Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

From Russia with Love and Hate: The New Cold War as Relationship Drama

Apr 20 2015

Let’s imagine the USSR and the USA as individuals. And let me tell you their story. They had an amazing, engrossing love-hate relationship, which started just after the Second World War.

For most of my adult life I have been simultaneously observing Russia from the inside and outside. It all started in my late teen years, when I had the privilege to spend a year in the USA as an exchange student. It continued through my 20’s, when I was an active part of the European green movement, eventually serving on the board of the European Green Party ‘s youth wing. I was a European citizen, but I was also a citizen of Russia, residing in Moscow and traveling around my motherland as much as I did around Europe. By the end of my 20’s I held the position of deputy director in the Russian Chapter of Transparency International and hosted a TV-show on the unique Russian independent television channel, TV Rain. I was definitely an insider. Now, in my early 30s I am starting my second year in the USA as a visiting scholar at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, at Miami University, Ohio. The last time I was in Russia, Crimea still belonged to Ukraine. So now I am an outsider once again.

During the last year Russia constantly hit the headlines in the US and around the world, and you may imagine how many times I had to explain “what is going on in Russia?” Eventually I came up with a nice metaphor that I want to share here.

Let’s go back in time a bit and imagine the USSR and USA as individuals. And let me tell you their story. They had an amazing engrossing love-hate relationship, which started just after the Second World War. The entire planet was just a playground for those two, as they performed their dance, played little tricks and …, became obsessed with each other. Neither of them, however, would ever admit the love part: as typical teenagers, they would claim that their relationship was only about hate.

It all came to an end in the 1990’s. And that is when the true problems began. The USSR gave up its idealistic dreams, changed its name to Russia and surrendered itself to America’s reasonable and practical arguments, hoping it would be the start of new era in the relationship: the hate is gone – only the love should remain. The change manifested itself in pop culture. Songs such as “American Boy” were hitting the Russian charts and thousands of young Russians were singing “Where are you my foreign prince? I’m waiting for you!”

Unfortunately, the sentiment in the USA was different – the winner had no more interest in its former object of obsession. Since all the mystery and rivalry was gone, Russia was now off the radar for the general public. “She has been conquered, so let’s move on” – so stereotypical, yet so true. The US found other obsessions; Russia was now just an ex. In my high school in New Jersey I had to explain to people why the flag on my backpack had no hammer and sickle and that Russia was no longer a communist country.

So here we have Russia, who is in love and who has a somewhat starry-eyed vision of her husband-to-be. And we have the USA, who has moved on and already checking out some new partners. The new partner should be somebody exotic, somebody Asian or Middle Eastern, somebody who possesses mystery and somebody who must be conquered. Well, you know where this search led America and I don’t need to remind you, that you should be cautious, when you are dealing with those mysteries. But this is a different story– what you may not know is how Russia felt about being jilted.

Have you ever talked with a person who cannot get over a breakup while her* former partner has already moved on? Have you ever tried to explain to that person that the Ex “did not mean it”? And not because the Ex is a good person, but just because he gave no thought to how his former partner would react? Your Ex does not care. Well, many people could never let themselves believe that it is not about them anymore. They prefer to suffer from imagined offenses, which allow them to feel that they are still part of this story, still being courted by their former lover. She knows in her gut that each and every move the USA makes has some special meaning and most of it is to hurt Russia directly or indirectly. Russia, in other words, cannot let go.

Kosovo was a turning point in that relationship. The USA was no longer a Prince Charming. By no means do I want to support the concept of “Humanitarian Bombing.” I strongly believe that hundreds of military and civilian casualties cannot be justified by the idea of enforcing peace. But I also know that this story has quite a different meaning for our main characters.

For the USA the 1999 campaign was “just a bombing”, one among many the USA was involved in around the world. It is hardly remembered now. And among those who give thought to it, some would still claim that it was a right thing to do. Others would argue that this was a clear wag-the-dog operation to switch public attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And then there are always people who believe that you should never support Muslims. But none of them realize that there is a parallel reality where this entire operation is simply perceived as a personal attack on each and every Russian. Most Americans do not know how deep the connection between the Serbs and Russians are. They would be quite surprised to know that in the parallel reality this bombing of Yugoslavia was basically perceived then and now as an attack against Russia herself and has left a deep wound. In Russia the “Humanitarian Bombing” of Yugoslavia is well remembered and referred to whenever the USA is mentioned.

