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Contemporary Russian foreign policy: Moscow turns to East to coerce West resume ties

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Development of modern Russian foreign policy could be divided into two eras or phases: the post Soviet policy after Michael Gorbachev and the Putin era policy. Both are philosophically and politically different from one another.

The post Soviet era policy was based entirely on the Gorbachevian ideology of ‘Perestroika and Glasnost’ (Restructuring and Openness) in post Communist milieu when new Russia’s first president Boris Yelstsin put in place a new non-communist foreign policy abandoning the Soviet socialist ideology completely in order to advance the national interest of an essentially first ever anti-communist government in modern Russia.

While Yelstsin pursued a pro-west policy so as to get Russia closer to so-called western civilizational values– and of course he failed in achieving his key objective of promoting democracy as far as possible in Russia backed by the anti-communist Western regimes – his successor Vladimir Putin, now fully comprehending petrified western attitude towards even new Russia, began pursuing an assertive, at times what looked like anti-West policies.

In order to continue ‘dialog’ with USA and Europe, Russia gradually developed an approach of ‘confrontation cum cooperation’ but Russo-NATO tensions do reveal the hard truth that Cold War the former super powers fought had not indeed ended even after the collapse of Berlin Wall plus collapse of communist system world wide – the prime target of USA since World war Two.

The Western world is impressed by the ‘democratic’ efforts of new Russia, especially under president Putin. Russia remained globally isolated.

Today Russia, focusing on a retrieving super power status, lost in the Cold War, is seen making strenuous efforts to impress upon USA and Europe the need to take it seriously and as an equal partner if the West wants to advance their collective interests globally. Russia has made the point to especially USA loud and clear by forcefully entering Ukraine and Syria while Washington responded only in rhetoric.

Since it became a new non-communist nation in 1985 following the collapse of Soviet Union, for the first time Russia is now under such huge sanction that has weakened its economy and slashed its western contacts. Of course, the sanctions on account of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine could not cripple Russian economy to the extent the West thought their cumulative sanctions would do primarily because of its super power wealth from arms and oil.

Among primary factors that will impact Russian foreign policy today and in the coming years the key one is to effectively fight the potential for a new direction in US foreign policy that is more aggressive towards Russia in recent times, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The USA and its allies continue their policy of international isolation in respect to Russia, a policy that once again started to bear some fruit in 2014. However, it should be kept in mind that there is limitation for the USA in applying pressure on the Kremlin, for, Russia is not North Korea, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Iran. It is hard to ensure international stability and prosperity while at the same time driving one of the big nuclear powers into a corner.

Russia’s uncertainty of its own fate makes Russian policies, both domestic and foreign complicated as western powers have pushed Russia’s rulers from one extreme to another. Russia’s perennial inclination to shake the world’s capitalist-imperialist foundations to their core stems from its geopolitical weight it assumes as a Eurasian civilization. Although other international players, led by USA, keep talking about “rootless” claim of Russia as being a Eurasian civilization, have never been able to properly balance Russian strength.

Assertive diplomacy

Recent move by the Kremlin to turn to East is meant essentially to force the USA and allies to take Russia very seriously, end efforts to isolate Russia, roll back all sanctions and resume ties with Putin’s Russia by considering the assertive nature of his policy.

Russia suffers from a phenomenon of strong Russian character and great power and after the collapse of mighty Soviet Union President Putin is seen by most Russians as displaying that powerful character. Russian success in finding a strong president in Putin is not insignificant as the West is still to come over the impact Soviet system made on the USA-UK controlled world.

For a century Russia in its varied formats of governance from capitalist empire, to communism back to crony capitalism, has conducted an assertive foreign policy and elaborate diplomatic discourse to put forward its ideas for a new multipolar world order if not for a new society.

Soviet assertive politics disfigured the global colonialist and capitalist structures and threatened to remove them from the face of the world. The impact that the Soviet state had made on the global security, political and economic systems was so profound and strong that USA and its western allies sought to dismantle the formidable USSR and they succeeded.

Some of the punitive actions by USA and its European allies have further strengthened the character of Putin presidency. Western sanctions against Russian role in Ukraine including annexation of Crimea have not made Russian policy less assertive, though the country has become more vulnerable to economic upsets. However, in order offset the impact of western sanctions, Russia has pursued a very cautious foreign policy, though it had to curtail human rights in the country in order to contain the opposition leaders from resorting to any possible uprising against the Putin regime for the large scale sanctions.

America is therefore responsible for human right violation of Russian state.

It is not the first time that Russia, as a global power, has changed the international status quo through its aggressive military actions in Ukraine, either by heightening the level of confrontation, such as prior to the outbreak of World War II and throughout the Cold War, or defusing it, as a result of its victories over Napoleon and Hitler and Gorbachev’s “new thinking” in the 1980s. Putin represents the strong willed Russian mindset, reflected in his policies, both domestic and foreign.

Russia said it can attack any nation even without any real threats to its territory. When Putin announced Russian willingness to use its nukes as Russia’s military policy, even when there is no serious threat perception from enemy sties, many eyebrow were raised in the West.

Obviously USA and EU do take Russia and its warnings very seriously

Multi-polar world

Since Gorbachev era, Moscow has pursued a double strategy of seeking to establish a multipolar world while at the same time dutifully pursued a policy against open confrontations with the West.

Putin is often characterized as an autocrat by the Western media and some politicians, but his relationship with former US Presidents like Obama and George W. Bush, among others is reported to be personally friendly. Putin’s relationship with Germany’s new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is reported to be “cooler” and “business-like”.

Western policy is wrongheaded. Today’s “globalised world is based on an unprecedented interconnection between countries, and so it’s impossible to develop relations between Russia and the EU as if they remained at the core of global politics as during the Cold War.” The so-called “historical West” no longer is “the master of the human race’s destinies” – the role it assumed “for almost five centuries.” Transition “to a new international system” changed things.

Today’s world is increasingly multi-polar. One dominant center no longer applies. US interventionism is hugely destructive, one nation after another raped and destroyed. US-led Western efforts to ensure “global leadership” produces confrontation, not mutual cooperation, the unthinkable possibility of another global war. “There is virtually no state in Libya; Iraq is balancing on the brink of disintegrations, and so on and so forth,” Lavrov explained. “A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation between the leading states and their associations in order to address common challenges.”

