Staunton, August 31 – Many Russians believe that Moscow has continued to give Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka too much for what it has received in turn, but Vladimir Pastukhov says that Moscow has in fact received a lot and for what it has received, it is quite willing to pay.
The London-based Russian analyst says that Moscow has received three important things: a military presence beyond its own borders, a cultural buffer zone between Russia and Europe, and an example for other Russian partners that it won’t things change in ways that compromise its interests (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2895010-echo/).
Having such a buffer zone between Russia and Europe has been “in general an idee fixe for Russian rulers,” Pastukhov says. “Russia has always very painfully suffered from direct contact with other civilizational platforms which in general quite aggressively promote their values on its territory.”
“And therefore, for Russia, it is quite important that between the core Europe and Russia there be Eastern Europe which does not belong to one or the other side” but that Russian can hold to itself to separate itself from Europe. For Russian leaders past and present, doing that is “quite important.”
At present, again as in the past, “Russia is seeking to transform itself into the status of an island; but its geographic position is extremely unfavorable for this dream.” Consequently, it seeks to be “a very big island.” And “therefore it tries that there lie between it and the West some sort of space,” Pastukhov says.
And all that makes paying the price
Lukashenka keeps demanding “quite important” for Putin. Pastukhov does not say, but the logic of his argument is that for Moscow, keeping Belarus a separate country from Russia is useful. If Russia did absorb Belarus, Moscow would then have to try to create a new buffer country by challenging another neighbor to achieve the separation it wants.