Since then the USA and Russia progressed into two completely different realities, where we may find them today. Neither is really healthy. America definitely has some problems: narcissism and depression are among them. But Russia’s situation is much worse. Without any psychological help, Russia eventually came to inhabit a world where its whole ego is built around resisting and defying America, her former love. This anti-American sentiment has no real substance. Russia’s self-esteem is so low that she pushes for constant attention from others. The reality in which Russia is not a major object of American affection is so scary that it is blocked by a collective consciousness of denial. Thus the latest Maidan in Ukraine triggered full-scale hysteria**. And the worst part —any attention Russia receives just confirms its behavior. Hysterical people are often primarily looking for attention: it does not matter if the attention is positive or negative, love or hate, it is the attention itself that matters. Russia perfectly follows this pattern. One of the reasons Russians are so eager to believe that their country is back to the mighty times of global importance is the number of times Putin has appeared on the front pages of The Economist. It provides an illusion that Russia is once again a major player in the modern world. And Russian propaganda is looking for any mention of the country by American politicians to prove that they do still care about us.

Just read this quote from one of the latest statements by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We are witnessing with dismay and indignation an unrestrained anti-Russian campaign, which is unfolding in the United States. The US national media and leading political research centers splash, as if at a command, russophobic lampoons, diligently portraying Russia as an enemy and instilling hatred towards all things Russian in ordinary people.” I hope it gives you a glimpse of the hysterical perception prevalent in Russia. And this should be taken into consideration by anyone who tries to come up with a strategy to calm Putin down. In such a reality any sanctions are welcomed by the majority of Russians, since they prove that Russia occupies a place in the mind of Americans. Any harsh comment from the White House will just reaffirm attention-seeking behavior and further confirm that America still obsesses over us.

Avoiding and ignoring Russia may seem as a good strategy, but without proper treatment it will eventually trigger a new cry for attention. As her egoistic satisfaction received from the last crisis dissolves, Russia will need a new way to attract the world’s attention. Whatever she chooses will certainly not be in the interest of world peace. It will be in the form of more relationship drama.

* I am using the metaphor of a girlfriend who cannot get over her boyfriend, and I am aware of it being gender biased. I am pretty sure it can happen the other way around. Though the song “American Boy” just does not leave me any choice but to keep those gender stereotypes.

First published at the blog of Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies:

http://blogs.miamioh.edu/havighurst/2015/04/13/from-russia-with-love-and-hate-the-new-cold-war-as-relationship-drama/

For most of my adult life I have been simultaneously observing Russia from the inside and outside. It all started in my late teen years, when I had the privilege to spend a year in the USA as an exchange student. It continued through my 20’s, when I was an active part of the European green movement, eventually serving on the board of the European Green Party ‘s youth wing. I was a European citizen, but I was also a citizen of Russia, residing in Moscow and traveling around my motherland as much as I did around Europe. By the end of my 20’s I held the position of deputy director in the Russian Chapter of Transparency International and hosted a TV-show on the unique Russian independent television channel, TV Rain. I was definitely an insider. Now, in my early 30s I am starting my second year in the USA as a visiting scholar at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, at Miami University, Ohio. The last time I was in Russia, Crimea still belonged to Ukraine. So now I am an outsider once again.

During the last year Russia constantly hit the headlines in the US and around the world, and you may imagine how many times I had to explain “what is going on in Russia?” Eventually I came up with a nice metaphor that I want to share here.

Let’s go back in time a bit and imagine the USSR and USA as individuals. And let me tell you their story. They had an amazing engrossing love-hate relationship, which started just after the Second World War. The entire planet was just a playground for those two, as they performed their dance, played little tricks and …, became obsessed with each other. Neither of them, however, would ever admit the love part: as typical teenagers, they would claim that their relationship was only about hate.

It all came to an end in the 1990’s. And that is when the true problems began. The USSR gave up its idealistic dreams, changed its name to Russia and surrendered itself to America’s reasonable and practical arguments, hoping it would be the start of new era in the relationship: the hate is gone – only the love should remain. The change manifested itself in pop culture. Songs such as “American Boy” were hitting the Russian charts and thousands of young Russians were singing “Where are you my foreign prince? I’m waiting for you!”

Unfortunately, the sentiment in the USA was different – the winner had no more interest in its former object of obsession. Since all the mystery and rivalry was gone, Russia was now off the radar for the general public. “She has been conquered, so let’s move on” – so stereotypical, yet so true. The US found other obsessions; Russia was now just an ex. In my high school in New Jersey I had to explain to people why the flag on my backpack had no hammer and sickle and that Russia was no longer a communist country.