In a January 2007 interview Putin said Russia is in favour of a democratic multipolar world and of strengthening the system of international law. Putin also proposed certain initiatives such as establishing international centres for the enrichment of uranium and prevention of deploying weapons in outer space.

Russia’s view of the modern world, as well as its goals and objectives are reflected in the Foreign Policy Concept adopted in 2013. It evaluates the global situation and analyses the processes unfolding in the world and its regions. On its basis the foreign strategy of the country has been found in full recognition of the fundamentally new geopolitical situation in the world.

The independent foreign policy pursued by Russia in accordance with modern trends and long-standing traditions is in increasingly high demand in the world, attracting a wide range of partners from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Russia has consistently advocated an inclusive and positive agenda aimed not at restricting but rather amplifying ties between states. Our country stands ready to join efforts with all those who are equally willing to cooperate in line with the principles of equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit and norms of international law, as well as recognition of the central role of the United Nations in global affairs. The work of the UN Security Council, the Group of 20, BRICS, SCO and CSTO clearly demonstrates the efficiency of joint efforts. Conversely, the Ukrainian crisis was a consequence of a policy of strengthening one’s own security at the expense of others, which has been pursued by Western states for over a quarter of a century aiming to expand areas under their geopolitical control. This was manifested by successive waves of NATO expansion despite assurances to the contrary at the highest level and in violation of solemn declarations on the establishment of a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic space. The current negative turn in global affairs is not our choice. Russia will continue working under these circumstances and remains open for dialogue.

There is no viable alternative to mutually beneficial and equal-footed cooperation between Russia and the EU, as our countries are closely intertwined by virtue of numerous geographic, economic, historical and human ties. We are ready to mutually approximate positions and seek compromises, but only on the basis of equality and true consideration of each other’s interests, excluding any attempts of blackmail and diktat. The establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union is making a tangible contribution to the development of wide-ranging cooperation in the region. We are convinced that gradual steps towards creating a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok based on the principles of equal and indivisible security should serve as a strategic guideline in shaping a new architecture on the European continent. In this regard it seems particularly important to establish direct dialogue between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, including their respective supranational executive bodies, with a view to perfecting models of mutually beneficial and equal-footed harmonization of the processes of European and Eurasian integration.

While there is no credible proof to show that USA is sincerely pursuing peace mission globally, there is enough evidence to prove that the Russians do have at least the peace mission intention. The decision of Russia to withdraw its forces occupying Syria, killing the Syrians (Sunni sect) only shows somewhat positive intent of the Kremlin and that it does not want to complicate the problem and is eager to give peace a chance. If “problem” resurface, President Puitn would resend the forces to Syria.

Even Soviet foreign policy was pro-peace; at least theoretically, L. Brezhnev sent the Red Army into Afghanistan ostensibly to defend socialism from those Afghans and their American backers there.

Following the collapse of the mighty USSR, Russia stopped its historic empire ambition and began cooperating with USA and Europe extending their nexus into terror war on Islam. It never invaded any nation which is not well within its space of influence, especially the former Soviet republics and East European nations. Russian military intervention in Georgia and Ukraine should be seen from that ankle only. However, Syria is certainly not in that category of nations where Moscow could intervene as its legitimate right. Russia explains that it has a duty to protect Syrian government and its president Assad and hence it intervened there militarily.

Cooperative confrontation

Russia’s geopolitical approach “is shared by most countries,” including China, other BRICS countries, SCO nations, and “our friends in the EAEU, the CSTO, and the CIS.” Moscow forthrightly supports resolving major geopolitical issues “on an equal and mutually respectful basis, providing a reliable foundation for a long-term improvement of international relations” – free from the scourge of war. Defeating terrorism militarily remains a pressing issue, while at the same time working for resolving conflicts diplomatically.

Lavrov stressed that Russia isn’t seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. It seeks mutual cooperation among all nations. ‘Either we find a way to live together in peace, or we’ll perish together from a war ending all future ones’.

Emergence of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), seen in Moscow as its traditional sphere of influence, was initially viewed in the West as an effort by Putin to revive old Soviet Union and socialist system to resume the super power status, lost with the fall of Berlin Wall. Though initially the CIS generated enough enthusiasm in Russia and elsewhere, it could not be developed into a well-knit union to promote Russian goals as the member states did not cooperate with Russia on the new effort to revive Soviet Union mainly because of pressure from USA on both Russia and former Soviet states.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), seen in Moscow as its traditional sphere of influence, became one of the foreign policy priorities under Putin, as the EU and NATO have grown to encompass much of Central Europe and, more recently, the Baltic states.

However, the CIS became one of the foreign policy priorities under Putin, as the EU and NATO have grown to encompass much of Central Europe and, more recently, the Baltic states.

Instead of working cooperatively with Russia, US dominated NATO provocatively occupies “geopolitical space” near its borders, making normalized relations impossible. Repeated anti-Russian efforts over centuries failed, however. Lavrov said hid nation remains proud and resilient. It’s vitally important as a leading centre of the modern world, and a provider of the values of sustainable development, security and stability.

Pursuing a non-confrontational approach to the USA and Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin opted for in response to his nation’s deepening economic crisis, by seeking a “frozen” conflict in Ukraine, and actively looks for a diplomatic settlement with the West. This is necessary in order to offbeat the negative consequences of western sanctions and by smoothening his nation’s deepening economic crisis.

Vladimir Putin’s presidency lasted already three terms from January 2000 until May 2008 and again from 2012 and one is not sure if he would seek more terms. In international affairs, Putin made increasingly critical public statements regarding the foreign policy of the USA and other Western countries. In February 2007, at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, he criticised what he called the United States’ monopolistic dominance in global relations, and pointed out that the USA displayed an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations. The result of it is that no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.

In the wake of the 11 September hoax in the United States, Putin agreed to the establishment of coalition military bases in Central Asia before and during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Russian nationalists objected to the establishment of any US military presence on the territory of the former Soviet Union, and had expected Putin to keep the US out of the Central Asian republics or at the very least extract a commitment from Washington to withdraw from these bases as soon as the immediate military necessity had passed

During the Iraq disarmament crisis 2002–2003, Putin opposed Washington’s move to invade Iraq without the benefit of a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the use of military force. After the official end of the war was announced, American president George W. Bush asked the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq. Putin supported lifting of the sanctions in due course, arguing that the UN commission first be given a chance to complete its work on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In 2005, Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder negotiated the construction of a major gas pipeline over the Baltic exclusively between Russia and Germany. Schröder also attended Putin’s 53rd birthday in Saint Petersburg the same year.

