Russia builds a new world order... Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

Admittedly Moldova hasn’t offered any pretext for being ‘liberated’. But we all understand that pretexts can be invented or fabricated. To deter an invasion, however, all it takes is to let the potential invader see for itself that our society and political class is determined not to give up our ideals of freedom and ambitions of European integration.”

How does the new pole of a multiplolar world look like?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has aimed to usher the world into a “new era”, i.e. establish a new world order. This new order builds on an ideology developed by Vladimir Putin over the course of his nearly quarter-century rule of Russia. At its core, it makes the case for “restoring territorial unity to undo the terrible catastrophe of 1991”. This policy has a name, it’s called revanchism. And Putin’s ideologists recognize that Russia is prepared to pay a great price for restoring the so-called “Russian world”. This “new era” boils down to re-establishing the “pan-Russian nation”, composed of Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians.

The second stage could include bringing the entire former USSR space back under Russia’s control. Not a joke. It’s the vision of Putin’s former adviser, who often anticipates the steps taken by the Kremlin. Recently, ahead of the anniversary of “the Brest-Litovsk disgrace”, Vladislav Surkov spoke about the imminence of rebuilding the Russian Empire. Moreover, according to Vladimir Putin, “the Russian world” encompasses Romania’s Lipovans and any other Russian speakers anywhere in the world, for that matter. The “new world order”’s map could look very strange indeed.

Today Russia’s war against Ukraine is condemned by almost three-fourths of the globe. The adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution on March 2 showed us the current configuration of the Russian pole in its vision of a multipolar world, with Russia being in the company of Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Syria and Venezuela. This pole represents about 3% of the world’s population and 2% of the global economy. But the regimes in these countries, which are autocracies or outright dictatorships, are aggressive towards their own peoples and their neighbors. A prosperous future for the nations affiliated with this pole of the multipolar world is difficult to imagine.

Lost between the poles

As Ukraine fights fiercely for its freedom and against the plans of the Kremlin to “reverse the mistakes of history”, the Moldovan government and its political class act prudently, avoiding to disturb the Kremlin. In fact, Moldova does what it can in these circumstances, helping Ukrainian refugees and hoping to earn the moral right to benefit from a window of opportunity that would open if the Russian invasion fails. Such an outcome is very far from being around the corner, but it becomes increasingly evident that Russia’s incursion is not going according to plan. The invasion has demonstrated the unity of the Ukrainian nation, making it virtually impossible for Russia to establish a long-term control over this country, no matter how hard it tries.

In this context, Ukraine has been able to earn the goodwill of the European Union to apply for membership. Moldova and Georgia piggybacked onto the move, submitting their own formal requests for membership. To be clear. No one knows when, and if the EU will effectively grant those memberships. But one thing is certain the EU’s neighborhood policy, which was announced in 2003 and formalized in 2004, has long become obsolete. EU neighbors in Eastern Europe haven’t formed the desired security belt along the bloc’s border. Instead, the ex-Soviet republics sandwiched between the EU and Russia, as well as those in South Caucasus, have become apples of discord.

Unsurprisingly, following the signing of their respective association agreements with the EU, following the November 2013 Vilnius Summit, the Eastern Partnership states faced pressure and sanctions from Russia. Ukraine has suffered the most. Crimea was taken from it, while externally engineered separatist conflicts flared up in the east. They were kept smoldering for eight years before being activated recently as a pretext for a full-out military aggression. In such circumstances, especially after the de facto incorporation of Belarus into the so-called Union State and Russia’s war against Ukraine, the EaP strategy is no longer valid.

Belarus has joined this war on Russia’s side. Its territory has been used for about 15% of the missile assaults on Ukraine. Two other EaP countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan, have also decided on their future courses. Armenia is now part of the Russia-centered Collective Security Treaty Organization. The gas- and oil-rich Azerbaijan feels protected and comfortable alongside Turkey under the “two states, one nation” concept. This is why, for security reasons among other considerations, a new strategy is needed to replace the EaP and lay out a clear and step-by-step roadmap towards EU membership for the three fresh applicants.

Conclusions

The advancement of this new world order idea by Russian President Vladimir Putin has destabilized international security for years to come. The package of sanctions of an unprecedented harshness imposed on Russia by the international community is meant to temper its revanchist spree. Russia’s quite modest economic potential and technological backwardness make it extremely vulnerable and thus dangerous. In such circumstances, it is of paramount importance for Moldova to decide without ambiguity which pole to choose, the European or the Russian one. Russia’s war against Ukraine doesn’t leave us any room for maneuver or intermediary moves.

If the Moldovan government, whether the current one or one that will replace it at some point, decides to paddle towards the Russian pole, it will have to accept that a majority of young, capable and ambitious citizens will choose to leave a country that has no future and will certainly slide towards an oligarchic, authoritarian or dictatorial regime, akin to those in Belarus and Russia. It cannot be different. The Romanian passport is available to most citizens.

With the war raging on in neighboring Ukraine, Moldovans should overcome their fear of a possible invasion here as well. Also, we must actively combat the barrage of propaganda and the fake news that we are being subjected to. Nothing out of the ordinary is needed, just common sense. Admittedly Moldova hasn’t offered any pretext for being “liberated”. But we all understand that pretexts can be invented or fabricated. To deter an invasion, however, all it takes is to let the potential invader see for itself that our society and political class is determined not to give up our ideals of freedom and ambitions of European integration.

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