So here we have Russia, who is in love and who has a somewhat starry-eyed vision of her husband-to-be. And we have the USA, who has moved on and already checking out some new partners. The new partner should be somebody exotic, somebody Asian or Middle Eastern, somebody who possesses mystery and somebody who must be conquered. Well, you know where this search led America and I don’t need to remind you, that you should be cautious, when you are dealing with those mysteries. But this is a different story– what you may not know is how Russia felt about being jilted.

Have you ever talked with a person who cannot get over a breakup while her* former partner has already moved on? Have you ever tried to explain to that person that the Ex “did not mean it”? And not because the Ex is a good person, but just because he gave no thought to how his former partner would react? Your Ex does not care. Well, many people could never let themselves believe that it is not about them anymore. They prefer to suffer from imagined offenses, which allow them to feel that they are still part of this story, still being courted by their former lover. She knows in her gut that each and every move the USA makes has some special meaning and most of it is to hurt Russia directly or indirectly. Russia, in other words, cannot let go.

Kosovo was a turning point in that relationship. The USA was no longer a Prince Charming. By no means do I want to support the concept of “Humanitarian Bombing.” I strongly believe that hundreds of military and civilian casualties cannot be justified by the idea of enforcing peace. But I also know that this story has quite a different meaning for our main characters.

For the USA the 1999 campaign was “just a bombing”, one among many the USA was involved in around the world. It is hardly remembered now. And among those who give thought to it, some would still claim that it was a right thing to do. Others would argue that this was a clear wag-the-dog operation to switch public attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And then there are always people who believe that you should never support Muslims. But none of them realize that there is a parallel reality where this entire operation is simply perceived as a personal attack on each and every Russian. Most Americans do not know how deep the connection between the Serbs and Russians are. They would be quite surprised to know that in the parallel reality this bombing of Yugoslavia was basically perceived then and now as an attack against Russia herself and has left a deep wound. In Russia the “Humanitarian Bombing” of Yugoslavia is well remembered and referred to whenever the USA is mentioned.

Since then the USA and Russia progressed into two completely different realities, where we may find them today. Neither is really healthy. America definitely has some problems: narcissism and depression are among them. But Russia’s situation is much worse. Without any psychological help, Russia eventually came to inhabit a world where its whole ego is built around resisting and defying America, her former love. This anti-American sentiment has no real substance. Russia’s self-esteem is so low that she pushes for constant attention from others. The reality in which Russia is not a major object of American affection is so scary that it is blocked by a collective consciousness of denial. Thus the latest Maidan in Ukraine triggered full-scale hysteria**. And the worst part —any attention Russia receives just confirms its behavior. Hysterical people are often primarily looking for attention: it does not matter if the attention is positive or negative, love or hate, it is the attention itself that matters. Russia perfectly follows this pattern. One of the reasons Russians are so eager to believe that their country is back to the mighty times of global importance is the number of times Putin has appeared on the front pages of The Economist. It provides an illusion that Russia is once again a major player in the modern world. And Russian propaganda is looking for any mention of the country by American politicians to prove that they do still care about us.

Just read this quote from one of the latest statements by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “We are witnessing with dismay and indignation an unrestrained anti-Russian campaign, which is unfolding in the United States. The US national media and leading political research centers splash, as if at a command, russophobic lampoons, diligently portraying Russia as an enemy and instilling hatred towards all things Russian in ordinary people.” I hope it gives you a glimpse of the hysterical perception prevalent in Russia. And this should be taken into consideration by anyone who tries to come up with a strategy to calm Putin down. In such a reality any sanctions are welcomed by the majority of Russians, since they prove that Russia occupies a place in the mind of Americans. Any harsh comment from the White House will just reaffirm attention-seeking behavior and further confirm that America still obsesses over us.

Avoiding and ignoring Russia may seem as a good strategy, but without proper treatment it will eventually trigger a new cry for attention. As her egoistic satisfaction received from the last crisis dissolves, Russia will need a new way to attract the world’s attention. Whatever she chooses will certainly not be in the interest of world peace. It will be in the form of more relationship drama.

* I am using the metaphor of a girlfriend who cannot get over her boyfriend, and I am aware of it being gender biased. I am pretty sure it can happen the other way around. Though the song “American Boy” just does not leave me any choice but to keep those gender stereotypes.

First published at the blog of Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies:

http://blogs.miamioh.edu/havighurst/2015/04/13/from-russia-with-love-and-hate-the-new-cold-war-as-relationship-drama/

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.