There are so many things going on in relation to Western support and nonsupport of Ukraine that it is hard to cover everything and keep up with the changing tides, the good efforts, and embarrassing stupidity on many fronts.
But in this communication, I provide an article not directly connected to Putin’s barbarianism in Ukraine and his insidious efforts in other neighboring countries and around the world.
Here I call to your attention an article published in the Kyiv Post authored by Paul Goble and Glen Howard.
There is no better student of the many nationalities and component parts of the Russian Federation than Paul Goble. Anyone who knows Paul would see his very brief bio at the end of the article as totally inadequate. During Paul’s stints in the Department of State he was THE expert on the component parts and nationalities in the former Soviet Union. When Paul was not at State there was no one who did or genuinely tried to fill his shoes. In his area of expertise Paul Goble is a national treasure.
In their article, Paul and Glen Howard, a long-term member of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) and former President of the Jamestown Foundation, call to our attention important news about unrest in a little-known republic in Putin’s Russian Federation and why it is significant.
Far too often, news from these republics is not known or ignored by Washington. I learned long ago to listen to both of these gentlemen and urge you to do likewise.
Why the situation in Russia’s Muslim republic of Bashkortostan deserves our attention.
January 31, 2024,
Fifty years ago, Estonians protested against the environmental destruction of their republic by the Soviet government, an action that within a decade led to the formation of a powerful national movement that led to the recovery of Estonian independence and the destruction of the USSR.
Last month, four years after organizing to protect the environment of their republic from devastation by Moscow, thousands in the Middle Volga republic of Bashkortostan took to the streets to protest against the conviction on trumped-up charges of one of that nation’s leading environmentalists and then to demand the ouster of the Moscow-imposed head of their republic government and independence from the Russian Federation. The crackdown has intensified this week following the jailing of Bashkir activist Fayil Alsynov as ongoing protests signal more upheaval in the Muslim Turkic republic of Bashkortostan.
As with Estonia a half-century ago, few in the West have been paying attention to what is happening in Bashkortostan, given that this Turkic Muslim republic is located deep within the Russian Federation, that Russian police moved quickly to suppress the protests and that there is no equivalent Bashkir equivalent to the Estonian diaspora or American non-recognition policy to ensure that there is at least some media and government attention.
But that is a profound mistake because there is a good chance that Bashkortostan, a place most people and many governments in the West have never heard of, is on its way to becoming for Putin’s Russia what Estonia was for the Soviet Union, the place which triggered the demise of communism there and the disintegration of the USSR.
Similarly, unrest in Bashkortostan could spell the end of Putin’s Russia, and US policymakers should be taking an active role in monitoring developments there for six compelling reasons:
As Putin certainly remembers but as many in the West appear to have forgotten, it was the national movement in Estonia and related national movements in neighboring Latvia and Lithuania which paved the way to the destruction of the Soviet empire. They didn’t succeed immediately but each new protest advanced their cause, just as it will Bashkortostan’s and the other non-Russians in the Muscovite empire. And as he certainly fears given how his police forcefully responded to the Bashkortostan protests, something similar could happen to his empire now.
At the very least, the West should be paying attention – and even better provide encouragement to the Bashkirs not only because of their unquestioned right to national self-determination but also because creating such a threat within Putin’s empire is perhaps the best way to defeat him in Ukraine and elsewhere.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
Paul Goble is a former Special Advisor to the US Secretary of State and a former Senior Advisor to the Director, Voice of America.
Glen E. Howard is former President of the Jamestown Foundation and a member of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN)
Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introduction is Mr. McConnell’s and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network.