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Making Sense Of Russia’s ‘Jews Will Not Replace Us’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA APRIL 30, 2019: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) chairs a Russian Security Council meeting, at the Moscow Kremlin. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo b... MOSCOW, RUSSIA APRIL 30, 2019: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) chairs a Russian Security Council meeting, at the Moscow Kremlin. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei DruzhininTASS via Getty Images) MORE LESS
May 7, 2019 12:00 p.m.

Kremlin advisor Sergei Glazyev made a few headlines today with a column claiming that Ukraine’s new president, who is Jewish, will try to exterminate ethnic Russians living in his country and resettle their regions with Jews.

Josh flagged Glazyev’s remarks in a blog post, drawing an analogy with the “Jews will not replace us” mantra of American white nationalists.

Glazyev’s column is titled “occupation,” and advances the theory that Ukraine’s recent election of Volodymyr Zelensky fits into the broader “picture” of the West’s support for a neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine, hell-bent on exterminating the country’s Russian population.

It is, in fact, a deeply bizarre theory, but one not unfamiliar to those who have followed Ukraine’s tumultuous relationship with Russia in recent years.

Glazyev, a longtime Putin adviser who has been deeply involved in Russia’s handling of the Ukraine conflict and who appeared at a conference with Rudy Giuliani in October, goes on to propose that one goal of Zelensky’s presidency could be to resettle the country’s war-torn regions with Jews. I’ve translated the full paragraph below.

There are, of course, nuances linked with the heterogeneity of the interests of the Western “puppet-masters.” It’s possible that the bet on Zelensky, made long before these elections, is linked with the general bias of the Trump Administration towards far-right forces in Israel. It’s likely that they will place new tasks before the updated Kyiv regime. I don’t rule out, for example, the possibility of a mass movement of residents of the Promised Land, tired of permanent war in the Middle East, to the  lands of Ukraine’s southeast, “cleansed” of the Russian population — just like Christians fleeing Islamicizing Europe. This, by the way, already happened in this region under Catherine the Great, who founded the home city of Kyiv’s new leaders. So, giving Ukrainians Russian passports may turn out to be extremely timely.

Towards the end of that paragraph, you’ll notice Glazyev references Catherine the Great’s creation of the Pale of Settlement in 1791 — a region of the Russian Empire in which Jews were forced to live. They were largely forbidden from living outside of it. The region encompassed Zelensky’s home province today, and the regions that are supposedly home to victims of the U.S.-backed “cleansing.”

The anti-Semitism in Glazyev’s column is alarming, but it forms part of a propaganda narrative that he appears to be trying to establish.

If Russia, as a weak power with global reach, recognizes that sowing discord abroad is its most reliable route to increasing its own relative power, then playing on Ukraine’s tragic history of anti-Semitism may pay off.

But, to be honest, what made my blood run a few degrees colder while reading the column was less Glazyev’s anti-Semitism by itself than his critique of Putin for being weak in the face of a supposed Judeo-American attack.

Glazyev argues that Russia has failed to diagnose the seriousness of the threat presented to it by the United States.

“It’s worth summing up the results of Russian non-interference in Ukrainian affairs,” he writes. “The main conclusion: the Russian world has suffered catastrophic losses, giving to its geopolitical enemies, almost without a battle, its integral and, I am not afraid to say, by many indicators (from climate to scientific-technological potential), best part.” (In other words: Russia has not been hawkish enough, and has not defended territory, located in Ukraine, that Glazyev believes is the “best part” of the Russian world.)

Glazyev goes on to argue that Russia should “conduct a systemic policy of liberating Ukraine from the Russophobic, neo-Nazi regime in the interests of its own people.”

Who knows what that would look like.

One of Putin’s signature traits that’s often missed in Western coverage, I find, is that he’s a relative moderate in the context of the Kremlin! Like any other politician, authoritarian or not, he is under pressure from hawkish and dovish advisers who hope to influence his foreign policy decisions.

What Glazyev’s column does reveal is that Russia’s siege mentality, pushed by top Putin advisers, isn’t going away anytime soon.

As Putin himself said in uncharacteristically spiritual October 2018 remarks on the possibility of nuclear war with the United States: “The aggressor should know that retribution is inevitable, and that he will be destroyed. And we, the victims of aggression, we as martyrs, will go to heaven, and they will simply be snuffed out, because they don’t even know how to repent.”

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