Neighboring countries fear of Russia

Map of "Intermarium" - the territory between the Baltic and Black Seas

By Slava Tsukerman

Russia’s growing militarization and President Elect Donald Trump’s isolationistic sentiments trigger emotional reaction in countries neighboring Russia.

A Lithuanian historian Alvydas Nikzhentaytis in his interview to the website Delfi said that in order to deal with Russia, neighboring countries need a new geopolitical alliance. The idea of the creation of an alliance, called “Intermarium” (the territory between Baltic and Black seas) is not new. The entree of Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus into such alliance has been discussed in those countries for some time.

Representatives from these countries of various civic, military and political groups met in Kyiv last summer to talk about the possibilities for the emergence of such a union and what steps they should take to promote this at the present time.

Nicolay Kravchenko, one of the organizers of the meeting, said that the grouping could begin small, much as the European Union (EU) did with the European Coal and Steel Community, and then grow both in size and in the spheres of activity subject to the approval of its members. The participants of the Kyiv meeting agreed and stressed that any such structure should not aspire to replace the EU or “even more Euro-Atlantic solidarity in the framework of NATO”, but rather focus on tasks like security, energy independence, and information technology that can be handled at the level of that region.

According to Nikzhentaytis’s article, there are several projects for such Eastern European geopolitical alliances: “Intermarium” – from Baltic to Black Sea; the Polish concept “ABCH” proposing to connect Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas; and the concept of the prominent Polish politician of 20th Century Jerzy Giedroyc for connecting Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus.

Nikzhentaytis wrote: “Intermarium, in my opinion, is the concept closest to the concept of Giedroyc. He long ago talked about how this region should be organized after the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union. His idea was that an independent Poland couldn’t exist without democratic states in Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. Therefore, as Lithuania is concerned, I can say the same thing: without democratic Poland, Ukraine and Belarus, there cannot be a free and democratic Lithuania.”

Nikzhentaytis expressed hope that Poland and Ukraine will join right away and in time Belarus will become a member of Intermarium.

“And if we talk about the current situation, we can not forget about the Russian factor. Russia’s annexation of Crimea has done what no one in the XX and XXI century was expecting. No one expected that it is possible to change international borders by force. The sad past of the first half of the twentieth century was forgotten, and it makes one think and look for possible alternatives for the “rainy day”.

On December 7, 2016, a well known Russian journalist Irina Alksnis wrote in the newspaper Vzgliad:

“For the former Soviet republics and even some countries in nearby territory, Russia is the most powerful center of attraction, not only political and economic but also cultural, informational, ideological, linguistic and all other. And in recent years the situation has worsened since the country’s return to great power status has accelerated these processes significantly.

 “Even without any special effort, by the very fact of its existence, Russia has a tremendous impact on the lives of neighbors. One can only guess what part of the population of these countries is experiencing what can be called a dual loyalty. Plus historical experience shows that when Russia is in its recovery stage, this stage is usually accompanied by territorial expansion, or just by full political and economic domination over the will of its neighbors. At this moment such plans and desires are not expressed neither by the country’s leadership, nor by the Russian people, but neighbors do not believe. Practice shows that sometimes things happen somehow by themselves, just because of the logic of the historical process. 

“As a result, Russia by the simple fact of its existence (and especially in the status of great power) is indeed the factor destabilizing the state of most of its post-Soviet neighbors. And even the most friendly of them perceive Russia as a source of a particular threat.”

Well, today it’s difficult to believe that the Russian threat is not real.

On December 29, Konstantin Zatulin, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s CIS Affairs, Director of the Institute of CIS countries participated in the popular political program of the official RUSSIA TV “An Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.” He informed TV audience:

“Right now I want to tell you: if in the next year there will not be opportunities to get rid of at least some ballast, such as the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament), or their President, by the end of the year a question will raise that it is not necessary any more to change the power in this country, the question that is brewing now is: ‘There was Ukraine, there is Ukraine, but Ukraine may not exist any more in the future. In principle, as an integral state, Because people are disappointed in this experiment, which lasted from 1991 and has not led to anything good.”

Not only Ukrainians feel this threat.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka refused to attend the summit of the Eurasian Economic Union in St. Petersburg, for fear of possible coup in Belarus.

The coordinator of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Dmitry Bandarenka commented this event:

“Maybe Lukashenka knew that during his absence any event could take place, even a coup”.

According to Bondarenka, the tension between the head of Belarus and Russian President Vladimir Putin shows the likelihood of such a scenario:

“The relation between Lukashenka and Putin is now more complicated than ever before. There are a number of events that have occurred in recent years that suggest that Moscow made a decision to remove Lukashenka from his power. He did not get a loan from Russian Eurasian Development Bank in the second half of the year, which he hoped to get. These were the base of his power. Failure to supply oil from Russia and the lack of credit is actually a knock out to the regime”.

The so-called Russian “bloggers”, in fact correspondents of the Russian news agency Regnum, were recently arrested in Belarus.

“They were arrested, as the people who carried out the anti-Belarus propaganda. All these actions, combined with the critical economic situation in Belarus clearly hadn’t happened by themselves. Lukashenka certainly realized that Russia stands behind them “, concludes Bondarenka.

The fear of the growth of Russian political ambitions worries not only Eastern European neighbors.

Unlike its Eastern neighbors Kazakhstan is one of the most reliable partners, associates and allies of Russia. More often frictions and contradictions arise between Russia and Belarus than between Russia and Kazakhstan.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only political survivor of the Soviet times, has long been the epitome of a wise ruler who successfully led his country through very dangerous waters of the last two and a half decades. The President of Kazakhstan is the engine of the Eurasian integration on a par with Vladimir Putin, and they constantly show a profound mutual respect, support and friendship.

It was he who became the most important link, ensuring the restoration of Russia-Turkey relations after the recent serious crisis.

Nevertheless lately even in Kazakhstan appear signs of fear of the Russian threat.

On December 5, a resident of North-Kazakhstan region, who called for the reunification of Kazakhstan with Russia on social networks, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison “for inciting ethnic hatred and promoting separatism”. Also the citizens of Kazakhstan, who participated in the conflict in Donbas in the ranks of the militia, are prosecuted in Kazakhstan.

Several days ago, speaking to a small group of Kazakhs, Nazarbayev had forgotten about diplomacy for first time in his life and said:

“In the days of tsarist Russia all the riches of our land were taken away, and we were just left to dig earth and forced to swallow dust. We even had no roads built in the country. And now you see what kind of railroad we finally have! And in the past we had nothing, because we were a colony. Oil, gas, gold, silver – thank God that we have all of this. This is our wealth that you have in your pocket, and no one will take it from us. We must not swallow the dust, raised by feet of other countries any longer, this is not our way.”

These words from Kazakh President triggered an outrage in the Russian media. Most of Russians believe that in the past Kazakhs were “savages’’, and all that they have was given to them by Russians.

This outrage of course didn’t help to increase Kazakhs’ love for Russia.

The neighbors fear of Russia keeps growing.

Updated: January 6, 2017 — 10:25 am © 2016