Friday, March 21, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Crimea a Precedent for Russian Actions Across Former Soviet Space, Influential Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 21 – Yana Amelina, a well-connected Russian analyst, says that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea is “a precedent for South Osetia and the entire post-Soviet space,” the most expansive Russian interpretation yet of what Putin intends and an indication that the breakaway republic in Georgia is now in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

            In two articles on the this week, Amelina, who is a senior analyst at the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and a frequent bellwether of Moscow policy particularly in the Caucasus, makes it clear that Crimea is a beginning and not an end ( and

            According to Amelina, the results of the Crimean referendum “leave not the slightest chance for misinterpretation.”  The peninsula’s residents voted overwhelmingly for joining with Russia, and the Crimean Tatar leadership proved unable to keep participation rates down, despite the hopes of its “Kievan and Western fellow-travelers.”

            Given the opposition of the existing leaders of the Crimean Tatars to the new order, Amelina continues, “the Russian and Crimean leadership will deal with a new generation of Crimean-Tatar youth, one which pragmatically assesses the current and future status of their people and sees it as being within the Russian state.”

            Of course that does not mean “any repressions or deportations,” she says, “but any further efforts to use the Crimean Tatars as a weapon against the ethnic Russian majority of the peninsula” and especially its Islamic element will be suppressed and “ended” by the new authorities.

            “The non-recognition of the results of the Crimean referendum by the West, Ukraine and Georgia,” the Russian analyst continues, “demonstrates only the failure by these states to understand both their own place in the world and that this very world has irreversible change and never again will be what it was before.”

            Moreover, everyone needs to recognize that there are three reasons why “Russia in no way can be limited to a single Crimea.”  First, she says, there are millions of Russian speakers in Ukraine who are suffering from repression and need to be protected.  “Moscow will not leave its brothers to the caprice of fate.”

            Second, Moscow must “solve the fate of Trandniestria” now caught “between Ukraine and Moldova, and “this will be possible only after the re-unification of Russia and Novo-Rossiya,” in short, although she does not use this term, by Russian occupation of all of southern Ukraine and possibly more.

            And third, “the entire post-Soviet space, above all in the Trans-Caucasus direction awaits reformation” by Russian action.  Georgia which has been Ukraine’s ally should “reflect upon the further existence of its state or more precisely of what [currently] remains of it.” Given Iranian and Turkish interest in a transportation corridor in this region, “’the Georgian question’ again is acquiring particular importance.”

            The “Crimean precedent” is “extremely important not only for Russia but for South Osetia and Abkhazia. The South Osetians have long wanted to join the Russian Federation, and this can be managed by a referendum which would allow them to join Russia not as part of North Osetia but as yet another federal subject.

            Abkhazia has been less interested, preferring instead to seek to strengthen its “own independence.” But that is not the end of the story, Amelina insists. Instead,, there “exist a whole series of possibilities for strengthening inter-state relations,” including confederative or association agreements.

            According to Amelina, “the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation has essentially strengthened the position of Russia in the world, has boosted the Eurasian integration policy to a new level, and has significantly increased the prestige of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Russian Federation as a whole.”

            That development, she says, means that what is required now is filling these institutions with a more clearly defined “ideological and worldview content,” the next step of what she describes as the process by which Russia is restoring “its former geopolitical power” and preparing to go beyond that.

            And she concludes with a pointed warning to Georgia.  After Crimea, she says, “the issue of the further fragmentation of the Georgian state is acquiring particular importance.  It is no accident that there are concerns in Tbilisi that after resolving the Crimean issue, Moscow ‘will turn in the Georgian direction,’” and complete what it began in 2008 by occupying Georgia and “establishing there a marionette pro-Russian regime.”

            Given that under current circumstances, “this is the only way not to allow the Euro-Atlantic integration of a neighboring state,” the RISI analyst says, “such a variat is becoming the foundation for the definition of Russian strategy regarding Georgia.”

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