Connect with us

Russia

Russia’s State Duma and Foreign Parliaments Ready to Influence Global Politics

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Published

on

Russia’s State Duma has gathered parliamentarians from Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, creating a three-day solid platform to discuss the development of international parliamentarism and the most pressing national, regional and global issues and adopt some effective approaches to determine the future of mankind in the modern world.

The program also included topical issues on international security and stability, the development of a digital economy, youth and environmental policies. Within the framework of the forum the Russia-Africa parliamentary conference was held.

Dubbed as Development of Parliamentarism International Forum, it has attracted representatives from more than 130 states, 40 speakers and 800 parliamentarians and experts participated, according to official sources. The forum was held in the World Trade Center (WTC) overlooking the Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya in Moscow.

Welcoming the guests to the grand opening ceremony, Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin acknowledged the growing enthusiasm and interest of foreign parliamentarians to express opinions on many common issues and the importance of inter-parliamentary relations and parliamentary diplomacy in the modern world. 

“The forum is becoming an authoritative platform for the exchange of best legislative practices and parliamentary experience,” he noted, and further urged parliamentarians of all countries to work together for the protection of digital sovereignty. At the same time, he stressed that it was necessary to work together on the development of the digital economy as the economy of the future.

According to the Chairman of the State Duma, through constructive communication, parliamentarians could possibly increase the efficiency of interaction on issues requiring joint decisions, including on sustainable development, international security, environmental protection, fighting poverty and inequality, countering terrorism, drug trafficking, and illegal migration.

Chairperson of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvyenko, used the opportunity created to urge all parliaments to participate in the World Conference on Inter-faith and Inter-civilizational Dialogue, which will be held in Russia on May 21, 2022.

In May 2018, the UN supported the organization of the World Conference on inter-faith and inter-civilizational dialogue with the participation of state leaders, parliamentarians, and representatives of leading world religions in its resolution.

In his speech delivered at the forum, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “the situation in the world remains challenging, and is getting even more challenging in some parts. Old conflicts are not settled, and new tensions arise. In this context, cooperation between legislative bodies becomes especially important.”

Parliamentary diplomacy has to make a significant contribution to supporting trust and mutual understanding between countries and nations in their search for compromises and balanced solutions to acute international problems, according to Foreign Minister.

He unreservedly appreciated efforts made by the State Duma for bringing participants together for a common purpose of deliberating on the widest range of topical issues, such as global security, global sustainable development, the fight against poverty and environmental problems. This is exactly what people need.

As expected, Lavrov praised Russian parliamentarians are making an important contribution to the implementation of Russia’s foreign policy. He described Russia as permanently open to broad, fair and equal cooperation with all countries without exception – large and small – in any formats, and his country will continue promoting synergy of the world’s efforts to effectively respond to common challenges, above all fight against the threat of international terrorism, which Russia is playing a leading role.

Lavrov further said that Russia considers it unacceptable to create obstacles to the work of parliamentary delegations on international platforms, and hopes that the situation with the deprivation of Russian parliamentarians of their rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe would not happen again.

“As representatives of the legislative power, it is necessary to pay increased attention to the legal aspects of international cooperation. This is especially needed in a situation where individual UN member states, bypassing the Security Council, impose unilateral illegitimate sanctions, including discriminatory restrictions on parliamentarians,” said Lavrov.

Pedro Agramunt, who was President of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 2016 to 2017 and a member of the Spanish Senate, informed that he had worked hard to ensure the return of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

“It was a huge mistake to keep Russia outside PACE,” he said. “As the former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I would like to express my satisfaction in connection with the return of the Russian Federation to PACE. I fought a lot for this. I struggled a lot to change that,” said Pedro Agramunt.

Parliamentarism is the foundation, the canon of democracy. And there is no democracy without parliamentarism, without parliamentarians, argued Agramunt. “I believe that parliamentarians have a special mission – they represent the opinion of all citizens, not only those who are in the government but those who are the essence of the state,” he reiterated.

Inter-parliamentary organizations are of fundamental importance for the stability of the world, he stressed at the gathering, adding “We must be on guard with those who are the defenders of globalism, with those who are trying to resolve problems unilaterally. And our fate is in our hands – in the hands of parliamentarians.”

Similarly, others also expressed positive sentiments on Russia’s return to PACE. “Allow me to congratulate the Council of Europe on solving the problem, how to return the Russian delegation to PACE,” said the Honorary President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Chairman of the Finnish Parliament’s Defense Committee Ilkka Kanerva.