During the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, Putin twice visited Ukraine before the election to show his support for Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was widely seen as a pro-Kremlin candidate, and he congratulated him on his anticipated victory before the official election returns had been in. Putin’s personal support for Yanukovych was criticized as unwarranted interference in the affairs of a sovereign state (See also The Orange revolution). Crises also developed in Russia’s relations with Georgia and Moldova, both former Soviet republics accusing Moscow of supporting separatist entities in their territories.

Russia’s relations with the Baltic States also remain tense. In 2007, Russo-Estonian relations deteriorated further as a result of the Bronze Soldier controversy.

Ukraine and Syria

International relations have entered a very difficult period, according to Russian foreign minister Lavrov, a world-class diplomat, a tireless pursuer of world peace and stability; specialists argue that President Putin is fortunate to have him as foreign minister. Lavrov said Russia is at the crossroads of key trends. Despite Russia’s importance in European affairs, its member states allied with Washington try keeping it marginalized, weakened, destabilized, contained and isolated, preventing it from taking part in Europe’s most important affairs, Lavrov explained.

Crimea’s accession to Russia, the Kremlin’s alleged support of separatists in Eastern Ukraine, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – all this contributed to dividing European countries in their assessment of Russia’s policy in Ukraine and the sanctions war between the Kremlin and the West.

Not only did Moscow spoiled its relations with the USA in 2014, but also with its traditional allies in Europe, particularly with France and Germany, as indicated by the Mistral case with France and the failure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin to see eye to eye.

Wars in Ukraine and Syria have become a challenge not only for USA but even for Russia which has the advantage of playing the king maker in both nations. Washington has been unequivocal about its insistence and pressure on other countries to join their campaign against Russia’s policy in Ukraine. Although these countries are interested in doing business with Russia, they are hardly likely to put at stake their far larger business relations with the West. The European Union and United States are China’s first and second largest trading partners, accounting for some 30 percent of China’s overall trade. Russia does not even figure in the top ten of Chinese trading partners. Moscow holds a weak hand in its relations with Beijing, except in arms sale as China remains the key customer of largest military equipment of Russia.

Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria was driven by several overlapping objectives. The Kremlin was eager to strengthen the regime of longtime ally Bashar al-Assad, which was then losing significant ground to its various political opponents. Russia was keen to let Iran also feel safe simultaneously. Moscow has showcased its military strategy to Arab and other Muslim nations among other third word countries to get ‘orders” from them. Moscow was also keen to reinforce its strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean, which was centered on the longstanding Russian naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus.

Importantly, Putin’s government was desperate to regain momentum that had been lost in preceding months in Ukraine, where its forces had encountered stronger-than-expected resistance. Putin has shown Russia remains relevant today.

Moscow’s military presence in Syria, meanwhile, has expanded dramatically. Since September, Russia has significantly reinforced its preexisting naval base at Tartus, erected a new airbase in Latakia, and commenced work on at least two other military facilities nearby. It has surged manpower and materiel into the area, and placed naval cruisers from its Black Sea Fleet on “permanent” rotation off the coast of Syria.

Russia’s Syria deployment has also paid clear political dividends. Through it, Putin has been able to divert domestic Russian opinion away from the massive failures of his government (fiscal decline, a dwindling supply of foreign goods, and deepening authoritarianism among them). The intervention has also allowed Russia to at least partially break out of the international isolation caused by its earlier aggression against Ukraine.

Today the West requires Russia’s assistance to ensure the Assad regime’s continued compliance with the terms of any political solution. Russia was an intrinsic part of the putative ceasefire concluded in Geneva in mid-February, and—as a result of its ongoing leverage over Assad—remains essential to its implementation. That, in turn, gives the Kremlin a deciding voice over West Asia regional politics, has positioned Moscow as a key power broker in the Middle East. The March 14 announcement was both abrupt and surprising; coming as it did just six months after Russia’s entry into the Syrian civil war, assures Arab nations its resolve not to overstay, unlike USA or NATO, in Syria or any other regional nation in future.

However, whether or not Arab world thinks that way, USA and EU look at the Russian moves as a serious threat to them. Europe sees the aggressive move by Putin’s belligerent Russia as one of the most pressing threats to European security it is willingly uses armed force and breach the sovereignty of other states in defense of its interests. NATO has decided to face the ‘threat” by beefing up its presence in the Baltic States, to demonstrate that it has a “credible commitment” to defend member states under Article V of the NATO charter.

Countries like India and China are hardly likely to yield to US pressure because they are pro-Russia and somewhat independent players of world politics that have no reason to join the US campaign against the Kremlin. India is annoyed with USA for promoting Pakistan as a counter weight in the region. Only those countries that have economic and political links with Washington will yield, as in the case of Japan and Australia, which have quickly imposed sanctions against Russia. Japan was forced to support sanctions due to its geostrategic and geopolitical positions. Tokyo is struggling to develop its relations with Russia, yet it has to be in solidarity with the USA.

Russia’s Asia pivot

For a long time since the close of the so-called Cold War and Hot Peace, Russian has express its intentions of ignoring the West and turning to the East to warn the West about its intentions to join the Asian nations and harm US interests in Asia, though Washington has not taken that warning seriously. When Obama declared his ‘Asia pivot’ tactics he was only ridiculing Moscow. True, USA always sought to contain both Russia and China with veto handle.

With Russia losing traditional and reliable partners in Europe, it is trying to find new ones in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. President Obama made trips to these areas- latest being in Latin America where capitalist Russia is fast losing its friends. Yet can these “new allies” satisfy Moscow’s trade requirements and replace the partners Russia has lost over its schism with the West?

Even though German society is divided in its assessments of the prospects of Russian-German relations, there are increasing debates over the possibility of a cold war between Germany and Russia. Russia avoids any cold war with Germany that would affect Russian economy.

While losing its partners in Europe, Russia makes no bones about its turn to Asia, the Middle East and Latin America in attempt to persuade the West that it is not isolated and has numerous partners. Putin’s visits to India, Turkey in December, China in May and Latin America in July look like a clear gesture from Russia, demonstrating that it can make do without the West.

Russia has always sought strong relationships with Central Asia, and was engaged in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS group well before this summer’s difficulties with Europe. “But Russia is now trying to deepen and strengthen ties in Asia and the Middle East more than ever to offset the losses of business with Europe.

