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Tags: Biden Administration | Russia | ukraine | baltics | nato

Russia Goes to Town on Former Satellite States

lavrov at a meeting
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Sputnik via AP)

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz By Tuesday, 11 January 2022 09:06 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently told the world that the nations which separated themselves from the Soviet Union, specifically those of the Intermarium, the lands between the Black, Baltic, and Adriatic Seas, are not independent but, rather, “masterless” for the moment. He singled out Poland, Ukraine,” and the “Baltic provinces.”

It is telling that Lavrov did not call Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — “Baltic States” [strani Baltii] but “Baltic provinces” [Pribaltika]. It is revealing that he referred to Ukraine as a special case.

Incidentally, in 2014 Vladimir Putin himself openly questioned the sovereignty of Kazakhstan (“not a real country”), so the foreign minister’s sneering references to the Balts were not maverick. Nor is his focus on Ukraine.

What Lavrov implied, of course, was that Russia would take care of the master part sooner or later, slowly but surely. But sometimes the Kremlin sees an opportunity and moves fast. It just has in Kazakhstan, hasn’t it?

Russia has been feeling its oats for a while and it is on an offensive, including nuclear threats. Its goal is to restore the old Soviet Empire: internal for now (beware Ukraine, the Baltic states, Kazakhstan, and the others).

Naturally, the external part of the Soviet Bloc is on Moscow’s menu next. Poland and the rest are to be vassalized again.

However, the ultimate strategic goal is to reclaim its place as a global superpower, a latter-day USSR. The universalist ideological allure of Communism may be missing from Moscow’s bid for domination, but that has not stopped China’s ascent.

China is almost on the top the world, inching toward the U.S. Russia would like to push its way back up as well. It will be done the Russian way: insidious, wily, and crude.

The strategy has been (and will be) implemented in increments rather than in a single mad charge. Moscow has all the time in the world. Since imperialism is a crime of opportunity, it will seek out such an opportunity, both actively and passively, to present itself. And then it will move.

It is a particularly bad time now because America is perceived as weak and disorganized. President Joe Biden does not really inspire confidence. Can his administration be relied upon to lead NATO? To protect our allies on the Eastern flank?

One senses no firmness in the White House’s response to the latest developments in Ukraine. First, one heard that Washington tried to strongarm Kiyv into ceding territory to Russia or granting autonomy to the secessionist eastern provinces.

But Lukhansk and Donetsk already enjoy a de facto autonomy. They also reject Kiyv. They rely on Moscow for protection.

Accepting autonomy from the rightful Ukrainian government would entail recognizing it. That the secessionists will not do, for they would then cease being secessionists. So we have another frozen conflict as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, or Nagorno Karabakh.

Another harebrained scheme of the Biden team has been to consider convincing Russia to retract its claws from Ukraine by reducing the number of American troops in NATO eastern member states. This would set up a dangerous precedent allowing Moscow to dictate internal NATO matters.

It does not help that some American populists/national conservatives like Michael Anton and Pat Buchanan argue that NATO has no business in the Intermarium because Ukraine and other nations there are really Russia’s historical “backyard.”

Incidentally, Anton applies the same warped logic to Taiwan.

Should California belong to Spain? Do sovereign nations like Finland and Sweden have no right to seek protection from predators like Russia by joining defensive alliances like NATO?

Mind you, I am not advocating that America attack Russia over Ukraine and China over Taiwan, but pretending that small nations are legitimate targets for predators is too much.

Some national conservatives hope that if they go easy on Russia, Moscow will help us against China. Others, the neo-isolationist brand, believe that disengaging from the world will allow us to focus on our problems at home and will render the question of Russia and China moot.

The problem is that history has not ended yet and the world will not leave us alone. The U.S. tried it in the interwar period (1918-1939). It will be much more costly to re-engage when a global conflict breaks out because of our absence from the world scene.

Lavrov knows what he is talking about when he says “masterless.” That means without America’s protection, the world goes down the tubes.

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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Russia has been feeling its oats for a while and it is on an offensive, including nuclear threats. Its goal is to restore the old Soviet Empire: internal for now (beware Ukraine, the Baltic states, Kazakhstan, and the others).
ukraine, baltics, nato
Tuesday, 11 January 2022 09:06 AM
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