Monday, June 13, 2005

Russia and the Yugoslav Template

Among the Serbs there is a certain Russophilia. It was born during the long dark of Ottoman occupation, where the notion of a Slavic, Orthodox power that could counter the pressures of the Muslim sultans as well as the Catholic Emperors of Austria, gave people hope for freedom. But Serbia's experiences with Russia have been mixed. When Russia withdrew its support from the Serb rebels in 1812 (pressed as it was by Napoloen), the Ottomans reconquered Serbia with a vengeance. The Obrenovic princes' Austrophilia meant the Russians were more favorably inclined to Bulgaria. St. Petersburg betrayed Belgrade during the 1908 Annexation crisis. Russia did stand with Serbia in 1914, but they both paid a heavy price. Perhaps most ironically, the Serbs' Russophilia was crudely exploited by the Communists, who used it to sell their ideology - only to imprison and purge the Russophiles in 1948, during the feud with Stalin. But in the minds of many Serbs, there remained a romantic notion of the "Russians" coming to the rescue - perhaps misguided, certainly unfounded, and definitely unrequited.

So it is not Russophilia that makes me pay attention when the Empire attacks Moscow. It is the uncanny similarities between the Imperial assault on Russia, and what has taken place in the Balkans over the past 15 years or so - patterns that have connected fully only after I read Justin Riamondo's column today at

Consider: the color-coded "revolutions" had their beginning in Serbia, in the fall of 2000. Indeed, anywhere a new "revolution" is being brewed, Imperial mercenaries from Serbia (former Otpor and other NGO acolytes) can be found "visiting" and "consulting."

There is also an analogy to be made between Chechnya and Kosovo. Though of course it is not the heartland of Russia (that was Ukraine - and it's already detached, courtesy of the Orangists), Chechnya's separation could mean the unraveling of Russia; its pseudo-federalist organization, a leftover from Communist times, leaves it vulnerable to regional separatism, just as Yugoslavia was. And though the KLA is decidedly more fascist than fundamentalist, it is no less terrorist - and has the same purpose to the Empire - as the Chechen jihadis.

One reason the pattern was not obvious earlier, perhaps, is that the Empire owned Russia for most of the 1990s, when a drunken idiot sat in the Kremlin and his "pro-Western" advisers ran amok. It was the American "privatizers" (or is that privateers?) who created the oligarchs, and systematically robbed Russia of what little wealth survived the Reds. Most of the oligarchs' money - and indeed, the oligarchs themselves - ended up in the West. Serbia, too, had its oligarchs and thieves - but they were not Imperial stooges, and their money ended up in neutral banks of offshore tax havens (Cyprus, Cayman Islands, etc.). While the Serbian people had every right to object to being fleeced like that, that was not the Empire's concern. Indeed, the one thing Serbia's post-revolutionary masters have been ruthlessly efficient at was taxing their subjects.

The current rulers of Serbia - witless, confused and obsequious - uncannily resemble Yeltsin's Kremlin. And the attacks on Vladimir Putin echo those made against Slobodan Milosevic.

Although the analogy should not be stretched too far, a pattern is there. The Empire seeks dominion, and won't accept anyone who refuses to serve, or stands in the way. The political elite that has built its career on fear of Communism for five decades has come to feel some of that fear itself; Russia to them is still a dangerous rival that must be destroyed, or prevented from rising again. They look at China with the same paranoid neurosis. Empires see the world in imperial terms; the very notion that a nation could not seek power over others is alien to them.

So, was Yugoslavia a test-bed for the Soviet Union and Russia? A laboratory for tactics of the New Order? Or was it a grim demonstration of Imperial ability to impose its will anywhere, anytime, an Alderaan of our time? The answer - while it hardly matters to people reduced to picking up the scraps of their lives - may help save others, elsewhere. If Solzhenytsin's interview is any indication, the Russians may already know what is coming. But knowing something and dealing with it are different things altogether.

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