He stressed that “this ia a very important signal for today, it is a signal for all of us as [it is necessary] to move on.” He was supported by President of PACE in 2005–2008 René van der Linden who complained that national parliaments often “look too much inside their country.”

“It is important that we develop an international perspective and convince everyone that the future of each country depends on what happens in other countries. In one country some processes take place but we see their consequences in other countries. It’s extremely important to work together,” said René van der Linden.

Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Filip Vojtech, said that “sanctions against Russia – it’s not a solution” He stressed that the Czech Republic had argued against unreasonable restrictions, the Moscow forum presented the platform for and the creation of new opportunities for cooperation between nations.

Speaker of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Andrej Danko, pointed to the issues discussed at the forum. “All these issues have a common character — the need for cooperation between states and continents. Legislators are pillars of democratic legitimacy and we represent citizens,” he said.

While congratulating Russia on returning to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Danko also said that the Russian Federation should participate in the discussion and resolution of global problems and common challenges.

“We are pleased that Russia can again take the full-fledged part in the work of PACE. Europe needs Russia, and I am glad that the votes of Slovak parliamentarians contributed to this,” Danko added, appreciation the return of Russia to PACE.

Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mustafa Şentop, stressed that all countries of the world “need channels for dialogue and cooperation. We believe that parliamentary diplomacy has begun to play a very important role,” which is confirmed, according to him, by such a representative Forum. He also expressed the hope that the Forum would strengthen bilateral ties between Russia and Turkey.

Mustafa Şentop urged parliamentarians to join efforts to counter the threats of international terrorism and extremism, as well as to enhance the role of international law institutions, adding that “international organizations like the United Nations should protect all people, not just individual countries.”

Chairman of the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Asad Qaiser, stressed that the parliamentarians should be mediators in resolving various international conflicts. Asad Qaiser noted “it is important to know that this Forum is increasingly helping to strengthen inter-parliamentary ties around the world. We, the parliamentarians, should be on the front line struggling for universal equality, fighting against poverty and other challenges.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives of Egypt, Ali Abdel Aal Sayyed Ahmed, noted that the forum was being held at the time when economic, political and cultural conflicts are taking place in the world. “Parliaments, as representatives of nations, play a very important role in countering these conflicts and are at the forefront of combating these challenges,” he said and stressed that it is necessary to find solutions together to overcome these problems.

The development of parliamentarism can play an effective role in this, he said, and further explained that parliamentary platform is an important mechanism that can contribute to further in-depth discussion of the issues facing the whole world. He also urged to discuss the role of young people as the “main nerve of society” in the development of parliamentarism.

This was an important and new platform for equal dialogue of all countries united by common problems and challenges, and find possible ways to resolve the existing issues for the benefit of voters and for the benefit of all nationals in the world.

Just like all foreign parliamentarians who arrived to the forum, the Speaker of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, Amal Al Qubaisi, expressed her deep gratitude to the Russian Parliament and separately to the Chairman of the State Duma, Viacheslav Volodin, for the invitation to the Forum.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

Continue Reading
Comments

Russia

Navalny, Nord Stream 2 and Moscow’s Response

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Published

on

As expected, Alexei Navalny’s case is seriously tearing apart relationship between European Union and Russian Federation. The alleged “poisoning” of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on August 20 in Tomsk (Siberia), has similarities to the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, and that of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK’s intelligence services, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, in the city of Salisbury, England. Russia’s political history is dotted with that well-colored inerasable image.

Navalny is a Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist. He came to international prominence by organizing demonstrations and running for political office, to advocate reforms against corruption in Russia. As a citizen, he has the fundamental right to freedom of expression and to associate with social and political groups. But his activities has angered the officialdom and becomes most hated politician. He has been detained several times by Russian authorities.

Now Navalny, who was “allegedly poisoned” in August, stands a determining factor shaping the relationship between Western world and European Union and Russia. Sanctions are the punitive measures against Russia. When he was first treated in a Russian hospital in Omsk, the doctors claimed that there were no traces of poison in his body, a claim that Russian authorities continue to endorse.

Specialist labs in France and Sweden have confirmed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, the German government Spokesman Steffen Seibert said mid-Sept, and confirmed that the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had also received samples and was taking steps to have those tested at its reference laboratories.

According to Seibert, the European Union’s summit, set to take place on September 24-25. The world would be looking for what measures be collectively adopted with regard to Navalny and against Russia.

