Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Moscow Must Focus on Recovering Its Influence Across Post-Soviet Space, Military Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – “Instead of spending money on overcoming its isolation in the West,” Moscow military commentator Vyacheslav Tetekin says, Moscow should be focusing on strengthening its relations with the Baltic countries and the peoples of the Commonwealth of Independent States.”

            They are the key to Russian national security, he writes in the current issue of the influential Voyenno-Promyshlenny kuryer; and if Moscow does not recover its influence there now, it may see ever of these countries join the West and form a hostile, even threatening band around Russia (

            Wherever one looks in the former Soviet republics, Tetekin says, Moscow not only has lost its former influence but is rapidly losing what it now has, even in places like Armenia and Belarus where the Russian government has assumed its position is unassailable, not to speak of the Baltic countries which are in NATO, Ukraine and Georgia.

            It is of course possible to blame Russian diplomacy for this, he continues, “but the term ‘foreign policy’ is much broader than just the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And therefore the preservation and restoration of the position of Russia in the post-Soviet countries must have a complex character.”

            So far, Tetekin argues, there is nothing “irreversible” about Russia’s losses. “Shared history, culture and traditions have exceptionally great importance, but only if these processes are not spontaneous but administered, targeted and coordinated” and only if declarations that the CIS is “the highest priority” of Moscow’s foreign policy become real rather than pro forma.

                “Our embassies” in the former Soviet republics “must be filled with the best diplomatic cadres,” he says. Trade must be encouraged, and all forms of soft power, including the promotion of the Russian language, must be used. Other countries like Britain, France and the US do this; and Russia must learn how to do the same. 

            But that requires something Russia no longer has but very much needs: an institution in Moscow that will coordinate all these various activities rather than letting each proceed according to its own limited interests. “"In the Soviet Union we were able to do this,” Tetekin says; now, not so much.

            In Soviet times, “there was a powerful coordinating organ, the CPSU Central Committee. Now, foreign policy is conducted according on the principle of the swan, the crab and the fish. Government agencies have one set of interests, social organizations another, and businessmen their own, often far from the state’s. As a result, a complete lack of balance.”,

            “If one doesn’t like the example of the USSR,” he continues, “one could recall that in the US with its democracy the State Department tightly controls and directs the actions of all organs and persons, including business which are connected with the outside world. Such coordination allows it to achieve impressive results. Ukraine is a convincing and for us sad example.”

            Tetekin concludes: “When such a mechanism for the coordination of foreign policy will be set up in Russia and directed in the first instance to ‘the near abroad,’ we will be able to overcome the extremely dangerous tendency to the destruction of the commonwealth of peoples which formed around us over the course of many centuries.”

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