Staunton, November 21 – Moscow has suffered defeat after defeat in attracting whole non-Russian republics to its side in recent times, Ruslan Gorevoy says; but it has been making gains in another way, by maintaining and even expanding its influence in parts of them and thus ultimately in the wholes.
Those who focus on the former often think that Moscow’s imperial project has failed or at least is failing, the Versiya commentator says; but those who consider Transdniestria, Gagauzia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh reach an entirely different conclusion (versia.ru/prisoedinit-byvshie-respubliki-sssr-ne-vyshlo-teper-ix-budut-rubit-po-kusochku).
“Do you understand what is going on?” Gorevoy asks rhetorically. “Russia hasn’t been able to attract the former Soviet republics into unions with itself, but it has simply found a common language with their remnants! ‘You have lost Armenia!’ Armenian nationalists scold Moscow. Armenia, perhaps, but not Karabakh!”
It is important to recognize this in order to understand what the direction of Moscow’s policies is likely to be in the future and at the same time why the Russian foreign ministry is becoming ever less important in relations between Moscow and the former republics in comparison to the Presidential Administration, the defense ministry and the FSB.
For example, Gorevoy says, in January, there will be parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs say there won’t be any maidan. That may be true for the country as a whole, but such a development cannot be excluded in the predominantly Russian north, something the Russian foreign ministry may not promote but that others can.
And now that a pro-NATO candidate has become Moldovan president, it is clearly time to focus again on Gagauzia, something the foreign ministry won’t do but that others from Moscow certainly can – and with expectations that they will pick up the pieces that Sergey Lavrov and his team have lost.
Moreover, the commentator continues, this recognition of the relative effectiveness of the foreign ministry and the siloviki is leading to changes in Moscow’s approach far beyond the borders of the former Soviet space. The foreign ministry is now “completely excluded” from Moscow’s dealings with the former republics and is losing its clout elsewhere.
The Russian foreign ministry hasn’t brought Moscow any successes in the region over the last 30 years. Instead, it has suffered “systemic failures from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova to the Trans-Caucasus and Central Asia. But if one looks at the situation from a different perspective, Moscow has won when it has used different instruments.
“Now, what is more important for us is not Yerevan or Chisinau, not Kyiv or Nur-Sultan but Stepanakert and Komrat, not to speak of Tiraspol, Donets and Luhansk, Odessa and Kharkhiv, Kustanay, Kokchetav and Aktyubinsk.” And not surprisingly, give all this, there is now talk that Lavrov will be replaced by former SVR head Sergey Naryshkin.
At the very least, Gorevoy says, there is likely to be a shakeup within the foreign ministry with its current senior leaders losing out to a much expanded and more active security department that will cooperate with the defense ministry, the intelligence community and the siloviki more closely, especially in the former Soviet space.