On Sept 17, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told the local media that there were another series of anti-Russian sanctions being initiated by the West amid the situation involving Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, all these designed to deliver a blow to relations between Russia and the European Union.

“The main goal today, at least it appears to be this way, is to deliver a blow to the relations between our countries and the European Union, and countries that are part of the union. Everything is going in this framework,” Zakharova said in the 60 Minutes show on the Rossiya 1 (VGTRK) television channel.

On Sept 15, during its session the European Union planned to create a global regime sanctioning human rights violations around the world and the intention to name it after Alexey Navalny. The Russian Foreign Ministry believes that will erode the basic principles of international law and undermines the prerogatives of the UN Security Council through endless illegitimate unilateral sanctions imposed by Brussels and Washington.

As for whether it would be advisable to name this sanctions regime after Alexei Navalny, it viewed  “this exclusively as an undisguised attempt to give a manifestly anti-Russia tonality to the new EU restrictions. At the same time, Berlin persists in brushing off proposals to work together in order to get to the bottom of what happened, using clearly far-fetched pretexts. We hope that common sense will prevail in the European Union and our partners will renounce the arbitrary practice of assigning blame and in the future will draw conclusions based on real and confirmed facts.”

That however Moscow readies to hit back on EU sanctions. Local daily newspaper Izvestia also wrote that Russia vows to retaliate against potential European Union sanctions. Even though the European Union is trying to elbow Russia out of the gas market, it is unlikely that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project will be abandoned over the incident with Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, quoting sources in the Russian Federation Council (Upper House of Parliament).

The resolution approved by the European Parliament (EP) stresses the need for an international investigation into the alleged poisoning of Navalny with a Novichok-type toxic agent. European MPs called for suspending Nord Stream 2 and slapping sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow is urging Berlin to cooperate in the investigation of what happened to Navalny. If the EU levies sanctions on Russia, Moscow can provide a tit-for-tat response, Russian MPs told the paper.

“I don’t think this option will come to life, because it is difficult to connect the situation with Navalny to the construction of Nord Stream 2. This is just an excuse to push Russia out of the gas market. We need to react calmly and not be dragged into those discussions,” Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia, commenting on the resolution.

Similarly, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Alexei Chepa explained to Izvestia that in the event of any real anti-Russian sanctions, Russia could provide a tit-for-tat response. For example, if the European Union approves personal restrictions and a sanctions list, Moscow will do the same.

“Of course, we will respond. However, this will impact both our economy and the economy of Germany and the European Union. No one wins here. However, there may be a tit-for-tat blacklist that would include, for example, the MPs that called for anti-Russian sanctions or for the suspension of Nord Stream 2,” the MP said, stressing that Moscow will only retaliate if the European Union introduces real sanctions against Russia.

Russian newspaper Kommersant wrote that European Union to loosen legal mechanism for new sanctions against Russia. It said that the European Commission is working on broadening its legal instruments that would enable the introduction of personal sanctions against human rights violators in different countries, counting Russia among them. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced plans to adopt Europe’s version of the Magnitsky Act and suggested adjusting the mechanism for approving sanctions in such a way that does not require the support of all European Union member states.

According to Kommersant, this amendment, if adopted, will no longer allow Moscow to count on friendly European countries that have called on European Union allies not to impose tough sanctions on Russia. According to von der Leyen, the proposals for a European ‘Magnitsky Act’ will be ready soon. She explained the European Union should be able to respond clearly and quickly to what is happening anywhere, whether in Hong Kong, Moscow or Minsk.

The German Council on Foreign Relations, does not believe that the European Union will be able to agree on an extensive package of sanctions against Russia soon. Rather, an agreement on a blacklist similar to the ‘Magnitsky list’ could be expected. According to experts, regarding the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Germany and the European Union would rather allow the project be implemented in full, and then introduce some measures to restrict or prohibit transportation of gas through the pipeline.

“With the crises around Navalny and Lukashenko unfolding, the freezing of Nord Stream 2 seems to be in the cards. Nevertheless, we are not talking about a complete breakdown of relations. Even during the Cold War, economic ties between the USSR and the West were not completely severed,” Head of the European Political Studies Department at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO),Nadezhda Arbatova, told Kommersant newspaper. “Today’s confrontation between Russia and the West is a struggle of ideology and real politics. Minimal interaction will be maintained, but this will not change the quality of relations between Russia and the EU,” she predicted.

