Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Is Moscow Planning to Use a Ukrainian Scenario Elsewhere?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 19 – Two developments this week – the creation of  a “Russian International” to organize ethnic Russians abroad and discussions about the establishment of a “Party of the Regions” in Latvia – suggest that some in the Russian capital consider the approach they have pushed in Ukraine a model for what they could do elsewhere.

            As reported yesterday, citing and “Kommersant,” a group of ethnic Russian activists from Ukraine, Moldova and Estonia and Aleksey Zhuravlyev, a Duma deputy who heads the Rodina Party, are scheduled to sign a declaration today about the creation of a Russian International in Moscow (, and

            To be known as the RusIntern, a name which echoes the Soviet-era Comintern, the group’s organizers calls for the formation of a single party across the former Soviet space and in Europe of all those who value the Russian language and culture are dear, who will seek official status for Russian in the EU and who are prepared to struggle “against manifestations of fascism, extremism, and Russophobia.”

            The group’s slogan is “Russians of all countries, unite!” yet another ethnicized echo of the Soviet past.

            Zhurvalyev for his part told “Kommersant:” “In the course o the current color revolutions, we are very much losing in the information war. There is the ‘Voice of America’ in Ukrainian, but ‘the Voices of Russia’ are not heard there in principle.  To improve things, we need a special ministry of propaganda; these things must be regulated at the state level.”

            And the Rodina leader added that steps must be taken to end unacceptable situations like the one which he said now obtains in Moldova: There, “citiens who support the idea of joining the Customs Union are declared enemies of the motherland while the Romanian police already have the right to act freely on Moldovan territories.”

            Meanwhile, last Saturday, a congress of the Regional Alliance in Latvia announced its electoral program. According to, the party is now “a classic party of the regions, a political force which will speak in the name of the districts and self-administrations of Latvia by expressing their economic interests in opposition to the Center” (

            What makes this especially noteworthy, analyst Aleksandr Nosovich says, is that the Regional Alliance is “a typically Latvian party,” that is, it consists of people who have been in politics a long time, but it is proposing a new course, one that focuses less on Riga than on that Baltic countries various regions.

            Regionalist ideas and even parties have been circulating there for some time.  Local parties like the Kurzema Party and the Vidzema Party had “good results” in municipal elections.  Their success led to the creation last summer of the umbrella group, the Regional Alliance, a step toward “the creation in Latvia of its own party of the regions,” Nosovich says.

                The analyst says that he and other observers have some doubts about the group because “the Latvian provinces which it unites are precisely that:” depressed areas which receive aid but which are “dying” because of the flight of their residents to Riga and abroad. The money and the budget are in Riga.

            If Latvia’s version of the party of the regions is to be successful, it will have to position itself as a party of the left: “It must demand not the self-sufficiency of the regions but on the contrary an increase of their financing from the state budget.” Such demands may lead people to speak about new “red lines” in Latvia, just as some spoke about “red belts” elsewhere.

            Nosovich doesn’t say, but it is clear from his comments that such a party could become a pro-Moscow operation precisely because of its demands and because of the Russian government’s interest not only in weakening neighboring states but also its support, at least beyond its borders, of those who have suffered most from the collapse of communism.

            Exactly what will happen with either the RusIntern or the Latvian version of Ukraine’s Party of the Regions is far from clear. But they potentially give Moscow yet another way to influence the domestic affairs of neighboring countries and one that the Russian authorities can use even while plausibly denying responsibility.

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