Because of the war in Ukraine, the Russian pundits and politicians not only threaten to use nuclear weapons, but also promise invading other nations. The list is long, indeed. Who’s next?
Kazakhstan remains a favorite, but in reality, no one from the old Soviet bloc is safe. Of course, the Baltics are permanently on the menu. As far as Poland, the Russians not only rattle their nukes before the Polish eyes, but they also promise to truncate its eastern territories.
Again? Very much so. Russia needs her security and, as always, she feels threatened unless Poland is diminished. I’m sure American neo-isolationists will find the explanation congenial.
Further, there are rumors that the Kremlin has a seven-year plan to incorporate Belarus into the Russian Federation. This would be the first step to restoring the Russian empire. Ukraine has proved a tough nut to crack, let’s try with Belarus, a passable “consolation prize,” for now at least.
This plan could explain the suicide of a Belarusian foreign minister after his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the fall of 2022. Strongman Alexandr “Daddy” Lukashenka would also be out of the job. Perhaps that is the reason the Minsk dictator has been bending over backwards to facilitate Russian military operations in Ukraine, while desperately seeking support in China and building up its own defense forces.
In the western Balkans, Moscow has long subverted Serbia; it even tried a coup d’etat in Montenegro. In the eastern Balkans, the Kremlin looks askance at Bulgaria, for disappointingly backing Ukraine, but its beef is mainly with Rumania, a reliable U.S. ally.
Romania is in Russia’s crosshairs also because of Moldova. A chunk of it used to be a part of Romania before the Second World War, and, after freeing itself from the Soviet yoke following 1991, the Romanian-speaking Moldovans periodically mention reunion with the Old Country.
Putin has his eyes on Moldova. The secessionist Transnistria in the east of the country is already under Russian jurisdiction. About 2,000 Russian “peacekeepers” have been stationed there for over 25 years, presiding over a frozen conflict, where the local Russian-speakers refuse to recognize the Moldovan government.
Everywhere in Moldova the Russian-speaking minority, including the Gaugaz Turks, talk openly about a re-unification with the Mother Russia. Recently, they have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations, which have all but paralyzed the capital city of Chișinău.
There is most certainly something serious afoot.
First, Putin started making noises that the Ukrainians are going to invade Moldova. Why? This is because a bogus Ukrainian invasion would make for a good Russian excuse to violate Moldova’s borders.
Second, Moscow is bent on conjuring up a threat from NATO and the European Union – collectively known as "the West" – who are allegedly poised to attack Transnistria.
Hence, Russia has sternly warned against any such action, considering it a casus belli. “An attack on Transnistria would be an attack on Russia.” This includes an obvious “false flag attack,” a provocation, of course.
Third, as mentioned, the Kremlin can step up sponsoring a “colorless revolution” of the Russian speakers and other disgruntled minorities, a scenario that has already been tried in Georgia.
In a clear warning, Putin has just nullified a Russian decree vouchsafing Moldovan sovereignty. Russia’s foreign ministry has described Moldova as “the next Ukraine.”
The government in Chișinău is convinced either a Putsch or an invasion is in an offing. With an army of about 6,500 troops, Moldova is no match for Russia, of course, even if Moscow has failed so far to take Odessa from Ukraine, which would put Putin within striking distance of Transnistria.
Chișinău has not panicked yet. It would like to join the EU but not NATO. However, the government has started questioning its neutral status and, hence, lack of formal allies.
Moldova has also virtually suspended its engagement in the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Russia-led entity composed of most of the post-Soviet republics. Chișinău has even hinted that it would exit the CIS.
Russia cannot stand all the defections that diminish her imperial status. Obviously, once it takes care of Moldova and Ukraine, it will move to reintegrate its other former dependencies: Georgia, Armenia, the Baltic States, Poland, Hungary, and so forth.
Whether America’s neo-isolationists like it or not, that is just the Russian reality. And the U.S did nothing to change the nature of the Kremlin beast. What you see is what you get with or without NATO.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington, D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between the Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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