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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prejudice, Not Islam Is the Real Security Threat

In response to "Islam's Threat to Russia," a comment by Sergo Mikoyan, June 8.


I have rarely seen such an ideologically prejudiced article and one so full of obvious factual distortions in the pages of a newspaper as respected as yours.

I begin with the only thesis in Mikoyan's article with which one can agree: The civil war in Tajikistan began primarily as a power struggle between regional clans although definite ideological dressing and slogans have been used by all participants at various stages.

In comparing (not entirely justly) the Tajik situation with the civil war in Somalia, Mikoyan exclaims, "To look for the ideological expressions of Somalian warlords would have been a waste of time." But when he moves on to the Tajik situation, he immediately contradicts himself, heaping the worst ideological accusations on the Tajik opposition: "Islamic fundamentalism and its inherent extremism and expansion," "threatening neighboring countries," "radical Islamic forces," "fanatics," etc.

And in order to terrify the trusting American reader once and for all, Mikoyan poetically depicts an apocalyptic future. "The Iranian Revolution would be repeated, but the number falling victim to terror would be much greater" and "the scale of chaos and mass killings in other republics of Central Asia would be reminiscent of the era of Genghis Khan."

And what does Mikoyan base these horrifying predictions on? All one has to do, according to Mikoyan, is recall the tens of thousands of people killed and made homeless during the Tajik civil war since 1992. He neglects to mention, though, that most of the those killed and countless refugees were either members of the opposition or simply civilians who were caught up in the destruction wrought when the current regime came to power in 1992.

Apparently hoping to lend his prejudices some sort of conceptual respectability, Mikoyan borrows from Robert McNamara the 30-year-old domino theory. If Tajikistan falls today, then tomorrow it will be Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tatarstan and Bashkiria. This new domino theory is every bit as absurd as the old one was.

And this is understood even in the "dominoes" themselves. As Mikoyan puts it, the leaders in Tashkent, Bishkek and Almaty understand the "catastrophic turmoil" that threatens them and that is why they "have been asking Moscow to defend" the Tajik-Afghan border. In fact, these leaders have steadfastly refused to send their own troops to support the Tajik regime.

Uzbekistan's pragmatic leader, Islam Karimov, at the last CIS summit, heaped unprecedented criticism upon the Tajik government and demanded that it immediately open a dialogue on sharing power with the "fundamentalists" who -- as Mikoyan would have it -- are so frightening to us all.

As far as Tatarstan and Bashkiria are concerned, Mikoyan's presumption of the guilt of these Moslem peoples is an irresponsible provocation. This is the same sort of theoretical justification that has already been used to justify force against various "enemy peoples."

It would be all right if Mikoyan's article merely reflected his own complexes. However, it is actually a characteristic episode in a widespread ideological campaign of recent years. A rather bizarre intellectual alliance has evolved uniting everyone from anti-Western nationalists like Vladimir Zhirinovsky to extreme right-wing Republicans in the United States. All of them are advocates of the domino theory, of restraining Islam and of undertaking a new crusade. Such a crusade would be catastrophic for Russia, the United States and the entire world. But especially for Russia, which is already providing the cannon fodder.

Andrei Piontkovsky

Moscow Center for Strategic Studies

Farms for the Farmers

In response to "The Case for State Farms," a comment by Viktor Shevelukha, June 6.


While there is much in Shevelukha's article on the sorry state of Russian agriculture with which I agree, I would like to take issue with a number of his statements and inferences.

I cannot agree that the current state policy on land ownership and the dividing of agricultural assets among farm workers and pensioners means the end of collective agriculture. The Nizhny Novgorod model, to which Shevelukha refers, encourages those legally entitled to agricultural assets to voluntarily combine them in whatever configuration they deem most effective.

Where producers are indefinitely dependent on the long-term productivity of local resources, subsistence exploitation of those resources occurs irrespective of the form of ownership. In the Soviet period, de facto ownership of small plots enabled sustainable subsistence agriculture to co-exist with large-scale agriculture. Private ownership of land in the absence of economic incentives to produce would precipitate a widespread regression to subsistence agriculture.

Attempts to encourage rather than coerce agriculture to produce a surplus when the underlying resources are owned in common provides a great temptation to over-exploit those resources. Ownership by someone able to make decisions regarding the use of a particular resource and the environmental appropriateness of that use is the primary safeguard against abuse.

Marx argued that only after the vast increases in productivity which capitalism would bring about would society be content with the inevitable absence of productivity increases under socialism. As Shevelukha notes, Soviet agriculture provided ample evidence of the low productivity of state-owned resources which even Marx anticipated. Unfortunately, now that Russians have a choice, they are demonstrating that they are not content with this low level of agricultural productivity and are turning instead to imports. Against this backdrop, Shevelukha's plea for "another chance" to prove Marx wrong rings hollow.

Instead, the Nizhny Novgorod model deserves an opportunity to prove that Marx was right in asserting that capitalism is uniquely qualified to bring about those increases in agricultural productivity which Russia now so desperately needs. Whether the farm population elects to utilize these resources individually or collectively, it would be their own choice, a choice currently denied them as the exploited labor force of an absentee landlord -- the state.

Andrew N. Reed

Agricultural Economist