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Israel and the Russian Federation today

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There are many signs which make us think of a new strategic relationship between Russia and Israel in the Middle East. In general terms, we can now assume that the Jewish State is already considering and assessing the US disengagement from the Middle East system – hence Israel is trying to define a policy to “replace” them, thus establishing connections with the Russian Federation.

Obviously the bad personal relations between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu carried a remarkable weight in this respect, but we are witnessing a real redefinition of all the regional geopolitical equilibria.

Also the US and EU slapdash attitude on the JCPOA, namely the Treaty on the Iranian civilian-military nuclear power, rightly criticized by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the whole Israeli establishment, had a significant influence in this regard.

Both Russia, which has already “won” its war in Syria and Israel, which has drawn all the geopolitical consequences of the “Arab springs” and the ambiguous initial US support for the anti-Assad Syrians “rebels”, are redesigning – almost alone – the new Greater Middle East map.

Whatever happens in Syria from now on, the US destiny is a progressive marginalization both in the Sunni and Shiite regions, as well as a subjection of its operations to a series of alliances (with Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan) in which the United States will no longer have the clout they had until a few years ago.

As already said, the signs of a “new start” for the Russian-Israeli relations are manifold.

Suffice to think of Russia’s returning of an M48 Patton Israeli tank, captured by the Syrians in the 1982 Lebanon War near Sultan Yaakov during an ambush in which the three tank drivers were killed.

The tank was sent by Hafez el Assad to Moscow for it to be studied by the Soviet technical and intelligence services and was later placed in the Tank Museum of Kubinka.

However there is no official news about the fate of the three IDF soldiers.

Obviously President Vladimir Putin preliminary informed Bashar al-Assad of its decision and nothing prevents the current Syrian Alawite leadership from deciding, in the future, to provide to the Israeli government information about the sad fate of the three tank drivers.

Furthermore, during all Russian operations in Syria, the Russian and Israeli soldiers met regularly to exchange information and avoid duplication of efforts.

The Russians tolerated some trespassing – indeed regularly reported – of Israeli aircraft over the Golan Heights and into central Syria, while the Jewish State tolerated (having been preliminary informed) some Russian aircraft overflying its territory.

Hence it is clear that the sideline negotiations between Russia and Israel are made up of three strands, which are obviously closely interwoven.

Israel wants the Russian Federation to act as a credible mediator and power broker between Israel and the Palestinian region, because Russia is reliable for both parties.

In addition, the Jewish State does not want any transfer of military technology, information and logistics from Russia to its allies in Syria: the Hezbollah, the Iranian brigades of the Pasdaran Al Quds Force and Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Nor can we rule out that – in the coming months or years – the axis between Russia and Israel may result in redesigning regional powers in the Middle East region.

Currently those powers have neither father nor mother, and the replacement of great powers by Iran and Saudi Arabia will not last long.

They are too small and unable to create far-reaching strategic correlations.

Hence time has come for the Middle East to be anchored to a global power, which will be the Russian-Chinese axis, with Israel acting as a regional counterweight.

It is worth recalling that China has already made military flights over the Syrian territory.

The Chinese “non-interventionist” line does not mean lack of real knowledge of facts or lack of pressure and interference power.

The Russian-Israeli negotiations also imply a Russian guarantee for Israel regarding possible Iranian military operations, the marginalization of the Lebanese Shiites’ “Party of God”, a new Assad’s government not aiming at destroying the ”Zionist entity”, or the division of current Syria into three parts, with the consequent reduction of all its internal factions.

This is the US line, and partially also the line of some Israeli decision-makers.

Russia, however, thinks that the whole Southern Syria shall go back under Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while Israel, along with the United States, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, believes that a mini-State in Southern Syria is fundamental for Assad and his Iranian allies to invade the Golan Heights.

However, President Putin’s offer to the Jewish State seems to be the following: if Israel accepted the “Greater Syria”, the Russian forces would remain in the Western region of the country to protect Israel against any action by Iran or Assad’s government.

This is the reason why Russia wants to reopen the political relations between Assad’s regime and Israel, so as to make the Baathist government depart from Iran’s and the Lebanese Shiites’ geopolitical line.

This is not even in its interest.

Hence this is the strategic reason for the token gesture of the restitution of the Israeli tank.

Nevertheless, there is more in the new Russian project in the Middle East and in the Israeli response to the rise of the new Russian power in the Middle East.

