slowly becoming somewhat of a hero. Even the Saudis who financed a great deal of the Chechen insurgency and who threatened Russia with terrorist attack during the Sochi Olympics, now have to be very courteous and “brotherly” with Ramzan Kadyrov. The truth is that the Saudis are directly threatened by the “Chechen model” because it proves something the Saudis want to categorically deny: the traditional and strict Islam does NOT have to be Wahabi or, even less so, Takfiri.
Think of it: the biggest threat to the Saudis is, of course, Iran because it is a powerful, successful and dynamic Islamic Republic. But at least Iran is Shia and that, in the minds of some Sunnis, is a grievous heresy and almost a form of apostasy. But the Chechens are potentially much more dangerous to the Saudi ideology – they are anti-Wahabi (they call them “shaitans” or, literally, “devils”) and they are willing to fight anywhere in the Muslim world to counter the “good terrorists” supported by the CIA and the House of Saud. Time and time again, Ramzan Kadyrov, and many other Chechen leaders and commanders, have repeated that they are willing to fight for Russia “anywhere on the planet”. They have already been deployed in Georgia, Lebanon, Novorussia and now they are fighting in Syria. Each time with devastating effectiveness. They are true Muslim heroes, recognized as such even by the non-Muslim Russians, and they want absolutely nothing to do with the Wahabis whom they hate with a passion. As a result, more and more people in the Muslim world are expressing their admiration for the Chechen model.
The Chechen model also is noticed and hotly debated inside Russia. Russian liberals absolutely hate it and, just like their western curators, they accuse Kadyrov all sorts of unspeakable crimes. Their latest invention is that homosexuals are jailed and tortured by Chechen security service. This kind of stories might be taken seriously in San Francisco or Key West, but they get zero traction with the Russian public.
Chechnia is ideally located to influence not only the Caucasus but also other Muslim regions of Russia and even Central Asia. The large number of Chechens in the Russian special operation forces also makes them very visible in the Russian media. All this contributes to the high-visibility and popularity of a viable traditional Sunni model which is the exact opposite of what is happening the EU. Let’s compare the image of Muslims in the EU with Russia.
A couple of important caveats first. First, the picture was not always quite as rosy, especially not in the 1990s when Chechens were seen as thugs, brutes, crooks and vicious terrorists. Some Russians have neither forgotten nor forgiven (and, of course, some Chechens still hate Russians for what they did to Chechnia during the two wars). Second, this table compares what I call “ethnic Muslims” in Europe, meaning people coming from Muslim countries or families but who are not necessarily true, pious, Muslims at all. In fact, most of them are not. This is why I put “Muslims” in quotation marks. When I speak of Chechens, I refer to those conservative Chechens who support Kadyrov and his strict adherence to Islamic values. So, in a way, I will be comparing apples and oranges, but I do so because I want to show the greatest contrast possible and I believe that these apples and oranges play a crucial role in the development of the societies they live in now.
|“Muslims” in the EU||“Kadyrov Chechens” in Russia|
|Seen as alien/immigrants/”others”||Seen as neighbors/locals|
|Seen as disruptive of the local culture||Seen as representing a conservative/traditionalist strand in the Russian society|
|Seen as potential terrorists||Seen as the prime victims of, and allies against, terrorism|
|Seen has disloyal to the native people||Seen as the most loyal defenders of the Motherland|
|Seen as criminals and hooligans||Seen as “law and order” types|
|Seen as lazy welfare leeches||Seen as hard-working and skilled businessmen|
Again, these are not scientific findings, they are not backed by careful opinion polling and they do compare apples and oranges. So take them with a big bag of salt. And yet, I think that what this table shows what are deep and contrasting trends inside the EU and Russian societies: the EU is on a collision course with the Islamic world while Russia is not. In fact, Russia represents a model of how a (nominally) Christian society can coexist with a large Muslim minority to the benefit of both communities. Russia also represents a unique example of how two very different religions can contribute to the development of a joint civilizational model.
Now an attempt at discerning the future
So let’s connect the dots above: First, Russia is arguably the single most important actor in the Middle-East, far eclipsing the United States. Second, Russia has successfully built an informal, but crucial, alliance with Iran and Turkey and these three countries will decide of the outcome of the war in Syria. Third, Russia is the only country on earth where Sunni Islam is truly safe from the Wahabi virus and where a traditionalist Sunni society exists without any Saudi interference. Combine these three and I see an immense potential for Russia to become the force which will most effectively oppose the power and influence of the Saudis in the Muslim world. This also means that Russia is now the undisputed leader in the struggle to defeat international Takfiri terrorism (what Trump – mistakenly – calls “Islamic fundamentalism”).
