Friday, October 15, 2010

Behind Purge of Moscow Mayor is Kremlin Power Battle

The dramatic confrontation between the politically powerful Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is far more than a Russian corruption scandal. It is the latest move in a global chess game of power between the faction increasingly lined up behind former President Vladimir Putin and current president Medvedev. At stake is whether Russia becomes an integrated part of a global NATO or it remains independent.

Nominally, Medvedev stated he fired the Mayor, on the grounds of "having lost Mr. Medvedev's confidence." The nominal trigger was the accusation in public in September by Luzhkov that Medvedev had blocked progress on a new highway linking Moscow and St. Petersburg. The deeper background according to our Russian sources is a deepening power struggle between former allies Putin and Medvedev over the future of Russia. Under the Russian Constitution the President has legal powers to fire local and state officials for sufficient grounds.

Because of the barrage of attack launched by state media under Medvedev's control against the Major, Putin has been forced to appear as supporting the purge. Luzhkov was a key Putin supporter and as Mayor of Moscow, an indispensable ally in preventing Putin's own dismissal and possible arrest according to these sources.

The reality is that Luzhkov as political boss of Moscow, Russia's largest city of some 18 million, potentially could determine the next President in the 2012 elections. Under the Russian Constitution, Putin, who was forced to step down after two terms, is eligible to run again. The Moscow purge by Medvedev is aimed at destroying Putin's political machine in order to block that. The purge of Luzhkov is expected to be followed by purges of other Putin loyalists in coming weeks including regional governors Boris Gromov (Moscow), Dmitry Zelenin (Tver), Leonid Polezhayev (Omsk) and Viktor Kress (Tomsk), before going after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin himself.

Medvedev veto of S-300 to Iran

The recent veto by Medvedev of the agreed sale of anti-aircraft advanced S-300 defense systems to Teheran as we indicated earlier (Fraktionskampf im Kreml gewinnt an Scharfe uber Iran), was a significant part of the growing power split between the two factions inside Russia, the one seeing Russia in nationalistic eyes as a sovereign if weakened former power with significant resources and positioned to play a key role in international politics. The other, Medvedev's appears determined to dissolve Russia along with Poland, Georgia, Hungary and the former East-bloc into the NATO Atlantic alliance.

According to General Leonid Ivashov of the Russian Academy on Geopolitical Affairs, and former Chief of the Department for General Affairs in the Soviet Union's Ministry of Defense, and member of the Russian Joint Chief of Staff, Medvedev's decision to veto the Iranian delivery of S-300 missiles "undermine Russia's prestige and erode its security, making the world less safe for every one of us. At the moment the Islamic world has reasons to believe that Moscow has switched to the camp of its foes. Given the facts that Russia is locked in a protracted conflict in the Muslim part of the Caucasus and that over a million Muslims reside in Moscow, antagonizing Muslims worldwide is the last thing the country needs." Recently Medvedev as President has moved to back a dramatic reform of the Russian military proposed by Defense Minister Serdyukov, as well as the acquisitions of Israeli and NATO weapons, joint Russia-West exercises in the US and in Europe, and closings of military colleges. Ivashov declares these moves all "lead watchers to conclude that the broader plan behind it is to build what still remains of Russia's army and navy into the US and NATO expedition corps."

F. William Engdahl is the author of Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century, Contact at