When Donald Trump was in the White House, things could not have been better for Russia’s would-be czar, Vladimir Putin. With Joe Biden now in the White House, things cannot be better for Vladimir Putin. This seems counterintuitive, but why? Biden is such a fossilized politician of the past when it comes to 21st century diplomacy, he does not understand, nor do his staff of academician and think tank foreign policy and national security wonks, that the way to marginalize Putin is not by supporting dodgy characters like Alexei Navalny. Navalny has, in the past, made common cause with Russian far-right nationalists, including neo-Nazis. Nor is backing sexual deviants like the Pussy Riot group a way to hit back at Putin. What people like Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, CIA director William Burns, and others fail to realize is that the strongest pro-democracy and pro-ethnic rights party in Russia is the Russian Federation Communist Party, the only force that Putin continues to fear.
Today, the Russian Communist Party is the furthest away, politically, from the old Soviet Communist Party as can be imagined. Its doctrine is no further left than most northern European social democratic parties. The Russian Communist Party has nothing in common with the Chinese Communist Party, which long ago abandoned Marxist and Maoist principals in favor of hyper-capitalistic Chinese nationalism. It is nationalism that bonds Putin to Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping and nationalism is anathema to the principles laid forth by Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong.
The Russian Communists draw their political support mainly from older pensioners and a younger generation that rejects the nationalist policies of Putin. In January 2016, Putin publicly denounced Lenin for allowing non-Russian peoples to secede from the Soviet Union if they so desired. Putin, ever much the czarist, believes that Russians should dominate Russia’s ethnic republics and regions and that such rule should be with an iron fist. One of the first victims of Putin’s czarism were small republics of the Russian Federation that had been granted unprecedented degrees of autonomy after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Putin eliminated, as one of his first acts, all parties favoring greater autonomy or independence for the ethnic republics. Putin installed his political cronies, many of them ethnic Russian, into government leadership in Siberia, the Caucasus, and the northern Arctic. Navalny, who agrees with Putin on maintaining Russian hegemony over the Russian Federation, is not the answer when it comes to re-democratizing Russia. It is the Russian Communist Party that continues to advance Lenin’s policies on ethnic sovereignty rights and that poses a existential threat to Putin and his goals.
The sharpest criticisms of Putin’s United Russia party have come from the Russian Communists. They have decried Putin’s continual rigging of regional and national elections. Where local pro-autonomy, pro-democracy, and pro-environmental protection protests have been staged in the Russian Federation’s hinterlands, the Russian Communists have been front and center in providing logistical support to the demonstrations.
Russian Communists continue to have strength in Siberia, which is also home to several ethnic republics. Putin has been careful to place both Russian and non-Russian ethnic apparatchiks in control of these local republics and regions because he knows that the Communists will take advantage of any political failures by United Russia. Siberia has recently been the scene of large anti-Putin protests, particularly in Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Irkutsk. Judging by Moscow’s security response to the protests, Putin’s opponents found one of his Achilles heels.
The Russian Communists have been able to hit Putin where it hurts the most: the issue of public corruption. The Russian Communists understand, more than any other opposition party, of which there are few, that Putin’s power comes from his alliance with Russian billionaire oligarchs, most of whom spend very little time in Russia and are more often found in New York, Tel Aviv, London, Monte Carlo, Paris, or Geneva.
Younger members of the Russian Communist Party want to implement a progressive taxation system that will see the billionaires pay their fair share in taxes and not the current flat tax of 13 percent. In many respects, these Russians share more in common with the progressive bloc of the U.S. Democratic Party.
Although younger and more progressive members of the Democratic Party are on the same page with their counterparts in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Biden administration does not want to be caught by the far-right Republican Party in providing support, morally or financially to the Russian Communist Party. They will merely continue to apply the Magnitsky Act, designed to punish certain Russian officials and businessmen (and others around the world Washington does not like) with visa bans and asset freezes. The Magnitsky Act does nothing to hurt Putin politically. While no one in the State Department or CIA would survive being caught providing assistance to the Russian Communist Party, particularly at a time when the Biden administration is trying to bring down a Communist-led government in Cuba, smart tacticians in diplomacy should create innocuous-sounding pass-throughs—the Samoyedic Institute, the Ugristik Cultural Center, Tuvan Throat Singing Society, and Buryat Buddhist Foundation, as some fictional examples—to provide such assistance but without the U.S. fingerprints that would give Putin a reason to crack down on the Communists, just as he has done with other opposition parties.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).