Friday, April 30, 2021

Russia’s ‘Unfriendly Countries’ List Likely to Have Greater Consequences for Smaller Powers than Larger Ones, Bordachev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 28 – During the Cold War, Moscow divided the world into friendly and unfriendly states on the basis of ideology. Then after 1991, it sought to integrate itself into the international community without such divisions. Now, the Russian government has announced plans to maintain a list of “unfriendly countries” that partially restores the past.

            This represents a formalization of what had in fact been a growing trend, Timofey Bordachev of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics says. But it is important to understand why it has happened and what in fact it will mean for those countries Moscow puts on its list (

            The list itself has not yet been issued, but it will certainly be headed by the United States and its closest allies, Australia, Canada and Great Britain and also include the three Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and Ukraine, the Moscow specialist on international relations continues.

            The list is likely to fluctuate with countries being added or subtracted in response to circumstances, something that is “another important aspect” of this list and a reflection of the forces that have contributed to its appearance now.

            “The state of international politics after the disintegration of the Liberal World Order is a constant striving of states to increase their opportunities to influence the behavior of each other.” That isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, Bordachev says; but it has intensified even as force has reemerged as the ultima ratio of relations.

            The situation that arose after the end of the Cold War was “unique,” he argues. “The destruction of the USSR led to the inclusion of Russia and those countries which it earlier controlled into an international order which arose in the West in the second half of the last century.”

            On the one hand, everyone benefited from this arrangement; but on the other, its creators benefited more than the new entrants. And with the rise of China, Beijing and other capitals recently included in this order have proved increasingly unwilling to accept this difference and sought to challenge the system as such.

            They have had an additional reason to do so: As the US has been challenged, it increasingly has focused on protecting its own interests rather than the system as a whole, a development that has meant the US is no longer viewed as neutrally as it was but rather as one state, albeit the most powerful, acting as other powers do.

            One aspect of the American role in the past was the growth of a massive infrastructure of American representations abroad. Until recently, they were viewed as a reflection of America’s special role as defender of the existing international order; now, Bordyachev says, they are seen as yet another way the US is seeking to gain advantages for itself.

            By compiling its list of unfriendly countries, Moscow is creating a basis for restricting the employment of Russian nationals in some foreign embassies, something that will affect all countries on the list but only discommode the largest while creating potentially serious problems for smaller diplomatic representations.

            That is because the US can easily afford to replace any Russian employees it can no longer have while many smaller countries will find the costs prohibitive and thus will not be able to compensate for any loss of Russian staff. That will allow Russia to exercise more leverage on them than many now think.

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