During Netanyahu’s visit to Russia on April 21, 2016, for example, the Israeli Prime Minister and the Russian President pointed out Russia’s interest in developing and exploiting the new offshore natural gas field known as Leviathan, which will be the real “game changer” in the Middle East in the near future.

If GazProm cooperates in the exploitation and marketing of the offshore gas field area between Haifa and the Gaza Strip, it will be vital for the Russian Federation to ensure – along with Israel – security of communications, particularly in relation to the possible Hezbollah actions from the Lebanon or the Iranian pressures on the Golan.

This new energy system will finally change the relations between Israel and Turkey, which will be the hub of the natural gas extracted from the Leviathan field, and will make the Russian oil and gas companies enter the Middle East market, thus excluding the US companies operating in Turkey and in most Sunni world.

It is worth recalling that both Iran and Qatar now operate mainly on the natural gas market, and the large Israeli Leviathan gas field could compete with many of the fiercest Muslim, Shiite or Sunni opponents of the Jewish State.

Therefore the three visits paid to Russia by Prime Minister Netanyahu over a year are essential both for Israel’s foreign policy and for its economic future.

Moreover, Israel knows that the Obama administration believes that some territories conquered by the Jewish State were annexed illegally and also this fact could bring Russia and Israel closer in the future.

Russia must maintain its presence in Ukraine and support – at international level – Crimea’s annexation.

If Israel supports Russia’s demands, it is very likely for it to support Israel’s good right to keep the Palestinian territories.

Moreover, in strictly military terms, the Jewish State fears that the presence of Russia’s advanced weaponry – such as the Iskander missile or the batteries of S-4007 carriers, sold by Russia also to Iran – would make the Syrian territory very dangerous for Israel’s security.

Hence very specific operational guarantees and a clear idea of Russian defenses eastwards and along the route of the future Leviathan pipeline will be needed to reassure Israel of the Russian Federation’s good intentions.

It is said, however, that the deployment of the Triumph S-4007 and the other Russian advanced weapons is basically a Russian cosmetic operation for “image” purposes, and some British analysts do not even believe that these news and reports are really grounded.

Nevertheless, at least since 2007 Russia has already had a listening post in place in the Golan Heights, which controls Israel’s telephone traffic (via the Internet and electronically) and, above all, its decision-making centers.

On the other hand, the Jewish State has some listening posts in the Golan Heights and in other safe areas of the Middle East region.

In other words, both President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu are playing open-face by laying all their cards on the table, being well aware of the projects and the “tacit knowledge” they have about each other.

So, considering all these conditions, in the best possible scenario Israel could:

a) replace – in the long run – the United States with the Russian Federation as a global ally and as a presence of reference in the Middle East region.

In fact, the American ruling class is closely linked to the Saudi lobby, also from a financial and political subsidizing viewpoint.

The two wars of the US-led Coalition in Iraq have disrupted Saudi Arabia’s main enemy, namely Iran. They have placed a Western advanced military system between Saudi Arabia and its Iranian global enemy and they have finally created a center of gravity north of Saudi Arabia, which has stabilized the whole region in favor of the Saudi Sunnis.

Furthermore, b) Israel can rely on a more stable and credible mediator, namely the Russian power broker, both vis-à-vis the Palestinians and, in the long run, even in relation to the Shiite and Alawite world.

The United States have played all their cards in the Greater Middle East on the democratization and secularization of populations and regimes that have not the same culture, the same history and the same link between religion and politics as those traditionally existing in the West.

It is also worth noting that their psyops and propaganda operations were, and still are, limited and often incomprehensible for the huge Islamic masses of the Greater Middle East.

The modernization that has been successful in the current Islam, if any, is the jihad one, not the adaptation to the pro-Western and secularized cultural universe.

Not all Arabs would decide to be shahid, namely “martyrs” for Al Qaeda, but all the Arab masses celebrated – in the streets – the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon attack.

This is the new imagery and narrative with which we have to come to terms.

It is the “imaginal” – a philosophical concept developed by the orientalist Nenry Corbin, who believed that the term “imaginary” had acquired a very restricted meaning in Western philosophy – stemming from the fact that the great powers’ balance in the Middle East has been replaced by the small regional powers, which have to radicalize their ideology to hide their strategic, military and geopolitical inadequacy or failure.

