LONDON, October 17 (RIA Novosti) — There is a certain type of Russian liberal who holds to particular beliefs with the same stubborn commitment as followers of a religious sect do. For these liberals, three of such beliefs are paramount and to question them is heresy. The liberal catechism is as follows:”:
1. Vladimir Putin is Lucifer’s Viceroy on Earth. Everything he does is evil. Everyone who opposes him, almost by definition, is therefore good.
2. The United States is God. Its actions are wise and good especially when targeting Putin, the embodiment of evil.
3. Mikhail Khodorkovsky is God’s representative in Russia and is a saintly figure, martyred for his beliefs.
Of these three it is the third that is the strangest.
Khodorkovsky is an unlikely hero. Through a series of ruthless manipulations he managed to capture control of a large part of the Russian oil industry becoming Russia’s richest man. His methods included setting up an intricate web of companies through which, according to the Russian courts, he defrauded his investors and minority shareholders and by which, according to both the Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights, he systematically cheated the Russian state of billions in unpaid taxes. There have been darker rumours as well – of methodical bribery and intimidation of officials and parliamentary deputies and even of contract killings, though since these have never been proved in court, it is perhaps better to avoid placing weight on them. After all, what has already been proved is bad enough.
That Russian liberals ever rallied to the cause of this man is in itself a sign of their blindness to reality. That they have persisted in doing this, whilst the European Court of Human Rights has opposed him is testimony both to the fanaticism of their beliefs and to the extent of their blindness.
Given the extent to which liberal belief in Khodorkovsky stands reality on its head, it was however inevitable following his release at the end of last year that his actions would test this belief system to the breaking point.
Khodorkovsky first dismayed his liberal followers by saying that he did not intend to engage in politics. However, he then appeared to contradict himself when in March he turned up at Kiev’s Maidan Square and made a vitriolic speech supporting the seizure of power that had just happened there.
Russian liberals seem to contend that the Euromaidan movement was therefore good, despite what the facts might say, just like they contended that Mikheil Saakashvili, the pathologically Russophobic former President of Georgia who launched the US-backed 2008 South Ossetia war, was also good for the same reason.
In March and September Russian liberals marched through Moscow waving Ukrainian flags and chanting their support for the present Ukrainian regime. Of course for such people it is Putin, not the Maidan movement, who must be blamed for Ukraine’s problems despite what the facts might say; after all, the United States says he is.
Having pleased his Russian liberal followers by supporting the Maidan movement, Khodorkovksy then pleased them further by announcing that he was going to involve himself in Russian politics after all.
The subsequent horror for these same Russian liberals when Khodorkovsky, in a series of tweets, that first avoided giving a straight answer and then categorically confirmed that he would not hand over Crimea to Ukraine, is easy to imagine. God’s representative in Russia, the martyred Khodorkovsky, is contradicting God, i.e., the United States, and appears to be siding with Putin and evil against Maidan and good.
Khodorkovsky’s refusal to return Crimea makes perfect sense. Crimea is a historic Russian land that only found itself part of an independent Ukraine as a result of an accident. Its people overwhelmingly consider themselves Russians and overwhelmingly want to be in Russia. The vast majority of Russians agree and support Crimea’s reunification with Russia. No political figure, not even Khodorkovsky, who wants Russia to be taken seriously, can argue otherwise.
If one thing has however become abundantly clear, it is that Russian liberals simply do not think in a serious political way. In order to remain firm in their beliefs, however factually wrong or even absurd they may be, and however much this distances them from the Russian people, is always more important. More important still, is retaining the favour of the United States, whose good opinion is of immeasurably greater value to them than is that of their own people, whom they hold in contempt.
What this bizarre episode therefore shows is the difficulty even Khodorkovsky will have if he tries to reach out beyond his liberal core supporters by challenging their beliefs. Since Khodorkovsky’s actual chances of attracting widespread support are in fact non-existent, the probability is that he will fall back onto his liberal supporters and that this “lapse” will be forgotten. That Russian liberals cannot accept reality even as it stares at them in the face, even when someone like Khodorkovsky tries to point this out to them, shows why they are doomed to remain a politically isolated, marginal force.
This episode also teaches an important lesson for the United States and for the West. If even someone like Khodorkovsky realizes that the handover of Crimea to Ukraine is an impossibility, then it is never going to happen. That is the simple truth, and the sooner the United States, the West and Kiev accept it, the better.
Alexander Mercouris is a London-based lawyer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.