Saturday, November 9, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Winning Support among World’s Micro-States

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 9 – Nauru, one of the smallest independent countries in the world with a population of 9,400 people and an area of 21 square kilometers, says that it is ready to “support the position of Russia on all questions,” its president, Divavesi Waqa, told visiting Sverdlovsk governor Yakov Silin.

            This declaration reported this week in “Vzglyad” ( might be dismissed as nothing more than diplomatic politesse by the leader of a small country visited by a regional official of a larger one. But in fact, it is simply the latest fruits of Moscow’s recent drive to win support from some of the smallest states in the world.

            While such countries do not have the clout that larger states do, as members of various international organizations, they often have a vote equal to that of their larger counterparts, and consequently, attention to them can give the Russian Federation an important reservoir of support.

Moscow has exploited the fact that the size of these states mean that they are often ignored by other powers and that their small state institutions allows Russia to gain support with carefully-targeted assistance programs, grants, gifts and personal attention to win expressions of support and, more important, votes in international venues.

            The overwhelming majority of the 25 countries with areas smaller than 1,000 square kilometers and of the 29 with populations under 500,000 – the two groups overlap but are not  the identical – are members of the UN,  its allied agencies, and, what is especially important for Vladimir Putin, members of sports governing bodies.

            That has been an important if often ignored part of Putin’s campaign to win the backing of such groups for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the 2018 World Cup, and various other athletic competitions, another example of the way inexpensive but clever tactics can pay off in major ways, especially if one’s opponents are ignoring such possibilities.

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