European Union and Russia have strategic partnership agreement signed in 2011 but that was later challenged following the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass. Russia has five member states: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland share its border. The relations are determined by European Union member on bilateral basis, but all the members adopt common or collective policies toward the Russian Federation.

Continue Reading

Russia

Forgiving Old Debts: Russia’s Diplomatic Maneuver

Published

on

With economies experiencing contractions across the globe and with governments in the third world most vulnerable, discussions of debt relief have been revived. Yet, forgiving old debts is nothing new to the Kremlin. For the Russian government, it has been just one part of a wider diplomatic toolkit to rekindle ties that have faltered since the end of the Cold War.

Once the primary backer of numerous states over large swathes of the globe, Moscow largely retreated from the non-Soviet space during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and it continued to not be a primary concern during Vladimir Putin’s first two terms as head of state. However, Russia’s resurgence on the international arena over the past few years has not only made the country more willing to re-engage with the region but also more capable.

International media has primarily viewed this through the lens of military strength. Whether it is sending trainers and advisors to the Central African Republic, allegedly supporting rebels in Libya, or deploying Wagner Group forces to fight an Islamic State-offshoot in Mozambique, the focus has primarily been conflict-oriented. However, less explored is the quieter and more economic measures that the Russian government has taken in order to win hearts and minds outside of the West.

As part of a debt-for-development programme, Russia has forgiven approximately $20 billion worth of debt to various African governments that was accrued during the Soviet period. Beneficiaries include the Commonwealth nation of Tanzania and Francophonie member Madagascar, along with others. In forgiving these loans, the Kremlin has acknowledged a reality that many countries continue to deny: such debts are unpayable. At the first ever Russia-Africa Summit, Putin stated explicitly that “It was not only an act of generosity, but also a manifestation of pragmatism, because many of the African states were not able to pay interest on these loans.”

These measures have yielded concrete benefits for the previously indebted countries. For example, the decision to forgive Mozambique’s $40 million debt was done in conjunction with the United Nations World Food Programme, with the money that was intended for debt repayment instead being used to provide free school meals for 150,000 children over the course of five years.

While Russia will potentially be losing some money in the short term, debt forgiveness is likely to open new doors moving forward. Many of the countries that have seen their debts written off have significant economic and geopolitical potential. With improved political relations as a consequence, it is hoped that Russian companies will get preferential treatment should contracts be offered to international firms. This could help explain the Kremlin’s decision to forgive 90% of North Korea’s $11 billion debt despite the latter’s weak position. Russia has been eager to develop a trans-Korean gas pipeline that would transport fuel to South Korea. While the likelihood of this being realised remains slim, in the context of Pyongyang’s inability to repay the debt in any case, it is a reasonable gamble to make on the part of the Russian government.

This is somewhat similar to China’s efforts over the past few years, albeit in an inverse form. With Beijing less cash-strapped than Moscow, it is able to invest directly whereas Russia is using debt forgiveness to redirect cash payments away from servicing old debts and instead towards domestic reinvestments. Free projects, such as the Chinese-funded and constructed headquarters of the African Union, have been followed by ever-growing economic and political relations.

Russia’s debt policy has been used to strengthen existing alliances and partnerships. While not all Soviet-era allies have retained close ties to Moscow, many have done so continuously since the Cold War. One of the biggest beneficiaries of Russian debt forgiveness has been Cuba. In July 2014, ahead of a visit to the island nation by Putin, the Russian government wrote off 90% of Cuban debt. Though Russia was not only the country that showed willingness to restructure Cuba’s debt obligations at the time, it was by far the most generous. China restructured approximately $6 billion while Japan and Mexico forgave $1.4 billion and $478 million, respectively; Russia forgave $32 billion.

The decision did reaffirm the close relations between Moscow and Havana. Cuba has repeatedly voted in support of the Russian Federation at the United Nations on sensitive topics, such as Crimea, and Russian firms have received multiple drilling and mining contracts from the Caribbean country.

However, this strategy has its limitations. The overwhelming majority of these debts date back to the Soviet era and are therefore limited in scope. Some countries, such as Angola and Ethiopia (which saw most of their debts forgiven in the 1990’s), were primarily recipients of military support during civil wars so their debts were not as vast as other heavily indebted countries with other creditors. Since then, despite respite from Moscow, such countries have continued to become increasingly burdened by growing debts. While Ethiopia is often heralded as an example of rapid economic growth, its debt, both in total but also has a percentage of GDP, has grown considerably during the post-Soviet era.

