Staunton, August 30 – Mikhail Aleksandrov, a Baltic specialist at the Moscow Institute for the CIS who attracted attention earlier this week by suggesting that Moscow should occupy Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania if the United States attacks Syria, has not backed away from that position but instead argued his case again.
He told a Latvian outlet yesterday he was surprised by the reaction his first comment attracted, pointing out that he published it in his blog rather than on his institute’s web page to “stress” that it was his own opinion rather than “the consolidated position of [his] organization” imhoclub.lv/material/rossii_nado_vvesti_vojska_v_pribaltiku?userlast=3592argumenti.ru/world/2013/08/279820).
(For a discussion of Aleksandrov’s original article, see Window on Eurasia: “If US Attacks Syria, Russia Should Send Troops into Baltic Countries, Moscow Researcher Says,” August 27, 2013 at http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/08/window-on-eurasia-if-us-attacks-syria.html.)
Aleksandrov said that the attention his initial article received could not have occurred “without the interference of some influential circles which promoted the broad dissemination of this material,” but he said he would not speculate about just who may have been involved lest he “lose himself in guesswork.”
Obviously, he said, his arguments touched a nerve among many “both in Russia and abroad” and thus helped “sharpen the discussion on the situation around Syria, to show the consequences which could follow from the ignoring of international law by NATO countries, and to focus attention on the fact that they themselves can be the victims” if the world descends into chaos.
Aleksandrov then said that the reaction to his article showed the “complete ideological impairment” of “official circles in the Baltic countries.” Angry at talk about the possible “occupation of their own country,” the Latvian government declared its support for “aggression against Syria” bypassing the UN Security Council.
These officials, Aleksandrov continued, seem blind to the possibility that “on one fine day, the same fate could overtake their own countries,” a particular shortcoming given that “the violation of human rights in Latvia and Estonia and even in Lithuania is more than sufficient” for such an outcome.
Clearly, the Moscow analyst said, “the ruling circles of the Baltic countries … are counting only on the military power of the NATO bloc,” something “very indicative” of the unfortunate reality that they aren’t concerned about international law but only “about the possibility of solving their own problems.”
In taking this stance, the Baltic governments show that they “have forgotten the simple reality that the balance of power in the world is continuously changing.” That which looks firm and certain today may, Aleksandrov insisted, may turn out to be fragile and uncertain a day later, because “in the absence of international law,” those who have power can do what they like.
“As is well-known,” he argued, “according to the UN Charter, it is the obligation of UN members and especially permanent members of the Security Council to provide assistance to the victims of aggression, in this case, Syria.” Such help “can take various forms,” one of which can be “military actions against the aggressors,” in this case, “the members of the NATO bloc,” including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, “especially if they support the aggressive actions of these allies.”
“Therefore,” Aleksandrov concluded, “it is completely incorrect to consider the Baltic countries as innocent lambs not involved in NATO’s crimes. As allies of the United States, they are legitimate targets for military action against NATO aggression in Syria.”
Thus, instead of pulling back from his original article, Aleksandrov used this occasion to advance an even more sweeping argument, insisting that if Moscow were to invade and occupy the Baltic countries if the US attacks Syria, the Russian government would have every right to do so under international law.
The outrageousness of this position is self-evident, but Aleksandrov’s behavior may reflect an even more serious problem. Like Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Russian domestic affairs, Aleksandrov may be acting in a way that will cause the West to view somewhat less appalling behavior by the Kremlin in the event either as a lesser evil or even an indication of good sense.
That possibility is something that means the appearance of Soviet-style language and threats needs to be carefully tracked, not only because it reflects what some near the Kremlin actually believe but also a carefully designed operation to provoke Russia’s neighbors, on the one hand, and win the top Russian leadership plaudits, on the other.