Staunton, September 6 – “After decolonization, some European countries did not reject the projection of power in their former possessions,” Yegor Spirin says, with “the clearest example of that being the behavior of France which “has been successfully carrying out a neo-imperial policy in the African direction.”
That policy, known as Francafrique (cf. Maja Bovcon, “Francafrique and Regime Theory,” European Journal of International Relations 19:1 (2013): 5-26), provides a model for Russia as it develops “an analogous strategy for creating “a security belt’ in the post-Soviet space, the commentator says (topwar.ru/161723-francafrique-po-russki-ili-strategija-rossii-na-postsovetskom-prostranstve-.html).
The continuing weakening of Russian influence in the post-Soviet space, the Voyennye obozreniye writer says, has an extremely negative impact on Russia’s national security and “significantly lowers its geopolitical weight in the international arena.” Francafrique provides a roadmap for Russia to escape from this situation.
Spirin says that when decolonization happened, “France de jure offered independence its former colonies (with the exception of Algeria) but de facto it only replaced an archaic model of direct colonial administration with a more refined system of indirect projection of its own will by establishing special relationships with its former colonies.
These special relationships, the commentator says, involved the establishment f trade ties between France and “’the new independent’ states” which were of a classical colonial kind, of military arrangements allowing France to intervene whenever it feels its interests are threatened, and f the strengthening of French cultural influence throughout the region.
France’s approach represents “an extremely sophisticated ne-imperial plicy,” the Mscw military analyst says, one that others should study. “Of course,” he continues, “not all the instruments of foreign policy used by the French in Africa can be easily extrapolated to the post-Soviet space.” But many can and the ideas behind this effort need to be copied.
“The present-day foreign policy f Russia on the post-Soviet space, alas, doesn’t resemble French policy in Africa at all.” Russia routinely writes off the debts of its former possessions and gives them subsidies rather than using them as a source of income for the metropolitan center. And it does this without gaining much influence in return.
For example, Spirin says, none of the former Soviet republics supported Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. And many of them are actively cooperating with NATO and the United States against Russia’s interests. In Central Asia, Russia doesn’t have control over the region, and “a Francafrique policy would suit the situation there better than anything else.”
Toward that end, he continues, Moscow “must begin to conduct an uncompromising geo-economic policy” to benefit itself and to impose loyalty on its former possessions. It must promote Russian culture and in particular Russian language so that booth will “again become dominant in the region.”
It needs to structure its forces and their basing so that it can intervene at will whenever Russian national interests are threatened in any of the former Soviet republics, using but going beyond the Organization for the Collective Security Treaty. And it must radically improve its intelligence operations in the region.
It is critically important that Russian intelligence gathering and capabilities be developed so that they “can be used as a shadow political actor within these states” and thus give Moscow the ability to act in a preventive way against any challenges, including color revolutions, Spirin says.
Three things about Spirin’s article are striking: his open acknowledgement of the view many in Russia have that the non-Russian republics were Russia’s colonies, his support for a naked policy of neo-imperialism in all of them, and his clear suggestion that Moscow mustn’t re-absorb “the new independent states” but run them as France does Francafrique style.
It is impossible to know just how many people in the Moscow elite are thinking in exactly these terms, but Voyennoye obozreniye is an influential publication and Spirin an influential commentator. And the appearance of this article now suggests that while his ideas may not yet have been adopted, they have significant support in key elite groups.