Staunton, November 23 – Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, undertaken in the name of defending ethnic Russians, has had the unintended consequence of making it more rather than less difficult for Moscow to speak out and act in defense of ethnic Russians elsewhere, according to Valery Solovey.
That is because, the MGIMO scholar argues, anything that Moscow now does is viewed both by the countries involved and by the West as a possible precursor of a Ukrainian scenario and thus something which they must oppose even when Moscow’s statements and actions may be justified (svpressa.ru/society/article/104828/).
Solovey’s observation comes on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s suggestion that Russia had devoted too little attention to “compatriots” in Ukraine in the past (gazeta.ru/politics/news/2014/11/19/n_6663801.shtml) and of the suggestions of some, like nationalist commentator Modest Kolerov, that this means Moscow will now go on the offensive elsewhere (regnum.ru/news/polit/1868894.html).
The MGIMO processor says that Lavrov’s words “only demonstrate the extremely limited possibilities of Russia to do anything to help its compatriots” from now on. “After the events in Ukraine, any declarations [by Moscow] about the need to support compatriots will be viewed with extreme vigilance” given fears that such things set the stage for the use of force.
“That is the flip side of [Russian] assistance to the residents of the Donbas.” Moreover, any “loud declarations” from Moscow about ethnic Russians abroad such as in Latvia will be viewed by the West as “a certain threat” and lead to counter-actions that Moscow will find it difficult to respond to.
Under these circumstances, Moscow can’t even use NGOs, although that may be “theoretically” possible, Solovey says, because now, thanks to Ukraine, “the application of so-called soft power by Russia will be met with a harsh rebuff.”
This all means Russia’s influence over Russians abroad will continue to decline, with “part of the Russians coming to terms with the existence of things.” Thus, “for many Russians in the Baltics, the bitter pill of life beyond the borders of their historical Motherland has been sweetened by their being in the European Union.”
Even Russians who remain particularly attached to their Russian identity increasingly look to the European Union rather than the Russian Federation as the place where they can “more actively struggle for the protection of their rights,” the MGIMO professor continues.
“A part of Russians in the near abroad are losing their [ethnic] identity,” Solovey says, “but not all of them.” However, Moscow has now tied its hands as far as providing more help to support their Russian identity because of what it has done in Ukraine and how that will be viewed everywhere else.