Likewise, Russia is attempting to establish closer ties with Iran amidst its schism with the West, as indicated by the conference held in Moscow on Nov. 25 on “Development of Strategic Partnership between Russia and Iran”. Stunning Russian ’progress’ in Syria could prompt Tehran to sign up more military deals with the Kremlin.

China has plenty of capital and plenty of expertise, but needs its capital internally and is also keen to invest in Africa and Iran and elsewhere, and lacks some of the specific expertise (e.g. Arctic oil exploration, tight oil extraction, innovation-based entrepreneurship) that Russia needs most.

Probably these countries may not be interested in full collaboration with a weaker Russia and would instead prefer it over the partnership with West. They “might work” with Russia on trade, but “they are unlikely to ally with Moscow, and they won’t “displace Europe in trade terms. In 2013, EU-Russia trade was more than four times Russia-China trade, and more than 15 times Russia-Turkey trade. Even though Asia and the Middle East do matter for Russia’s foreign policy, Moscow would abandon its deep-seated illusion that there is an opportunity to switch from its Western partners to eastern ones. Russia’s new allies in the Middle East and Asia are not meant to replace, but rather should be an addition to our traditional partners, including those in the zone of the European Union.

No clear evidence of the willingness of “Russia’s supposed ‘new partners’ to engage in preferential relationship with Moscow because of the crisis in Russia’s relations with the West not even India.

Even though Moscow made several attempts to woo the Asian and Middle East countries, there is still a lack of certainty over whether these “new allies” are eager to team up with Moscow and sacrifice their relations with the USA.

In most cases, Russia’s ‘new partners’ pursue their own – mainly economic – agendas, while considerations of standing up to US dictates take the backstage as a motivation for engaging with Russia. In fact, one is doubtful that Russia aims at replacing its EU partners with other ones elsewhere. If there are promising bonds and benefits to Moscow from cooperation with Asia or the Middle East, they had to be expanded irrespective of Russia’s relations with the USA or the EU.

The ‘partner replacement’ logic works in contemporary international relations but in small measures. Such logic can only be applied – albeit with limited effect – to military alliances for joint exercises. In trade or other forms of economic engagement, and even diplomatic coordination, ‘replacing’ one set of failing relationships with another simply makes no sense. There was never any reason why Russia should not have been developing ties with potential partners in the Middle East or the Asia Pacific region before its conflict with the West over Ukraine started. These regions, now controlled by USA, do not really trust Russia being a reliable ally against US monopoly of global affairs and economics.

However, Russia, backed by hue resourced reinforced by sales of arms and energy resources, has nothing to lose.

Nuke deterrence

The vulnerability of our highly civilized and technological world to WMD is considerable. If it is difficult just to protect armed forces in operations against WMD, in particular biological weapons, then to protect the civilian population will pose even greater problems.

On August 6, 1945, towards the end of World War II, the American Little Boy device was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, obviously to test the efficacy of first ever atomic bomb on humans. Exploding with a yield equivalent to 12,500 tonnes of TNT, the blast and thermal wave of the bomb destroyed nearly 50,000 buildings (including the headquarters of the 2nd General Army and Fifth Division) and killed approximately 75,000 people, among them 20,000 Japanese soldiers and 20,000 Koreans. Today president Obama is testing latest unmanned drone weapons – first tested by Israel on Palestinians – on global Muslims, starting in Pakistan.

During the height of WW-II USA had threatened Moscow with an atomic attack but Stalin said was ready to face it. The Soviet Union had a peak stockpile of 45,000 nuclear warheads in 1988, forcing the NATO not to think of any misadventure on Russian soil. It is estimated that from 1949 to 1991 the Soviet Union produced approximately 55,000 nuclear warheads.

According to an audit by the Brookings Institution, between 1940 and 1996, the U.S. spent $8.78 trillion in present-day terms on nuclear weapons programs. 57 percent of which was spent on building nuclear weapons delivery systems. According to the Federation of American Scientists, an organization that assesses nuclear weapon stockpiles, in 2013, Russia possessed an estimated 8,500 total nuclear warheads of which 1,800 were strategically operational. The organization also claims that the U.S. had an estimated total 7,700 nuclear warheads of which 1,950 were strategically operational. According to Mark Schneider of the National Institute of Public Policy Russian strategic nuclear weapons now deployed number near 2500, considerably greater than the nominal treaty limits of 1550 under the New Start treaty.

In 2014, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released a report, stating that there are a total of 2,530 warheads kept in reserve, and 2,120 actively deployed. Of the warheads actively deployed, the number of strategic warheads rests at 1,920 (subtracting 200 bombs that are “deployed”, but are not considered “strategic”). The amount of warheads being actively disabled rests at about 2,700 warheads, which brings the total United States inventory to about 7,400 warheads

Eliminating nuclear weapons has long been an aim of the pacifist left. But now many mainstream politicians, academic analysts, and retired military leaders also advocate nuclear disarmament. Goals include the initiation of United States-Russia bilateral negotiations for reductions to 1,000 total warheads each and commitments from the other key nuclear weapons countries to participate in multilateral negotiations for phased reductions of nuclear arsenals.

As of 2016, there are still more than enough nuclear weapons globally to render the planet uninhabitable. 16,000 nuclear weapons are ‘stored’ at sites in 14 countries and many are ready for immediate use. Modernisation of weapons continues to occur. Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons: 80–110 each active warheads; nuclear weapons: North Korean nuclear weapons: 10 active warheads; Undeclared nuclear rogue weapon states not party to the NPT: Israeli nuclear weapons: 75–200 active warheads.

Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-weapon-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. Nuclear disarmament groups include the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Peace Action, Greenpeace, and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Mayors for Peace, Global Zero, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Dangers are inherent in the very existence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction have come to occupy center stage in international politics. The term “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD) is used to characterize a variety of weapons that share two key features: their potential for large-scale destruction and the indiscriminate nature of their effects, notably against civilians. There are three major types of WMD: nuclear weapons, chemical warfare agents, and biological warfare agents. In addition, some analysts include radiological materials as well as missile technology and delivery systems such as aircraft and ballistic missiles.

Radiological weapons are part of the nuclear risk. These are weapons, procedures, or methods that disseminate radioactive substances; for example, the conventional detonation of a container holding a radioactive substance. The aim of such weapons is to disperse radioactive particles. At multilateral arms control talks, such weapons are regarded as difficult to define, and there is little chance of reaching consensus on this issue. In addition, their military value is unclear.

