Russia Stands Alone
At a cost of billions of dollars to the Russian weapons industry, one by one Russia’s malignant allies around the world have begun to topple like dominoes. At horrific cost to its reputation among the civilized nations of the world, Russia has bet its future on a shoddy list of rogue states and dictatorial maniacs who are now being thrust out of power by the people Russia has helped them to mercilessly abuse.
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.
It’s come to this: the Russians can’t even get along with the Belarussians any longer. Russia stands utterly alone. The Economist reports:
RUSSIA and Belarus are unlikely champions of democracy and freedom of speech. But a postmodernist approach to politics can yield odd results in the post-Soviet world. In recent weeks these authoritarian regimes have denounced each other’s authoritarianism and deployed state-controlled media to attack each other’s lack of media freedom. Bizarrely, this war of words has been waged in the name of brotherly ties and economic union.
Hostilities broke out three weeks ago when Moscow and Minsk sparred over gas prices and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belarus’s president, nearly reneged on a customs union between his country, Russia and Kazakhstan, which was finally signed on July 5th. A day earlier NTV, a television channel controlled by Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, aired “Godfather”, a documentary that portrayed Mr Lukashenka, long backed by Russia, as a brutal election-rigging, opposition-repressing tyrant.
An editorial from the Washington Post highlights how utterly alone and friendless Vladimir Putin’s Russia has become in former Soviet space:
IF IT’S JANUARY, it seems, Russia must be involved in a politically motivated dispute over energy supplies with one of its neighbors. This time it’s Belarus, the former Soviet republic that used to be called Europe’s last dictatorship, until Russia itself headed back in that direction. Strongman Alexander Lukashenko still rules in Minsk, but in the past couple of years he’s taken several steps toward shaking off the tutelage he once accepted from Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. At the urging of Western governments, Belarus released a few political prisoners and in turn was allowed to join the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program. Mr. Lukashenko has also embarrassed Mr. Putin by refusing to recognize the two puppet states that Moscow is backing in Georgia.
No wonder, then, that as this winter gets cold Mr. Putin has singled out Belarus for punishment. On Jan. 1Russia cut off part of its supplies of oil to the country, once again raising alarms in Western Europe, which receives large quantities of Russian oil through a pipeline that transits Belarus. The supplies resumed after a couple of days, but Mr. Putin continues to insist that Belarus accept a new supply deal that could cost it as much as $5 billion, or about 10 percent of its gross domestic product.
Robert Amsterdam translates from Lenta.ru:
They have advised Medvedev not to awaken guerrillas in Byelorussians
Representatives of the Byelorussian opposition Yevgeny Afnagel and Dmitry Dashkevich have turned with an open letter to president of the RF Dmitry Medvedev. They express protest against the introduction of Russian troops onto the territory of the republic (Russian subdivisions have been thrown over into Byelorussia within the framework of training exercises). In the opinion of the oppositioneers, the introduction of Russian troops into Byelorussia creates a threat for its independence.
“We, Byelorussians, – a patient and amicable people. However we likewise love freedom and are prepared to fight for it. Do not awaken partisans [guerrillas–Trans.] in Byelorussians, Dmitry Anatolievich!”, – is said in the letter.
In another installment of its series of reports on Russia that are translated into Russian and published on a blog for Russian comment, with selected comments translated into English, the New York Times reports on how Russia is shamelessly ratifying electoral fraud in former Soviet states so as to maintain influence through dictatorship:
The voting monitor began his rounds on election day here at Polling Place No. 7. “Issues? Violations?” he asked the poll workers, glancing around like a casual sightseer. They said no, so he left. The monitor, Kholnazar Makhmadaliyev, breezed from one polling site (“What’s up? Things O.K.?”) to another (“Everything fine here?”), shaking a lot of hands, offering abundant compliments and drinking brandy with this city’s mayor. Such went Mr. Makhmadaliyev’s stint on a large observer mission led by the Kremlin that concluded that Belarus, a former Soviet republic and an ally of Russia, had conducted a “free, open and democratic” parliamentary election in late September.
The Kremlin monitors’ version of reality, though, clashed with the one described by a European security group, whose own monitors dismissed the election as a sham tainted by numerous shortcomings, not the least of which was vote rigging. The monitors dispatched by the Kremlin did not report anything like that. Nor did they raise concerns about Belarus’s security service, still called the K.G.B., which had exerted harsh pressure on the opposition, imprisoning several of its leaders over the last year and thwarting their campaigns. Or about state-controlled television broadcasts repeatedly branding opposition leaders as traitors. Or, for that matter, about the final results: a sweep of every seat in the 110-member Parliament by supporters of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, often described as Europe’s last dictator.
The Kremlin under Vladimir V. Putin has sought to bolster authoritarian governments in the region that remain loyal, and these election monitoring teams — 400 strong in Belarus alone — are one of its newer innovations. They demonstrate the lengths to which the Kremlin will go to create the illusion of political freedom in Russia and other former Soviet republics, even though their structures of democracy have been hollowed out.