What can Russia Do About it?
Scholar Paul Goble points to an important bit of analysis by Valery Bondarenko on the Imperia website which highlights Russia’s foreign-policy impotence even in its near abroad. What can Russia really do, Bondarenko asks, to rein in the actions of countries like Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova if they choose to go their own way, independent of Russia?
Next to nothing, he answers.
Bondarenko shows that Russia has no coherent policy towards Eastern Europe and that even if it had a policy its only means of pursuing it would be Gazprom. While other countries operate extensive, coordinated webs of non-governmental organizations, Russia has nothing but energy blackmail to rely upon.
Russians understand and seek to learn nothing about the cultures and ideologies of the peoples of Europe. Instead, Russians prefer to rely upon blunt trauma, which only engenders virulent hatred and resentment of Russians throughout the region. The peoples of Europe believe that Russia’s only desire is to wipe out indigenous culture and replace it with Russian culture, and to liquidate any opposition groups just as they are liquidated within Russia itself.
Russians are routinely shocked and surprised when the they learn how they are viewed in Europe. They cannot comprehend the use of non-governmental organizations because their leaders are not willing to accept even in theory the notion that a division of power between governmental and non-governmental actors could be proper. While Western governments are confident enough in their own legitimacy to encourage this division, and see its benefits, the Russian state knows its legitimacy is only as long as the barrel of a gun. They cannot afford to release even a small faction of their power, since to do so could cause their collapse.
The result is that Russia stands utterly alone, without friends or allies among significant nations in Europe, and once again on the verge of national collapse.