Hence, since the two Iraqi wars, the United States have viewed the Eastern region under Western eyes – just to quote the title of a great novel by Joseph Conrad, initially set – incidentally – in Saint Petersburg.

A comprehensive strategy of democratization and secularization, which today has clearly failed, and to which the US ruling class cannot but respond with Thomas Jefferson’s formula: no entanglements.

But can there be a global power, with a global currency, without entanglements?

It is a paradox of the US foreign policy which cannot be solved in the short term.

Finally 3) Israel, jointly with the Russian Federation, will be able to manage its new policy of global projection outside the Middle East.

In the future, for Israel, there will be a place in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, in Central Asia, in India, even in Latin America and in some African areas.

All areas which are now in the Russian and Chinese strategic reach, while the EU is retreating even from the Mediterranean (and increases its already substantial rate of anti-Semitism) and dreams, together with the United States, of an irrational revival of the Cold War, with the current NATO operations in Poland.

It is worth noting, however, that both Crimea and Ukraine are in Russian hands, at least de facto, and that a military operation against the NATO positions along the border with the Russian Federation can be led from those areas – an operation which would be hard for NATO to oppose.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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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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Brewing Instability Following Navalny’s Imprisonment

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Image source: themoscowtimes.com/Pavel Golovkin / AP / TASS

The fuming tensions in Russia post the arrest of the championed Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, have entered a catatonic phase as the Moscow court, on Tuesday, sentenced Navalny to a 2.5-year prison in reference to a suspended verdict in 2014. Despite of the suspected nature of the outcome of the court proceedings, a new tremor of protests in support of Navalny is expected to surge the already alarming situation in core Russia. Since the entire trial has been realised as a systematic scheme to bring down the biggest Kremlin critic of the decade, the decision is hardly expected to be well received amidst the blooming supporters turning aggressive day by day.

Alexie Navalny is a widely acclaimed blogger and a political activist running campaigns against the Putin-regime. Navalny has been the prime political rival to Vladimir Putin for a long span of time: a decade long period of leading processions over alleged rigging claims to exposing corruption and embezzlement in government records. His most famous campaign came out to be in 2019 when massive waves of protests sparked over the elections being shaped in support of Putin. Navalny has also brought use to his colossal following online; his exposé video depicting the luxurious Palace as the property of Putin resulting from high-end corruption scandals has gained more than a 100 million views. The sheer drive of Navalny to dethrone Putin has accumulated support over the last few years primarily due to the relentless yet failed attempts of the Russian regime to detain him despite his acquittal in 2014.

Navalny inspired the contemporary opposition against Putin, his words putting direction to his supporters: “He [Putin] can pretend to be a great politician but he will go down in history as a prisoner”. In line with this vision, Putin has been popularly been known as ‘fearing’ the advancing opposition. Navalny was allegedly poisoned last year, whilst he returned from an investigation in Siberia. Navalny accused the Russian regime; Putin to be specific, for deploying state intelligence agencies to exterminate him by ‘Poisoning his underwear’. However, whilst his accusations were repeatedly met with denial and subsequent warnings from the Kremlin, his imminent visit was being awaited. After spending 5 months recovering in Berlin, Navalny finally returned to Moscow late last month to ‘Lead the opposition from the roads of Russia’. However, Navalny was detained from the Moscow airport leaving his supporters under frustration and outrage.

Over the past few weeks, protests have poured all over Russia; mounds of supporters arching the motto ‘No fear’. Even Navalny pressed on in his trail during his court proceeding; claiming this exercise as a political ruse to underwhelm him and his supporters. In spite of multiple warnings from the Russian authorities, protestors in copious groups have gripped hold of the streets of Moscow with more than 5600 arrested including top journalists and members of Navalny’s group. The situation is distending beyond Russia with the recent expulsion of the diplomats of Germany, Poland and Sweden followed by a coordinated retaliation from the respective countries ousting out the Russian diplomats. With worsening relations with Europe and the European Parliament to convene on slapping sanctions on Russia coupled with a stoppage on the Nord Stream project, the Kremlin regime is constricted to make fluent decisions instead of feigning justification.

Now with the prison sentence of Navalny in action followed by an aggressive response of the Russian government, not only an implosive response of the protesters is on-cards, but even the Newly-elect US government may cause foreign policy problems as could be gauged from the recent statement of the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken: “The U.S. condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight. We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights, including Aleksey Navalny”.

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