The AngloZionist rulers of the Empire have been very clever, if also very short-sighted: First they created al-Qaeda, then unleashed it against their enemies, then they used al-Qaeda/ISIS/Daesh to wreak havoc on a number of secular regimes just to “re-shape” a “new Middle-East” and now they are finally using al-Qaeda/ISIS/Daesh to set the West on a direct collision course with the entire Muslim world (1.8 billion people!) which will prevent their imperial slaves, that is all of us, the common folks living the the EU and US, from ever looking at the real cause of our problems or, even less so, overthrow our rulers.
Thus we see the disgraceful and, frankly, stupid propaganda against Muslims and Islam as if somehow there was a real Muslim or Islamic threat. The reality, of course, is that all those Muslims who do represent a real threat for the people in the West are invariably associated with western security services and that since 9/11 the vast majority of terror attacks have been false flags. True, there were some apparently “real” (that is: undirected by western special services) attacks, but the number of victims in such, frankly, amateurish attack was minuscule and blown out of proportion.
Just like the “thug life” musical propaganda in the US resulted in large numbers of US Blacks being killed, mostly by shooting each other, so the “Islamic terrorist” hysteria in the media will result in a few genuine terrorist attacks. But if you add up all the numbers you quickly realize that this paranoid hysteria is completely out of proportion with the real danger.
Somebody wants us all the be afraid, really afraid.
Sadly, this hysteria has affected many, not only in the official Ziomedia, but also in the so-called ‘alternative’ media. The result? Just as the rulers of the Empire need it, the West and the Islamic world are now on a collision course. Who is your money on in this clash? Just take a look at the clowns we have for leaders and tell me that the West will win this one!
The West will, of course, lose this war too, but the consequences of this defeat are not the topic of this article. What I am trying to illustrate here is that the West and Russia have taken two radically different approaches to the challenges of an increasingly more influential Islamic world. I would compare Russia and the West to two swimmers caught in a powerful riptide: the West is determined to swim directly against it while Russia uses this riptide to get where she wants. Again, who do you think will fare better?
But this is not just about the West anymore, this is about the multi-polar world which will replace the current AngloZionist hegemony. In this context, one of the most interesting processes taking place is that Russia is becoming a major player in the Muslim world.
Only 10 to 15 percent of Russians are Muslim, that amounts to about 10 million people. Most Muslim countries are way bigger. And since 85 to 90 percent of Russians are not Muslims, the influence of Russia in the Muslim world cannot be measured by such relatively modest numbers. However, when we consider the central role Russian Muslims play in the Russian policies towards the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle-East, when we take into account that Russian Muslims are mostly Sunni and very well protected against the virus of Wahabism and when we recall that traditional Sunni Islam has the full backing of the Russian state we can truly get a sense of the unique combination of factors which will give the Russian Muslims an influence far in excess of their relatively modest numbers.
Furthermore, the Russians are now closely collaborating with Shia Iran and with (mostly) Hanafi Turkey. Most Chechens belong to the Sha’afi Sunni tradition and about half are adherents to Sufism. It might be because Russia is not a majority Muslim country that she is the ideal place to re-create a non-denominational form of Islam, an Islam which would be content to be Islam and with no need to subdivide itself into competing, sometimes even hostile, subgroups.
Russia only has an observer status in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) due to the fact that she is not a majority Muslim country. Russia is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which brings together China, Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Russia , Tajikistan , Uzbekistan , India and Pakistan. Let’s look at the approximate number of Muslims in the SCO countries: China 40,000,000 , Kazakhstan 9,000,000, Kyrgyzstan 5,000,000, Russia 10,000,000, Tajikistan 6,000,000 , Uzbekistan 26,000,000, India 180,000,000, Pakistan 195,000,000. That’s a grand total of 471 million Muslims. Add to this figure the 75’000’000 Iranians which will join the SCO in the near future (bringing the grand total to 546’000’000) and you will see this stunning contrast: while the West has more or less declared war in 1.8 billion Muslims, Russia has quietly forged an alliance with just over half a billion Muslims!
Russian nationalists (as opposed to Russian patriots) did try their best to infect Russia with her own brand of Islamophobia, but that movement was defeated by an absolutely uncompromising stance by Vladimir Putin himself who went as far as stating that:
“I need to say that, as I have repeated many times before, from its beginning Russia had formed as a multiconfessional and multiethnic state. You are aware that we practice Eastern Christianity called Orthodoxy. And some theorists of religion say that Orthodoxy is in many ways closer to Islam than to Catholicism. I don’t want to evaluate how true this statement is, but in general the coexistence of these main religions was carried out in Russia for many centuries. Over the centuries we have developed a specific culture of interaction, that might be somewhat forgotten in the last few decades. We should now recall those our national roots.”
Clearly, as long as Putin and those who support him remain in power, Islamophobia will have no future whatsoever in Russia.