While the mass killing of human beings is not a new feature of warfare, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) pose an unprecedented constellation of challenges to peace and security. Over the past century, various states have built and stockpiled lethal arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the materials to produce them. While states have officially committed to eliminating all stockpiles of chemical weapons and offensive biological weapons and to strive for the elimination of nuclear weapons, nine countries currently possess nuclear weapons – Britain, China, France, India, Israel (assumed), North Korea (claimed), Pakistan, Russia, and the United States – and several states are believed to possess chemical and/or biological warfare agents.

Anti Islamic media of US-UK led nations have spread rumours that the terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda was actively seeking nuclear materials to terrorize the humanity further. The use of WMD increased in the United States and around the world following the use of the biological warfare agent anthrax in the US mail in 2001 in Afghanistan occupied by NATO and one can easily guess who is behind this.

Last month US defense secretary Ashton Carter proposed boosting the initiative’s funding from $789 million to $3.4 billion for FY 2017. Both sides use displays of military prowess to signal their resolve to the other side. In 2007, Russia resumed the Cold War practice of strategic bomber patrols along NATO borders.

Even while targeting each other by the strategic missile postures, Russia and the West apparently also focus on a re-nuclearization of defense planning, driven by worst case scenarios. This is stoked by all the talk of a “second Cold War,” which encourages each side to view the other as implacably hostile, duplicitous and dangerous.

The cost of making the wrong call on the WMD issue is astronomically high. Both sides take steps to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons and reliance on nuclear threats as part of their defense strategies. There must be a follow-on to the 2010 New START agreement and the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which expired in 2012, and resolution of mutual accusations of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Deterrence by nukes may not work in the long run. Acknowledging an overriding common interest of avoiding nuclear war is not an exercise in appeasement. There were several incidents where humanity came perilously close to the nuclear brink, from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis to NATO’s Able Archer exercise in 1983. Russia’s own military doctrine states that if it found itself losing a conventional war, it may use nuclear weapons to defend Russia’s security. NATO, too, has a nuclear doctrine that does not preclude first use in a conflict. NATO seems to be underestimating Russia’s willingness to escalate and finds itself in a classic security dilemma, where defensive actions by one side are seen as a threat by the other, triggering an escalating cycle of action and response. Russia feels the NATO involved in a desperate nuke gamble.

USA may isolate Russia in order to make it look irrelevant in international affairs, but it can’t simply ignore the security readiness of the Kremlin to face any eventuality now or in the future.

Observation

The system of international relations is in transition as a new polycentric world order is taking root. World is witnessing the creation of a fundamentally new global model marked by growing competition in all spheres, including social and economic development and moral values. Evidently, Russia is well placed to consolidate its role as one of the centres of the new multipolar system and actively impact the global situation with a view to ameliorating it, strengthening security and stability, putting in place favourable external conditions for the country’s internal development to ensure sustainable economic growth and thus a higher quality of life for Russian citizens.

Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, saying in Lavrov’s words a nation’s greatness is not determined by the size of its territory or the number of its inhabitants, but by the capacity of its people and its government to take on the burden of great world problems and to deal with these problems in a creative manner.

President Puitn has lived up to the expectations of Russians who want a strong presidency to face the challenges of foes.

Russian foreign minister Lavrov’s thoughtful new essay, titled “Russia’s Foreign Policy” explains current foreign policy of Putin’s Russia. Lavrov explained Russian history and its special role in European and global history, an impressive scholarly account, rare for figures in his position, maybe unique in today’s world. Lavrov is no ordinary diplomat, shaming his Western counterparts, serving his country with distinction, a devoted advocate for peace, democratic values and rule of law principles.

Lavrov said that achieving world peace and stability, mutual cooperation among all nations, respect for their sovereignty, and upholding fundamental rule of law principles matter to Moscow most of all.

Putin’s Russia would not change its tone now or in future, though he seeks a multilateral world for the entire world to survive the challenges.

Western sanctions have crippled Russian economy or its tone of rhetoric, and obviously the USA ‘options now are limited in the chess broad. Russians, after its Syrian ‘blast’ are waiting for the next move of the USA.

Policy makers in Washington also know too well how Putin reacts to US unilateral moves. The more opportunities Washington offers to it, the better for Russia to make full use of them depending on the circumstances.

However, Russia won’t be able to remake the Soviet Union or socialist system even if Putin and his active supports at the Kremlin want that. It can only undertake measures to reform crony capitalism so that common Russians have a hope of better life.

Assertive foreign policy may be necessary but that should not promote domestic authoritarianism which is harmful to the nations and world.

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The European Union and Russia: To talk or not to talk and about what?

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The recent visit of the High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell to Moscow was seen by those, who care about good-neighbourly relations between the EU and Russia, as a first step on the way of putting an end to their decline, since already for some time they were going from bad to worse. Why didn’t the expectations of these people of good will bear the fruit? Were they simply naïve? To an extent, it is true. But why was there such a negative reaction to Borrell’s visit in several European capitals, and also in the European Parliament, including the calls for his resignation? What led Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, to declare that his country must be ready to severing relations with the EU in case the latter adopts new sanctions against Moscow? What would this mean for Europe, for Russia and even for the wider world since notwithstanding the coronavirus the world remains interconnected and interdependent, even if a reverse tendency has also become visible?

First of all, it has to be noted that there are those, both in Russia as well as in Europe, who are actively against any improvement of relations between Moscow and Brussels. In Russia these are not only, and even not so much, those ultra-nationalists (exemplified, say, by Alexander Prohkanov) for whom the Western influence in Russia is like a bat from the hell infected by coronavirus. These are also members of the radical pro-Western opposition to the Kremlin, exemplified by Alexei Navalny. For them any sign of reconciliation between the West and Russia is a cause for alarm since in such a case they may be soon out of job. And both of these Russian opponents of rapprochement between the EU and Russia have their counterparts in the West, including Europe. Significant parts of political elites, particularly in the Baltic countries and in Poland, for whom trans-Atlantic ties are much more important than European interests, hope that by supporting the radical opposition in Russia they could enforce there a regime change, a kind of ‘colour revolution’.

