Monday, March 22, 2021

Moscow Will Tolerate Independence of Former Soviet Republics Only if They’re Not Used against Russia, Putin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 20 – On the seventh anniversary of his Crimean Anschluss, Vladimir Putin outlined his vision of “the Russian Empire 2.0,” Zen.Yandex’s Successes of Russia portal says. In it, the Kremlin leader underscored that Moscow will live with the independence of former Soviet republics only if they are not used against Russia.

            If the former republics respect and side with Russia, there will be no problems, he said. But if they don’t, Russia which gave them so much will take action to ensure that they are compelled to do so, as it has done in Georgia and Ukraine and will do elsewhere as necessary (

            At “the most superficial level,” the portal says, Putin’s words “were in truth a last warning for Kyiv. There won’t be more.” The Ukrainian government has to decide whether it will be pro-Russian and thus allowed to remain independent or not. But more fundamentally, it continues, this is a warning to all former republics who must make the same choice.

            And it is a warning to outsiders and to the West in the first instance not to challenge Russia by seeking to turn these republics against Moscow. The West tells Russia it should be ashamed of its annexation of Crimea, but Russia is and will always be proud of what it has done in this case and others.

            “As long as we have adequate governments and peoples on our borders, we are completely ready to live in this new reality,” Putin said. But should they become hostile to us as a result of the actions of others, “we cannot and no longer will do so,” adding that he “hopes this will be well attended to.”

            Putin said this when he did not only because of the Crimean Anschluss anniversary but because of US President Joe Biden’s words against him and Russia. The latter gave him a chance to declare directly that “we are not like you, the West. We are different.” Drawing on the ideas of Lev Gumilyev, Putin said Russia is a young and vigorous country, not an old and decaying one.

            And the Kremlin leader said directly “No, we are NOT Europe. We are next to it; we have much in common with it, culture, history and Christian values, but we are not a community. We are something else;” and because we are, we will act differently and be proud of what we do rather than ashamed.

            Other countries have much to be ashamed of, including the United States with its history of genocide against indigenous peoples and its unresolved racial problems, Putin continued. It mustn’t presume to give Russia any lectures. That is a position for which Biden has no answer, “especially to Russia today.”

            In another comment on the rebirth of empire, Dmitry Rodionov of Svobodnaya pressa says that Putin’s words increasingly echo with Russians and others who with each passing year recognize what they lost with the demise of the USSR and increasingly want its return (

            He cites the words of Fyodor Biryukov,  head of the Moscow Institute of Freedom, to the effect that “the Soviet Union has become the social ideal for all citizens of the post-Soviet countries.”  For them, the USSR was “an extremely successful type of government which resolved a mass of socio-economic problems of the population.”     

            Consequently, it should surprise no one that “the restoration of the USSR is a completely realistic project, of course, with present-day realities taken into account” because “nostalgia for the Soviet Union is the most powerful socio-political driving force in Russia today.”

            Stanislav Byshok, head of the CIS-EMO International Monitoring Organization, says that a major basis for this is that the current Russian government like the late Brezhnev one stressed the common effort of the Soviet peoples in the defeat of fascism during World War II. Talking about that is thus talking about a unity that has been lost.

            And Yevgeny Valyayev, an analyst at the Foundation for the Development of the Institutions of Civil Society, adds that “our society up to now suffers from the phantom ills of the disintegration of the USSR.” As a result, “we with great difficulties fit ourselves into contemporary realities and continue to live in the past.”

            “From this,” he continues, “one can draw the conclusion that the Soviet Union in the consciousness of a present-day Russia is more a mythological than a real product. This is a comic book about super heroes,” a demand for justice and not for the GULAG or the iron curtain.

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