March 31, 2023


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Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine … How Russia is advancing its troops to face the West

By recognizing the two separatist Ukrainian territories, Moscow is reactivating the old strategy of flying to the aid of Russian-speakers to retain its hold in the former Soviet camp and resist Western influence.

After months of denying plans to invade Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered Russian “peacekeeping” troops to enter. Donetsk and Luhansk separatist territories. Moscow has now officially recognized two eastern Ukrainian institutions – Russian-backed pro-Russian separatists that seized and then occupied – the Independent Republics.

Despite the specifics of the Ukrainian crisis, many experts have noted it The action of Vladimir Putin Was in line with other Russian military operations to thwart any reconciliation of its neighbors with the West. A tactic to retain Moscow’s hold on former members of the Soviet bloc by blocking NATO’s eastern expansion.

To do this, the Kremlin has long used “frozen conflicts” on its borders, situations in which conflicts continue without a political solution. For the past three decades, Russia has supported pro-Russian rule in the separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova. In 2008, he led Georgia’s regular invasions in support of separatist governments in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two provinces with large Russian – speaking populations. Six years later, it finally annexed Crimea from Ukraine and began supporting the pro-Russian separatist insurgency in the Donbass.

In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine. ” The same logic worked at the end of the day on Monday, during Vladimir Putin’s provocative speech, confirming without proof that Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine had fallen victim to “genocide.”

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>> Read more: The crisis in Ukraine, the place for unrestricted low-cost misinformation from Moscow

Putin’s “Practical Guide”

Vladimir Putin’s new military maneuver The Russian president has concentrated his troops on Ukraine’s border, following months of volatile tensions. Ultimately, the timing of its implementation indicates that Russia is exploiting the mistakes of the past, while reflecting on the same strategy.

In 2008, war broke out between Russia and Georgia at the start of the Beijing Summer Olympics, much to the chagrin of Chinese leaders. To avoid upsetting his ally again, Vladimir Putin waited until the end of the Winter Games in Beijing to strike in Ukraine this time.

The new move in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces evokes painful memories for Georgians, still reeling from their country’s crushing defeat against Russia. However, according to Emil Avtaliani, a professor at the European University of Tbilissi, and the Georgian think tank Geogas, this strategy was highly predictable. “In Georgia, many of us expected the recognition of the two separatist organizations in the Donbass. It has been clear for about a year that Moscow increased funding for those companies, issued Russian passports and secretly strengthened its military presence. Putin’s logical decision explains the process,” he told France 24. .

Emil Avtaliani goes on to say that Russia’s actions follow “an established practice manual” and “create or develop separatist movements to prevent the neighboring country from moving towards Western institutions.”

In Georgia, Russian military bases in support of separatists

Protect Russia “Near Foreign”

As their large ethnic minorities crossed the border before and after the Soviet era, the countries bordering Russia in the West provided fertile ground for conflicts to arise and take root. According to Moscow, these conflicts are rooted in Russia’s legitimate claim to a sphere of influence and its duty to protect ethnic Russians from foreign occupation.

Russia believes it has a right to a so-called “historic sphere of influence” and will not allow anyone to interfere in it, “said Nicolas Fazola, a Russian military strategy expert at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom), who was contacted by France 24.

“Russia has always been concerned about foreign invasion – not only in terms of military and political involvement, but also culturally,” he said. The “color revolutions” that brought pro-Western governments to power in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004) were considered by the Kremlin to be “Western strategies aimed at excluding these countries from Russia,” the researcher continues.

Attempts to impose the Romanian language in the early 1990s illustrate the need to maintain a Russian presence in Transnistria, a secluded province of Moldova that has met with fierce opposition from the region’s mainly Russian-speaking population. This paradigm – the protection of the Russian race – would then give Vladimir Putin a model to justify his intervention in Georgia and Ukraine.

If Russia does not recognize Transnistria’s independence, it will “weaken Moldova’s sovereignty and stifle its Western integration for the past 25 years,” said U.S. researcher Eric J. Grossman examines. Educational Journal for the U.S. Army War College Quarterly. “This uncertainty has trapped Moldova in the geopolitical gray zone between the East and the West and forced it to act as a conduit for Russian corruption and money laundering.”

Countries were absorbed into the “gray zone” between NATO and Russia

Georgia and Ukraine run the risk of being permanently absorbed into the same geopolitical “gray zone”, caught between their hopes of one day joining NATO’s military alliance and Russia’s determination not to leave them. As for the separatist organizations recognized only by Russia, their fate rests entirely in Moscow.

14 European countries that have joined NATO since 1991
14 European countries that have joined NATO since 1991 © FMM Graphic Studio

“These companies can not live on their own, but their weakness is really an advantage from the Russian point of view, because it justifies Russia’s continued presence on the ground,” Nicolas Fazola analyzes.

In recognizing the two “republics” of the Donbass, Moscow has meticulously adhered to its practical manual, Nicolas Fazola believes, word-for-word, friendship and mutual aid agreements have been signed with the divided Georgia provinces of Abkhazia. South Ossetia. Whether these companies can thrive is of little concern to Russia compared to the overall strategic picture, the researcher said.

“Moscow will provide financial and logistical assistance, but in the end they will be nothing more than tools for achieving Russia’s strategic goals,” he said. “It’s about using them as ‘bridgeheads’ in post-Soviet space – tools to control ground conditions.”

Anti-Russian sentiment, price to pay

While Kremlin critics say Vladimir Putin’s actions have intensified anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine and Georgia, it remains to be seen how much control Russia can maintain. As Georgian President Salome Zhurabishvili recently said, “(…) the Ukrainian people understand very well what they feel today, the unity of a country that has already suffered and is still suffering from aggression.”

Russia may have achieved its short-term goals, but it has “lost its value and its soft power,” says Georgian professor Emil Avtaliani. “Some in Ukraine or Georgia will think geopolitically of turning to Russia. I think Russia has long wasted its advantages even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

For the Kremlin’s strategists, however, the hatred against Moscow is the price NATO has to pay to stop its expansion. “It is true that Russia’s action since 2014 has angered the Ukrainian public and legitimized Kiev’s anti – Russian stance,” said Nikola Fazola. “But the same government in Kiev is well aware of the fact that Russia can determine or at least strongly influence its political decisions. Even if it is anti-Russian, it must take into account Moscow’s position and actions.”

From a Western perspective, Russia’s aggression strategy has an obvious cost to Moscow. The cost of finances will increase, as will severe sanctions, but even politics, this policy is leading to a sharp decline in relations with the united Western Front behind a general outrage.

However, from Russia’s point of view, according to Nikolai Fazola, the analysis of the situation is quite different: “Based on our assessment of Moscow’s declared objectives, that is, the maintenance of Russian control – or at least influence – in these particular regions, Russia’s strategy will not succeed. Arguably, in practice, joining this alliance is no longer possible. Georgia and Ukraine can join as much as they want, NATO simply cannot. ”

The same reason applies to the West, says Nikola Fazola: “On paper, Western powers decide NATO membership, but in practice, they can not ignore Russia.”

Article translated by David Rich. To IRead the article in its original version (in English), Click here