The war waged by Putin’s Russia against a large independent European country like Ukraine took the geopolitical competition between the great powers back to a confrontation between freedom and oppression, democracy and authoritarianism. To Putin’s surprise, his plans to increase Russia’s influence in the world up to the level of the former USSR, which started to be put into practice recently, generated contrary effects, making this influence to become smaller and his despotic methods to cause generalized repulsion. A democratic and peaceful Russia with an efficient economy supported and boosted by the huge mineral reserves of this country would have created much more consistent preconditions for the division of the West and for increasing the Russian state’s security for such a reason. But Putin, establishing an autocratic regime in Russia, missed this chance, preferring to serve the interests of Russian oligarchy and remaining hostage to the traditional imperialist Russian political culture.
Inverse effects until a new “iron curtain”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine radically changed the geopolitical atmosphere in the world, throwing Russia into an image disaster swamp amid expanding international isolation. At this stage already, Russia’s entry into the Council of Europe was suspended. Personal sanctions were imposed on Putin, Lavrov, State Duma members and a significant number of Russian officials. Sanctions were Laos imposed against the main Russian banks. Western countries’ exports to Russia were drastically restricted with all the serious economic consequences that limit access to advanced technologies. An increasing number of Western states stopped issuing visas to Russians. Russia started to be gradually disconnected from SWIFT and many other restrictive measures began to be taken. The adoption of personal sanctions is painful and, through the purely symbolical effect of this measure, with the Russian leaders being ostracized on the international arena, has also rather powerful effects on the family members of the internal circle of Putin who were also sanctioned, these bans being a very unpleasant signal for the Russian elite.
Surely, Ukraine banked on more powerful and efficient support of the West. Even if the West takes very serious measures, such as the abandonment of the Nord Stream 2, there are yet forces in the EU that prevent the imposition of maximum bans on the Kremlin. The main thing in this situation is that Ukraine will not be supported with military forces and the logic of such a thing is clear. We speak about a conflict with nuclear power and no one will risk the third World War due to Ukraine. At the same time, it is evident that the political and moral support for Ukraine will grow, while Russia on this dimension is close to becoming an outcast of international life at a time when many experts forecast the imminence of a new iron curtain in the Cold War style.
It now becomes clear that the timid reaction of the international concert to the Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008 served as an encouraging factor for Putin to extend his aggressive policy to other neighbors. It is as true that after the five-day Russian-Georgian war of 2008, which ended with the first economic sanctions against Russia that were extended after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Russian economy didn’t manage to return to the level existing before the war, in the first half of 2008, not even after 14 years. For example, by the stock exchange index, the Russian giant Gazprom was one of the most expensive five companies in the world, but this failed to attain the figures of 2008. The living standards of the Russian citizens were also affected by the sanctions. In 2008, for example, with an average salary in Russia, one could purchase 144 kg of butter, while at the end of 2021 one could buy only 126 kg of butter. Russian experts consider that under the “mild” economic sanctions, Russia loses 10 to 15 years of development in the average and long runs. These losses are almost equal to the loss of what the Russian state gained, accumulate and saved during ten years. Under a scenario of harsh sanctions, the losses rise to 30 or 40 years of development. This refers only to the monetary side of the problem.
New Marshall Plan of development for Eastern Europe?
The West already activated the scenario of harsh sanctions whose effects are more evident. The longer is the war in Ukraine, the larger will be Russia’s losses. The West will agree to resume the dialogue with Putin only if the Kremlin comes to terms with Zelensky. There is yet such a chance even if the Minsk agreements or the Normandy Format will not be restored. The main political result of the Russian aggression is this one: if the regime of Putin survives this war, the most important players of the world will no longer trust Putin and his company. Putin made an irreparable mistake when he militarily attacked Ukraine.
But this finding does not mean that Putin will immediately leave Russian presidency. As historical experience shows, the process can last in time and the people will get used to the existing political realities. It happened so after 1945, when all the territories in Central and Eastern Europe were occupied by the Red Army and the Western bloc responded to Stalin’s aggressiveness through the Marshall Plan and the founding of NATO with the aim of saving the rest of Europe that was destroyed by war and threatened by the fifth column of the Communists – by direct or indirect inclusion into the Soviet empire. The Cold War started this way and led to the collapse of the Soviet system in Europe and the dissolution of the USSR.
Nowadays, the aggressive policy of Putin’s Russia shapes the perspective of a new cold war. It is evident that Putin was wrong when he banked on the military invasion of Ukraine as a factor for dividing the West. The result was the opposite: we are witnessing the revival of proper cooperation between NATO and the EU, which is supported by the amplification of the NATO military presence in Eastern Europe. Putin’s policy turned viral the nightmare of the Soviet and Russian leaders who always feared the presence of NATO troops close to Russia’s borders. Similar to Putin’s stake on Europe’s dependence on Russia gas, if the new cold war between the West and Russia amplifies, the contribution of liquefied petroleum gas from the U.S. and from other sources will inevitably fade away. But this would have happened much slower if Putin had pursued a moderate policy. Ultimately, by historical analogy, the logic of the new cold war would make the West reedit a kind of new Marshal Plan of development, this time for the countries of Eastern Europe, as remedies for the aggressive aspirations of Russia and its plans to divide Europe into spheres of influence.
Remodeling of solution to Transnistrian conflict
For the Republic of Moldova, such a perspective is vital. It will lead to the effective separation from the space that is geopolitically dominated by the Kremlin of which we continue to form part owing to the colonial past, to the mental tradition of a considerable part of Moldovan society that is maintained by the domination of the Russian information factor, economic dependence, primarily the energy dependence on Russia. In this regard, the remodeling of the solution to the Transnistrian conflict is particularly important. The attempt to keep the old conflict settlement paradigm condemns the Republic of Moldova to dependence on the interests of the Russian Federation that for 30 years has used the Transnistrian separatism against the European development aspirations of Chisinau. The war in Ukraine eloquently revealed the danger of a frozen conflict being anytime reanimated against the host country. The necessity of drafting and implementing a solution to the conflict, which envisions the temporary disconnection of the secessionist zone from the paradigm to Europeanize the Republic of Moldova within the borders that are effectively controlled by the constitutional authorities of the state, derives from here.
Moldovan-Romanian defensive alliance by Russian-Belarusian model
The war in Ukraine brought to the forefront the problem of political-military security of the Republic of Moldova, primarily in relation to the military forces deployed in Transnistria. Chisinau’s vulnerability to the factor of the Russian-Transnistrian military alliance is maximal. The counterbalancing of this danger can be achieved best by a Moldovan-Romanian defensive alliance that would derive from an interstate treaty (Intestate Union) on the multidimensional cooperation of the Republic of Moldova with Romania, by the model of the Russia–Belarus union state. Such a treaty can envision, by the model of unification of Germany, the non-extension of the NATO military infrastructure in Romania on the territory of the Republic of Moldova so as to attenuate the aggressive reaction of Moscow. Such a Moldovan-Romanian treaty can serve as a discouraging element for any potential act of military aggression against the Republic of Moldova and can significantly contribute to the Europeanization of all the spheres of life of Moldovan society, including the overcoming of many Russian-Romanian historical animosities in the last resort.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.