Former Russian advisor offers critiques


The crisis in Ukraine is not a crisis at all. It is a war between Russia and Ukraine, according to Andrei Illarionov, the previous economic and policy advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a lecture titled “The Russo Ukrainian War,” Illarionov argued that calling the situation in Ukraine a crisis is not only inaccurate, but a concession to Putin’s propaganda machine.

“This is truly a war,” Illarionov said.

Illarionov was appointed Economic and Policy Advisor to Putin in 2000. In 2005 he publicly resigned after a disagreement with Putin over his stance on economic issues.

“I resigned because Russia was no longer free,” Illarionov said.

The German and Russian Department invited Illarionov to campus on Oct. 27. According to Russian Program Director Anna Brodsky, Illarionov is “one of the most outspoken critics of Putin in the world.”

After the talk, Russian Professor Svetlana Bunina said she was impressed with Illarionov’s public stances.

“Illarionov is one of the most important analysts and specialists on Russia, and what is especially important is that he is at the opposite end of Putin and talks about it so freely,” Bunina said.

Bunina said it is brave for Illarionov to be speaking out against Putin so publicly.

“It is very dangerous for any person who still has contact with and frequently travels to Russia to have a different opinion of Russian politics,” Bunina said. “It is especially dangerous to speak about Ukraine and say Russia was involved because in Russia many people do not know the truth.”

Although Russia agreed to respect Ukraine’s independence in 1991, many government agents wanted to regain control. In the past year, Russia wanted to block Western influence in Ukraine, and Putin exerted pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign an economic deal with Russia instead of the European Union.

Yanukovych recognized the threat from Putin and signed his deal. This sparked the protests in Kiev.

After the commencement of the protests, Russia occupied and annexed the Ukrainian province Crimea. There was also an uprising in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

“Putin’s purpose is to unite the largest nation in the world, the Russian people, into one state,” Illarionov said.

This means reclaiming the countries that border Russia and have large populations of Russian speakers and ethnic Russian, specifically Belaruse, Georgia and Ukraine.

Illarionov pointed out the United Nations cannot punish Russia because of its permanent membership on the Security Council.

“The international world order we have known since the end of the second world war has been broken and no one knows how to restore it,” Illarionov said.

Illarionov also pointed out that the U.S. must be able to show real guarantees of its treaties. The U.S. has treaties similar to the one with Ukraine with countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia.

“By invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, Russia has violated a treaty signed by Ukraine, the UK, the U.S. and Russia that Ukraine would give up its nuclear weapons for border sovereignty recognized by the three guarantors,” Illarionov said.

Illarionov argued that Russian aggression strengthened pro-Western sentiment in Ukraine. He said even in the regions with the highest populations of ethnic Russians, pro-Russian support was never high and that these ethnic Russians fought on both sides.

“It was Russian ethnic civil war in the territory of Ukraine, not a Ukrainian civil war,” said Illarionov. “There was a conscious choice of Russians to choose freedoms and an open system versus the much more criminal system in Russia.”

Senior John Cheritis was interested by Illarionov’s critiques of the US media.

“What struck me most was how he pointed out certain things regarding US media coverage of the events in Ukraine,” Cheritus said. “By calling it a conflict or a crisis rather than a war, it makes it easier to justify not getting involved.”

Illarionov is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute. He has written three books and over 300 articles regarding the economic and social policies of Russia.