While debt relief is undeniably beneficial to the third world, the fact that Russian-owned debts constitute a mere fraction of all foreign-owned debts in most cases means that the act of writing debts off cannot achieve much in of themselves. Consequently, in several countries, the gesture is mostly a PR move. In the case of Afghanistan, where Russia was the largest creditor due to loans handed out during the 1980’s, Kabul had for decades refused to recognise the debt. The decision to forgive the debt was therefore more of a signal of a desire to improve relations than any hope to achieve instantaneously tangible rewards.

The largest stumbling block for the Kremlin’s efforts remain structural issues afflicting the indebted nations, the nature of which vary considerably from country to country. For example, while Russia has forgiven a majority of Iraq’s debt to the country, which in turn helped revive talks over potential oil contracts, the continued instability in the Middle Eastern nation makes it difficult to reap many benefits. Though it is true that Baghdad has continued to purchase Russian T-90 tanks and attack helicopters, this is more of a sign that Russia has partially managed to pivot Iraq away from the United States’ sphere of influence as opposed to gaining economically.

With the onset of coronavirus, however, Russia might not be the leading debt forgiver for very long. In places such as sub-Saharan Africa, where economies are expected to continue shrinking while deficits are set to grow, other creditors could potentially step in and likewise forgive debts. In April of this year, G20 leaders agreed to extend debt relief in the form of a moratorium on debt repayment yet this can only serve as a short term solution. With many governments already increasing their borrowing, creditor nations are well positioned to leverage their position in order to improve geopolitical relationships as well as set the stage for favourable contracts for their firms. If more countries follow Moscow’s path, then the significance of what the Kremlin has done will only recede and lose much of its relevance.

Debt forgiveness can win friends but can only go so far. For Russia’s diplomatic maneuvers to stick, they will need to continue complementing it with other efforts, such as improving trade and boosting security partnerships, in order to truly make the most of its financial generosity.

Continue Reading

Russia

The Case of Belarus: Russia’s Fear of Popular Revolutions

Emil Avdaliani

Published

on

For Russia, the crisis in Belarus caused by the August presidential election result is of a geopolitical nature. Moscow might not be openly stating its geopolitical calculus, but in its eyes, the Belarus problem resembles the uprisings in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan and represents a similar problem in the long run.

Whatever the arguments propounded by world analysts that protests in Belarus are not about geopolitics and more about popular grievances against President Alexander Lukashenko, the issue will ultimately transform into serious geopolitical game.

For Moscow, the Belarus problem has been about geopolitics from the very beginning, though it was only on August 27 of this year that Vladimir Putin announced the creation of a special “law enforcement reserve” for use in Belarus should the situation get “out of control.”

The Russians understand that an “Armenia-style” revolution in Belarus could theoretically take place, but it would open the country more to Europe and thereby create geopolitical dilemmas similar to those created in Ukraine before 2014. The Russians further grasp that in Ukraine, the situation was out of control even before the Maidan Revolution. Moscow’s influence was not sufficient to stop Ukraine’s gradual shift toward closer ties with the collective West.

For the Russian leadership, events in Belarus are a continuation of the “revolutionary” fervor that has been spreading across the former Soviet space since the early 2000s. What is troubling is whether or not the Russians see this process as an expression of the popular will that is largely independent of the West. Several indicators point to an ingrained belief within the Russian political elite that in fact the West has orchestrated the popular upheaval in Belarus.

Russian history might be of help here. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire fought the spread of European revolutionary thought along and inside its borders. It built alliances to confront it and fought wars to forestall its progress. But in the end, the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent policies of the Communist Party were largely based on European thought, though many western ideas were changed or entirely refashioned.

Similar developments took place during the late Soviet period. By the 1980s, popular disapproval of the Soviet system had grown exponentially. A revolutionary fervor for independence ran amok in the Baltic states, Ukraine, and elsewhere. True reforms would have served as a cure, but half-hearted economic and social measures only deepened the crisis. Military power was used in a number of capitals of Soviet republics, but again only half-heartedly. Thus was the entire Soviet edifice brought down.

Modern Russian leadership should see that there is essentially no cure for popular grievances and mass movements along its borders. Russian history gives multiple examples of how military intervention against revolutionary fervor can bring immediate results but leave long-term prospects bleak. The defeat of revolutionary passions can only take place by minimizing those economic, social, and state-system problems that usually generate popular upheaval. This is the dilemma now facing modern Russia. The revolutions that occurred over the past 20 years, and the situation today in Belarus, all fit into this pattern.

