Fatal price of Russian imperial nostalgia. Op-Ed by Anatol Țăranu



By activating the solution of partial mobilization of reservists of the Russian army for remedying the situation on the front in Ukraine, Putin actually recognized the failure of the plan of the so-called special military operation in the neighboring country. Only the solution of a total war against Ukraine remains at hand but, in the absence of an authentic motivation to defend the homeland for an ordinary Russian citizen, this will inevitably cause massive repulsion in society...


Anatol Țăranu

Last week, it became known that the European Union intends to strip Hungary of over 70% of the European funds to which it is entitled until 2027, on the pretext that the Hungarian government violates the rule of law norms. In the opinion of a series of experts, this decision was mainly influenced by Budapest’s stance on Russia, which is waging a war on Ukraine.  In particular, Hungary agreed a preferential natural gas price with Moscow, undermining this way the EU’s solidarity position on the economic sanctions imposed on Russia due to the military aggression of this against Ukraine. Indeed, the Hungarian Government of Viktor Orban negotiated a favorable price with Gazprom for the gas supplied to Hungary, but it now seems that the money that Budapest will fail to obtain from European financing funds will exceed considerably the benefits deriving from the cheap price for Russian gas.

Hungarian precedent shows whether Maia Sandu should go to Moscow or not

The Hungarian precedent should be a lesson for the Republic of Moldova, when a short-term gain in politics turns into medium- and long-term losses. Today in Chisinau, a large part of the political opposition demands that the government, especially President Maia Sandu, should ask for an audience with Vladimir Putin, starting this way negotiations on the price of the Russian gas supplied to the Republic of Moldova by the model of Hungary and Serbia. If put into practice, such a scenario does not leave room for doubt about Moscow’s conditions for opening these. It is evident that the Republic of Moldova for relatively cheap Russian gas will have to renounce the position of solidarity with Ukraine in the war against the Russian military aggression, endangering this way the relations of Chisinau with the EU, and to also pay the price of limitation of its state sovereignty in the so-called political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict by the model of the Kozak memorandum. Demanding today that Maia Sandu should leave to Moscow in the geopolitical situation created as a result of the war in Ukraine equals the recognition of the political incompetence of those who demand such a step, if it does not go to the approaches of the Kremlin’s agents of influence in Moldova.

Putin, crammed onto sofa, Erdogan placed on “throne”

Even if the war in Ukraine is far from being over, its geopolitical consequences and perspectives for Russia become more evident. Russia irremediably loses the status of great world power in the eyes of the international community, while its army that was considered the world’s second most powerful until recently, discredited itself by its incompetence and non-professionalism on the battlefield in Ukraine. Moreover, owing to the adventurist policies of the regime of Putin, Russia has turned into an outcast of the international relations whose prestige started to be challenged even at the level of protocol manifestations. This way, the viral images and comments referring to Putin’s participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan last week became the elation of the international press that presented the Russian President standing crammed on the sofa alongside other state leaders, while the President of Turkey Recep Erdogan sat dominantly at the top of the table. In the avalanche of news about the summit, the most conspicuous were the notices of correspondents about the fact that the President of Russia is no longer late at official meetings, as it happened earlier. Time has come for others to be late at meetings with him, making him to wait for the interlocutor in an uncommon way.

On the sidelines of the SCO Summit, the Russian President Vladimir Putin had meetings with the leaders of China, Turkey, Iran, India and other Asian states. For Putin, the relations with these states became extremely important given that Russia, after the war in Ukraine was started, practically interrupted the relations with the West. No fundamentally new statements about cooperation between these states were made at the summit but the cooling in the relations between Russia and China was evident. The Chinese President China Xi Jiping made it clear that China will not supply weapons for the war in Ukraine to Russia. Concomitantly, the Chinese leader warned Putin about their support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Kazakhstan, which openly defied Moscow by refusing to recognize the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, which are under the control of Russia, avoiding to help Russia bypass the international sanctions. The leader from Beijing said it clearly that they will not allow Moscow to reproduce in Kazakhstan the scenarios applied in Crimea and Donbas, signaling this way the end of Russia’s pretentions of exclusive geopolitical domination in the post-Soviet space in Middle Asia.  