[Sidebar: while this is never mentioned anywhere in the western literature, there are real political prisoners in Russia and there is one group of people which the Kremlin has truly persecuted on political grounds: the Russian nationalists. This topic would deserve an article on its own, but here I will just say that since Russia is a state where the rule of law is official policy, the Kremlin has to resort to some creative tricks to jail these nationalists including accusing them of “attempting to overthrow the state by using crossbows” (I kid you not!). Nationalists are often persecuted on charges of violating laws against hate speech, for distributing extremist literature, etc. Basically the authorities harass them and try to disrupt their activities. Again, the western champions of civil rights and various Putin-haters never speak about these very real political persecutions in Russia. Apparently western human rights organizations live by the motto of the “Angel of Death” of the French Revolution’s infamous “terror” period, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, who famously declared “pas de liberté pour les ennemis de la liberté” (no freedom for the enemies of freedom). It is clear that as soon as Putin came to power he immediately realized the potential danger to the Russian society posed by these nationalists and he decided to clamp down on them every bit as hard as he did on the Wahabi recruiters and neo-Nazis propagandists in Russia.]
Furthermore, Russia has now become the most influential member of the SCO which represents the strategic interests of over half a billion Muslims worldwide. In the Middle-East, Russia has made an amazing comeback – from a quasi-total departure in the 1990s to becoming the single most influential player in the region. Russia has successfully convinced two very powerful potential competitors (Iran and Turkey) to work together and now this informal alliance is in a very strong position to influence the events in the Caucasus and Central Asia. At this point it is already clear that what we are seeing is a long term process and long term strategic goal of Russia: to become directly involved in the struggle for the future of Islam.
The struggle for the future of Islam
The Islamic world is facing an immense challenge which is threatening its very identity and future: the Wahabi-Takfiri ideology. That ideology, by its very nature, represents a mortal threat to any other form of Islam and a moral threat, literally, to every non-Takfiri Muslim living on the planet. The Takfiri ideology also represents a real existential threat to all of mankind, very much including Russia and Russia cannot simply sit back and wait to see whether the AngloZionist West or the wannabe Caliphate of Daesh will prevail, especially since the two are also locked in a weird symbiotic relationship between the western deep state and special services and the Takfiri leaders. Furthermore, assuming the West is willing to seriously fight terrorism ( and so far there is no sign of that whatsoever) it is also obvious that Europe is useless in this struggle (due to an acute lack of brain, spine and other body parts) and that the US, being protected by large oceans, are not facing the same threat as the states of the Eurasian landmass. Russia therefore has to act on her own, and very forcibly.
This is not a struggle which will be determined by military means. Yes, being willing and capable of killing Takfiris is important, and Russia can do that, but at the end of the day it is the Takfiri ideology which must be defeated and this is where the Russian Muslims will play an absolutely crucial role in the struggle for the future of Islam. Their status as a minority in Russia actually serves to protect Russian Muslims simply because there is absolutely no possibility whatsoever for any type of Wahabi Islam to gain enough traction in Russia to threaten the state. If anything, the two wars in Chechnia are the best proof that even in the worst possible conditions Russians will always hit back and very hard at any attempt to create a Wahabi state inside, or next to, Russia. President Putin often says that Russia has to sent her forces to fight in Syria not only to save Syria, but also to kill the many thousands of Russian citizens who are currently in the ranks of Daesh before they come back home: better to fight them there than to fight them here. True. But that also means that Russia will have to take the ideological fight to the rest of the Islamic world and use her influence to support the anti-Takfiri forces currently struggling against Daesh & Co worldwide.
The future of Russia and the Muslim world are now deeply intertwined which, considering the current disastrous dynamic between the West and the Muslim world, this is a good thing for everybody. While the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire are using both Russia and the Muslim world as bogeymen to scare their subjects into submission to the international plutocracy, Russia will have to become the place where the Islamophobic myths will debunked and a different, truly multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic civilizational model offered as an alternative to the monolithic Hegemony dominating the world today.
Modern secularist ideologies have given mankind nothing except violence, oppression,wars and even genocides. It is high time to kick them into the trash heaps of history were they belong and return to a truly tolerant, sustainable and humane civilizational model centered around spiritual, not materialistic, values. Yes, I know, for the media-brainwashed zombies out there religion is not exactly associated with the ideas of tolerance and compassion, but that is just the inevitable consequence of being exposed to particularly nasty and hypocritical forms of religion. That, and a basic lack of education. These things can be remedied, not so much by debating them ad nauseam, but simply by creating a different civilizational model. But for that Russia and the Islamic world will need to look inside themselves and focus on healing their own (still numerous) pathologies and dysfunctions (especially spiritual ones) in order to create such a spirituality-centered alternative to the Almighty Dollar. In the words of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, “acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved”. I think that this is a future worthy of fighting for.