However, as the success of such scenarios is ‘highly unlikely’ and political pragmatism and economic self-interests usually prevail over vociferous extremism, be it political or religious, there is still hope at the end of the tunnel. Moreover, when Sergei Lavrov said that Russia should be ready to possible severing relations between EU and Russia, he didn’t mean at all that it would be Russia’s choice. It was said in the context of a response to a threat of new EU’s sanctions and Moscow’s countersanctions since all such unfriendly measures inevitably undermine relations between States and societies. And though it is impossible to realistically imagine a complete severance of relations between Brussels and Moscow, it may well be that at least for the nearest future political relations between them become a bit frozen. It maybe even advisable to take the time off and reflect for a while, instead of continuing with mutual recriminations. However, this would also mean that relations between Russia and individual member-States of the Union would necessarily rise in importance since there are areas and issues where cooperation between Russia and Europe is inevitable and unavoidable (be it the situation in the Middle East, the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, responses to cyber-terrorism and even the conflict in Eastern Ukraine or the situation in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh, etc.). Moreover, Covid-19 is not only forcing States to impose stricter border controls, even within in the Schengen zone; the virus is also pushing them to cooperate in the distribution and use of effective vaccines, notwithstanding their ‘politically incorrect’ origin. This all means that the role and position of the EU in the world would further weaken.

The failure of Borrell’s mission was also predetermined by what the High Representative himself called ‘the DNA’ of the European Union – the concern for human rights, particularly in States that don’t belong to the Union. As the High Representative himself claimed, in justification of his visit and apologising before the MEPs for its meagre results, the primary purpose of his twofold mission was to convey to the Kremlin the Union’s concerns for human rights and political freedoms in Russia and particularly for the situation of Mr Navalny. He even demanded Navalny’s ‘immediate and unconditional release’. And only then came issues of bilateral cooperation between the EU and Russia. This was an absolutely wrong, even disastrous, way to start a dialogue. The European Union is not a human rights NGO, like the Amnesty International or the Human Rights Watch, and even if it has a human rights mandate, then only vis-à-vis its member-States. Moreover, the whole history of the human rights movement shows that inter-State relations (and relations between the EU and Russia are inter-State relations) are not the best forum for conducting a human rights discourse. For that there are specialised human rights bodies, both international and domestic, intergovernmental and non-governmental. When human rights diplomacy of States has had tangible positive effects, it has been achieved by unobtrusive approaches, never through public criticism in the face of mass media. Such criticism has always been counterproductive, even vis-à-vis smaller and weaker States, to say nothing about great powers.

Usually such public criticism doesn’t even have a purpose of improving the human rights situation in a target country. It may be a form of self-satisfaction – we are holding a moral high-ground, while you are outcasts (rogue or pariah States). It is nice to feel virtuous even if things on the grounds don’t change at all or even get worse. It may be also a part of regime-change tactics in parallel with undercover support for opposition forces in target States. Never have such public campaigns improved human rights situations. The opposite is true – human rights situations have improved as a result of fruitful cooperation between States. So, the reforms in China and the inclusion of China in the world-wide economic cooperation have lifted, according to the World Bank, 850 million Chinese out of extreme poverty, helping thereby the UN to achieve one of its Millennium Development Goals. However, such an unexpected success has not been to everybody’s liking and today Washington is trying to harness its allies to help contain Beijing’s rise, using for it, inter alia, human rights discourse that is not doing any good either for Uighurs in the North or Hongkongese in the South of the country. But such policy of containment is not at all about Uighurs or inhabitants of Hong Kong; it is about geopolitics in the disguise of human rights. 

In the aftermath of the failed attempts to promote democracy and human rights in the wider Middle East, the former British Prime Minister Theresa May promised that there is no ‘return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.’She vowed never to repeat the ‘failed policies of the past’, breaking from the ’liberal intervention’ principle established and promoted by her predecessor Tony Blair. Hubert Védrine, the former French Foreign Minister, was right in emphasising that ‘democracy and human rights will progress in future much less through the prescriptions and interference from the outside by the West than depending on the internal dynamics of individual societies’. It is often, though not always, the case that the less States publicly criticise other States on human rights issues, the better would it be for human rights.

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The Role of Ideology in Foreign Policy: Why Contemporary Russia Cannot Be Compared to the Soviet Union

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Ideology is a crucial component in understanding the motivation behind any individual or group of people. Realism falsely presupposes that the motivation of actors can be understood purely through the lens of survival in a limited resources zero-sum domain. At face level, this sounds rational and economic, but it should be understood that in microeconomics, even though people are assumed to always act self-interestedly, it is also understood that what their self-interest is actually composed of is ultimately subjective. Therefore, a more realistic and analytical view of realpolitik allows us to understand that the self-interest of nations is also subjective, which means that the role of ideology cannot be discounted as it pertains to foreign policy.

Throughout human history, nearly every nation has been founded for the sake of itself, even expansionist empires. A glaring exemption to this rule was observed during the Cold War, a clash of two markedly ideological countries.

The United States is a country that was founded on the ideology of humanist enlightenment liberalism and is a country whose founding was assumed to be not for the sake of themselves, but for the sake of all mankind. This was seen as early as the settling of the American continent, with John Winthrop’s famous imagery in A Model of Christian Charity which portrayed the country as a moral paragon, a city on a hill for all the world to see. Likewise, this idea of liberal universalism was evident in the very founding documents of America. In the United States Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers wrote that their country was being incepted to secure the idea “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

This founding ethos directly affected America’s foreign policy, as America has historically occupied a position as the world’s “policeman,” believing that they uniquely have an obligation to defend democratic values everywhere. This rhetoric can be found exhaustively in colloquial American media, but one noticeable concrete example of it is found in George Bush’s 2006 U.S. National Security Strategy, where the document states that “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”.

In a similar vein, the Soviet Union was also founded upon an ideology that extended beyond its national borders. The USSR was the product of Marxist theory and was therefore not founded for the sake of national interest or nationalism, but for the sake of facilitating the international communist revolution, a sentiment captured in the final remarks of Marx’s Communist Manifesto: “the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains…WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!”

This created an interesting vision for communist statehood, because in the USSR, the state was not the merely the final end, as it is in many governance structures, but both an end in itself and a means to a further end. This Proletarian internationalism manifested itself into an interventionist foreign policy, one that sought to propagate communist ideology across the world and facilitate revolution. In fact, it could even be said that this was the primary function of the USSR. Even Lenin once admitted that “from the beginning of the October Revolution, foreign policy and international relations have been the main questions facing us” (Jacobson, 1994) [1].