Besides the disreputable symbolism in terms of behavioral image and the hurting nuancing of China’s stance, Vladimir Putin also had other unpleasant surprises from participants in the summit held in Uzbekistan. The most worrisome were the signals given by some of the leaders, that Putin follows a wrong path by continuing the war in Ukraine. The most explicit was the remark of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who, speaking about the situation in Ukraine, clearly told Putin that today there is no time for war. The leader from the Kremlin swallowed hardly this observation.

War weakened Russia’s positions in post-Soviet space

The resumption of military hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and between another two former Soviet republics, Kirgizstan and Tajikistan, represents a new challenge for Russia. Traditionally, Russia supported Armenia in the territorial dispute of this with Azerbaijan, which has lasted since the fall of communism. But now that Russia got stuck in the war in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, which is actively supported by Turkey, ignores Russia’s authority in the Caucasus and openly confronts militarily the Russian ally Armenia. Not even in the dispute between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is Russia sufficiently influential politically to avoid the periodical military confrontations between these two states from the post-Soviet space.

Even if apparently the latter military clashes are not directly related to the war in Ukraine, Russia traditionally attributes to itself the role of major referee in the post-Soviet space in which it had a decisive influence over the developments. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine fully changed the balance of power in a region that is claimed by Russia as a zone of preferential geopolitical influence, which already became a battlefield for Russian, Chinese and Western influence. In this battle, Russia is in a defense position when it loses positions, counterbalancing this way the blunder of the Ukraine war.

Starting the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which is actually a total war against a neighboring Slavic state, Putin’s Russia is now confronted by political, military, economic and geostrategic effects similar to those of a lost war. The last developments on the military front in Ukraine fully revealed the weakness of the Russian army that is no longer able to support the security system organized by Russia on the territory of the former USSR. This system, embodied by the Collective Security Treaty that involves particular CIS states, was designed not to ensure the protection of these states but rather Russia’s political and military control over them. The recommencement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, of that on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan shows that Russia is no longer politically and militarily able to play the role of guarantor of security in the post-Soviet space.

Fatal consequence of a not yet over war

The war in Ukraine is not over by far but Putin’s Russia already suffers the fatal consequences of this war. First of all, Putin, by his adventure in Ukraine, reinvented NATO and, instead of minimizing its presence at the borders with Russia, in reality opened the way for extending NATO towards the East, damaging irremediably the political-military security of Russia that is conceived in its traditional terms. Besides this, the Russian aggression against Ukraine turned Russia into an outcast in the international relationship, relegating it to the level of states with marginal reputation, like North Korea or the Taliban Afghanistan. Confronted by the international sanctions, Russia’s economy risks stagnating in development and at technological levels and lagging several decades behind. Besides, an increasing number of experts forecast the inevitable division of current Russia into a number of state entities, which would be a logical historical ending of the drifting empire, which the nostalgic Putin tries to save at the cost of a fraternal war.

By activating the solution of partial mobilization of reservists of the Russian army for remedying the situation on the front in Ukraine, Putin actually recognized the failure of the plan of the so-called special military operation in the neighboring country. Only the solution of a total war against Ukraine remains at hand but, in the absence of an authentic motivation to defend the homeland for an ordinary Russian citizen, this will inevitably cause massive repulsion in society. When the protest inside Russian society merges with the definitive repudiation of Putin by the international community, the current regime in Moscow will come to an end. The more solidary the international anti-war coalition is, which will stronger stimulate internal revolt in Russian society, aimed against the war animated by the imperial nostalgias of the regime of Putin, the faster this will happen.

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

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.

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