For the moment, Lukashenko has won this round of strife with the protesters, and his rule is highly likely to continue. But what is equally certain is that the protests gave birth to a massive popular movement in a country that was once famous for the quiescence of its population.

Russia fears that eventually, this revolutionary tide will close in on Russian society. Lukashenko has stressed this idea, saying in an interview that mass disturbances will one day reach Moscow. Many rightly believed this was a ploy by Lukashenko to scare the Russians into supporting him—after all, Belarus is far smaller than Russia and much less important than Ukraine. Still, Lukashenko was right insofar as he pinpointed possible long-term problems Russia could face as it moves closer to 2036.

Much depends on the West as well. It faces a dilemma in which it ought to pursue a policy of vocal condemnation and perhaps even impose heavy sanctions—but from a balance of power perspective, moves like those would distance Minsk and push it closer to the Russian orbit. This dilemma of morality versus geopolitical calculus will haunt the West in the years to come.

Belarus exports 10.5 million tons of oil products per year, including about six million tons through the ports of the Baltic states to world markets and another 3–3.5 million tons to Ukraine. Redirecting flows from the Baltic ports to Russian ones has been discussed, but this option is less attractive to Minsk because of the longer distances involved. This comes at a time when the Baltic states imposed sanctions on high-ranking Belarussian officials and the EU is pondering serious measures.

With each such move from the West, Russia gets another opportunity. Russia has professed interest in encouraging Belarus to redirect its oil exports to Russian ports and has agreed to refinance a $1 billion debt to Russia.

A broader picture might help put the events in Belarus in context. In the South Caucasus, the Russians appear to have reached the limit of their influence. They more or less firmly control the overall geopolitical picture, but have nevertheless failed to derail Western resolve to compete in this region. In Central Asia, Russia has more secure positions, but the region in general is less important to the Kremlin than the western borderlands.

It is thus the western front—Belarus and Ukraine—that is a major theater for Moscow. Since 2015, many have believed that Syria is Russia’s top geopolitical theater, but this assumption is based simply on the intensity of the immediate processes that are transpiring in the Middle East. With or without Syria, Moscow’s global standing will not be fundamentally damaged. Belarus is a different matter entirely. Changes there, and by extension a potentially anti-Russian state, would constitute a direct threat to Moscow.

For Russia, Belarus is the last safe buffer zone on its western border. Ukraine is lost, as is Moldova, and the Baltic states have long been under NATO protection. Only Belarus serves as a bridge for Russia to move militarily into the heart of Europe. To lose it would be tantamount to a complete “encirclement” of Russia by the West, as argued by Russian politicians.

This geopolitical reality also means that Belarus is the country that will remain most susceptible to Russian geopolitical influence. No wonder Russia is pushing to station its air base on Belarussian soil, reinvigorate the Union state, and intensify Minsk’s economic dependence on Moscow. As was the case with Ukraine, the upheaval in Belarus is about regional geopolitics.

Author’s note: first published in besacenter.org

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Americas27 mins ago

The Politics of (In)security in Mexico: Between Narcissism and Political Failure

Security cannot be that easily separated from the political realm. The need for security is the prime reason why people...

Europe2 hours ago

China “seems” to be moving closer to the Holy See

The two-year provisional agreement which was signed on September 22, 2018 between the holy see and China for the appointment...

Defense4 hours ago

Why the “Coronavirus Ceasefire” Never Happened

Six months ago, when COVID-19 had just moved beyond the borders of China and embarked upon its triumphant march across...

Economy6 hours ago

Pandemic Recovery: Whitehouse – Check-In or Check-Out Times

Some 200 nations of the world are in serious economic pains of varying degrees; the images and narratives on social...

South Asia9 hours ago

Proxy War and the Line of Control in Kashmir

Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere, with its roses the brightest that earth ever gave.–Thomas Moore The...

Economy10 hours ago

How India can get its growth back on track after the coronavirus pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to exceptionally challenging times. World Bank projections suggest that the global economy will contract by 5.2% in...

Newsdesk12 hours ago

Reimagining Economies: The Move Towards a Digital, Sustainable and Resilient Future

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, The Annual Investment Meeting, organized by theUAE Ministry of Economy,...

Trending