The clash between these two ideological superpowers became physically manifest during the Cold War through various “cold conflicts” such as the Vietnam War, conflict in Angola, and Cuban missile crisis, instances when the US and USSR sought to project their values onto other nations. As can be imagined, the war made tensions very high between the two countries, and in the West, a staunch fear-based perception of Russia developed. The Cold War was portrayed in America as a fight between good and evil, and Russia was portrayed as a relentless enemy that will never back down, a sentiment which had a lasting effect on the way that Russia is viewed in the contemporary West. This impact has been so salient, that even Russia today is still often characterized as if it was some great evil, waiting for “red dawn” to arrive.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the communist ideology that had influenced the behavior of the USSR fell with it. Without this ideological superstructure, Russia reverted back into a country that falls into a normal range of ideological behavior, determined primarily by a defined set of national interests. While the USSR and US fought for the ability to hegemonize a bipolar system into a unipolar one, contemporary Russia rejects the idea of unipolarity and seeks to coexist with other nations in a multipolar world. Russia certainly has defined geographical areas in which it has foreign interests, specifically the Eurasian sphere, but these interests are predicated on a shared history and mutual economic benefit, and not desires to imperialize.

Nevertheless, in the modern age, there are still fears about Russian imperialism and a “new cold war”. Such fears come from a misunderstanding about the role of ideology in foreign policy. These sentiments demonstrate both a failure to understand the determining factor behind Soviet foreign policy—the union’s ideology, and a failure to analyze a modern country independently of its ideological history. These feelings come from an assumption that Russia today has the same motivational foundation as the Soviet Union, and that is simply not true.

The ideology supporting modern Russia’s foreign policy had formed largely in response to the conclusion of the Cold War, when a bipolar system was turned into a unipolar one, dominated by the United States. In this condition, the world was severely influenced by American foreign policy, military interests, politics, culture, and media, and could be defined as what many scholars would call a global hegemon. Russia considers such a distribution of power to be undemocratic and an affront to the individual autonomy of nation-states.

In his 2007 Munich address on security policy, Vladimir Putin criticized the idea of an America controlled hegemonic order when he stated that in our world, “there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within”. Another comment by Putin from around the same time period attacks this model of governance was when he stated that “(the) people are always teaching us democracy but the people who teach us democracy don’t want to learn it themselves”.

It was in response to this new structural backdrop, as well as increasing levels of globalization, that an ideology of multilateralism and polycentrism became the underlying motivator behind contemporary Russia’s foreign policy. Russia’s ideology rejects a vision of an American led hegemonic order, but also does not seek to hegemonize the order for itself either, it merely beckons for the mutual coexistence and recognition of autonomy between the world’s global powers and regional subsystems.

This sentiment is captured in the words of Sergey Lavrov, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs for Russia in 2013. Lavrov stated that the world was undoubtedly moving towards a polycentric system of international relations, and that in order to ensure an equitable outcome during this transition, “fairer and more democratic systems where economic growth centers and new financial power centres should play a greater role in managing the world economy and political processes”. While the moves and actions of modern Russia are often framed in a realist lens by Western critics, the underlying ideology of the Russian Federation is actually quite liberal, as Russia accepts that a multipolar world should be brokered by polycentric or multilateral means, such as the United Nations.

It would be foolish to judge any country by its ideological history. It would be intellectually dishonest to evaluate a previously religious state in the context of religious ideology after secularization. Likewise, Russia today has largely, if not completely separated from its interventionist communist past and has embraced a new vision of both the world order and its foreign policy. When evaluating contempo

1. Jacobson, J. (1994). “The Ideological and Political Foundations of Soviet Foreign Policy.” In When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics. University of California Press. pp. 12.

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What Russia Wants In The Balkans

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Popular narratives on Russia’s geopolitical interests in the Balkans point to two rather divergent directions. One of them, inherited from the 19th-century strategic thought, says that Russia, as a landlocked empire, must expand into the Balkans, so as to gain access to the Mediterranean Sea. According to this narrative, the Balkans is treated as an empty space, regardless of the ethno-religious identity of the inhabitant population. The other one, which can be traced back to 19th-century romanticist pan-Slavism, but which has been popularized in its present form after the publication of Samuel Huntington’s theory of „the clash of civilizations“, says that Russia conceives of its influence in the Balkans through the cultivation of fraternal relations with the region’s Orthodox Christians, using common religious identity to project its geopolitical ambitions.

Facts on the ground, however, do not support either. Russia’s influence in the region, from the early 19th century to the present day, could never compete with the influence of the Anglo-French axis, exercised through the channels of Serbian and Greek nationalisms, constructed on the anti-Ottoman/anti-Islamic and anti-Habsburg/anti-Catholic foundations, in accordance with strategic interests of the two West European powers to dismantle the declining empires and transform them into a number of weak nation-states. Although these nationalist movements used Orthodox Christianity and a popular folklore motif of fraternity with Orthodox Russia as effective tools for mobilizing the targeted populations on the anti-Islamic and anti-Catholic grounds, their elites always remained clearly detached from Russia, being continuously oriented towards their true patrons in London and Paris.

The Russian motive in mobilizing Serbian nationalism in the 1990s was, of course, quite convenient for London and Paris, having concealed their continuous support to the Serbian military invasion of Bosnia and Croatia, which produced a gigantic campaign of ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population in the occupied areas, with more than 100.000 dead and over one million expelled. That was one of the reasons why the British propaganda, both diplomatic and public, insisted on the alleged Russian support to Serbia and its military expansion as a reason why the Western powers could not intervene in the war in Bosnia and prevent further bloodshed. Another reason, much more important from a strategic point of view – indeed, the reason why the Serbian campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing was supported by London and Paris in the first place – was the global promotion of Hungtington’s theory of „the clash of civilizations“ as „the next pattern of conflict“. According to that pattern, future geopolitical blocs would be formed on the basis of religious identities, acting as „civilizations“ in ineradicable conflicts. As a model of such conflicts at a micro-level was the one launched in Bosnia, in which Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox Christians were pushed to the point of mutual extermination, in an attempt to form „ethnically cleansed“ areas. This scheme was imposed on these communities’ self-appointed leaders (Izetbegović, Karadžić, Boban) by the European Community’s negotiator Lord Carrington at the conference held in Lisbon in 1992, several months before the war. The widely promoted narrative of the alleged Russian support of the Serbian aggression on Bosnia, and the alleged pan-Islamic support to Bosnia’s defenders (with the deliberate media characterisation of all Bosnians, whatever their religion, as „Muslims“) served the purpose of transforming the world into one of clashing „civilizations“. The ultimate goal was to generate an analogous conflict between Orthodox Christians and Muslims on the macro-level, which would eventually push Russia into a lasting armed conflict with the former Soviet republics populated by Muslims, and then into a global conflict with the rest of the Islamic world. Needless to say, such a development would have created a significant strategic advantage for the Anglo-American powers and a great strategic loss for both Russia and the Islamic countries. 

Yeltsin’s foreign policy at the time did not show too much understanding of that geopolitical game, allowing for a public image of Russia as a promoter of pan-Orthodox ideology and a sponsor of the Serbian aggression in the Balkans. However, it must be noted that Russia was not drawn into any major conflict that would fit the pattern of Hungtington’s „clash of civilizations“, although the local conflicts in Chechnya and Nagorno-Karabakh, in which it was directly or indirectly involved, did possess some elements of that model. In contrast, Putin’s foreign policy was based on a much deeper understanding of global relations and geopolitical games at play, so that eventually the Anglo-American strategy of drawing Russia into inter-religious conflicts in Central Asia, in line with Huntington’s theory, did not bear much fruit. And so did the constructed image of Russia’s involvement on the Serbian side gradually wither away.

Yet, paradoxically, in the last couple of years Russia has played the role, previously insinuated by the Anglo-American propaganda, of a protector of Serbia’s efforts to create a Greater Serbia out of the territories of the neighbouring countries with a Serb ethnic minority population (Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo).It is difficult to imagine anything more destructive for a country, which is a home to more than 190 ethnic groups, than to adopt the principle of ethnic and religious homogeneity. However, contrary to the principles of ethnic diversity applied in its own territory and in the broader area of the former Soviet Union, Russia’s attitude in the Balkans has shown open support to the Greater Serbian programme of uniting all Serbs into a single, ethnically homogenous state. Russian foreign policy of open support for the Serbian efforts to cede the Serb-populated renegade province of Bosnia to Serbia is self-contradictory, to say the least. It is also self-defeating, if taken seriously and applied to Russia itself and the neighbouring countries with a Russian ethnic minority. Can anyone imagine today’s Russia in permanent efforts to cede parts of all post-Soviet republics populated with Russians, so as to unite them in some mythical Greater Russia? Or, can anyone imagine Russia attempting to ethnically cleanse its own territory, so as to expel or exterminate all those 190 ethnic communities, in the name of an ethnically homogenous Russian nation-state? Of course not. Yet, that is precisely the policy of Serbia towards its neighbours and towards its own population that Russia now openly supports on the international scene. Therefore, one has to rightfully ask, what is it that Russia wants in the Balkans?

In the first place, it is highly questionable how influential Russia really is in Serbia, despite its public support for it. For, the very existence of Serbia, from a semi-autonomous principality within the Ottoman territory in the 1830s to the creation of the Kingdom of Serbia in 1882 , to its expansion into other South Slavic territories in the form of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) at the Versailles Conference in 1919, always had explicit support by London and Paris. The dissolution of the communist Yugoslavia, which Serbia used as a convenient opportunity to implement the Greater Serbia programme, was also clearly backed by London and Paris, with no relevant participation by Moscow. Under these conditions, it is difficult to imagine a strategic shift from the centuries long Anglo-French influence to that of Russia. It is also difficult to identify Russian strategic interests in the Balkans, given that Russia’s foreign policy was not designed to exert control in the zones outside the territory of the former Soviet Union. 

Yet, if Russia has no real influence on Serbia, then the current Russian support of Serbia’s continuing hostile policy towards its neighbours may well be a simulation of influence. Even if such a simulation cannot deceive the foreign policy circles in London, which are quite familiar with the extent of their long-term control over Serbia, it may well deceive such circles in Washington, which are commonly persuaded that Moscow’s influence can be detected everywhere. For what purpose? If the Balkan region is of strategic importance for the US, not only as a link between the West and the Middle East, but also in terms of its natural resources (e.g. Kosovo), then the simulated Russian influence in the Balkans might serve as a leverage against the American influence in the zones of true strategic importance for Russia. What first comes to mind, of course, is Ukraine and its aspirations to join NATO: if a tactical simulation of Russian influence in the Balkans, as a zone of traditional strategic influence of the West, turns out to be successful, then it might be possible to push Washington to reduce its ambitions in Ukraine and leave it outside NATO structures.

There is also another purpose for which such a simulation might serve. Not so many analysts, diplomats or politicians are aware of the tacit strategic alliance between Russia and Turkey, which has elevated Turkey to the status of a great power. This alliance has already been tested in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh. In Libya, Russia and Turkey simulated a possibility of mutual military confrontation, each supporting one of the warring parties, while in reality they agreed to divide the spheres of influence, using the Libyan warring parties as their respective proxies. In Syria, under the pretended confrontation, the new allies also divided the spheres of influence. Still, the most interesting game was played out in Nagorno-Karabakh, where Turkey openly supported Azerbaijan in its efforts to restore sovereignty over this region. On the other side, Armenia was persuaded by Western powers, namely France, to go into the war over Azerbaijan’s region under the pretext that Russian military support to Armenia was a geopolitical inevitability. However, Azerbaijan, with Turkish military support, took the region over, with no resistance on Russia’s part. Russia thus returned to the principle of inviolability of post-Soviet borders and finally abandoned the principle of ethnically homogenous greater states, advocated by Armenia and its patrons in Paris and London. Is there a possibility for Russia and Turkey to play a similar game in the Balkans? Is there a possibility that Russia and Turkey want to generate an illusion among the Serbian nationalist elites that Russia would unquestionably support their attempts to cede parts of Bosnia and Kosovo, at the same time leaving Turkey with a free hand to extend its military support to Bosnia’s and Kosovo’s efforts to prevent Serbia from questioning their sovereignty? Is there a will in Russia to return to the principle of inviolability of borders in the Balkans, too, thereby abandoning the principle of ethnic homogeneity advocated by Serbia and its sponsors in London and Paris, the most harmful principle for Russia’s own interests? Is there a will in Russia to follow its own geopolitical interests, in cooperation with Turkey, along the same lines and with the same implications as in Nagorno-Karabakh? Really, what is Russia doing in the Balkans? 

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