With planning and opportunism, Putin accelerates advances on “post-Soviet” territory

Envio de “forças de paz” ao Cazaquistão e as tratativas sobre a Ucrânia foram desdobramentos mais recentes de uma política de “flexionar músculos na direção de estados vizinhos”

Sending of “peace forces” to Kazakhstan and negotiations on Ukraine were more recent developments of a policy of “flexing muscles towards neighboring states”| Photo: EFE/EPA/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN POOL/SPUTNIK

In a period in which they are completed 30 years after the end of the Soviet Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin accumulates attempts to expand Moscow’s radius of influence on former Soviet republics.

This month, the deployment of “peace forces” to Kazakhstan and the negotiations (so far without progress – and with the threat of sending Russian troops to Cuba and Venezuela) with the Western powers over the crisis of the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine were the most recent developments of a policy of “flexing muscles in the direction of neighboring states”, as described by the New York Times.

Which is not new, as the Russo-Georgian War of , the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and support for separatist movements in the Donbass region (conflict still ongoing), which broke out in Ukraine in .

But in the last two years, through planning or opportunism, Putin’s efforts towards former Soviet republics have become more common.

He supported dictator Aleksander Lukashenko when he quelled a wave of protests in Belarus and sent “peace forces” to secure a ceasefire after a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan (agreement signed by those countries and Putin), and Russian state-owned natural gas Gazprom suggested that Moldova’s pro-European government should abandon a free trade agreement with the European Union and stop the liberalization of the gas market in exchange for lower fuel prices in a new long-term contract with the company.

In the most daring step of this series of actions, since last year Russia has concentrated more than 100 a thousand soldiers on the border with Ukraine under the allegation of preventing Kiev from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) , the military alliance of the West.

To repress demonstrations in Kazakhstan, which at first were related to the price of natural gas and then went on to cover the need for changes in the country, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (OTSC) sent 2,500 troops last week.

The CTO, a military alliance between Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, all former Soviet republics, acted for the first time invoked by Article 4 of the Treaty on Collective Security, which provides that an armed attack on a member state is an attack on the entire bloc (the president Kasim-Ymart Tokayev qualified the protesters tes as “terrorists”).

The withdrawal of SCTO troops from Kazakhstan began last Thursday (13), but for some analysts, an important door has already been opened.

“Russia was presented with a sudden crisis that it is now seeking to turn into an opportunity. It is interesting that the SCTO was invoked and in my opinion it is a good move [para Moscou]”, wrote on Twitter Maxim Suchkov, acting director of the Institute of International Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

“[A ação no Cazaquistão] is marked as a collective effort by Eurasia , not a whim of Russia, gives more legitimacy to actions to stabilize Kazakhstan and reinforces Russia’s position in Kazakhstan and Eurasia, demonstrating once again that there is no other state in Eurasia besides Russia to look after the security of its neighbors in case of extreme need”, he added.

However, for Oksana Antonenko, director of global risk analysis at the British consultancy Control Risks and member of global policy at the Kennan Institute, Putin runs the risk of betting too high.

“With the military operations in the South Caucasus, Belarus and now in Kazakhstan, as well as the continuing military threat to Ukraine, Russia is clearly strengthening its hold on the post-Soviet space at the expense of worsening relations with the West, China [aliada que tem seus próprios interesses na região – por exemplo, compra mais da metade do urânio exportado pelo Cazaquistão] and the populations of its former empire [que enxergam Moscou como apoiadora de regimes autoritários]”, he pointed out, in an article published on the Politico website. “And even if it avoids following Belarus’ fate, Kazakhstan’s departure from the West will not be reversed in the coming years,” Antonenko added. In the Ukraine crisis, “intentionally unacceptable demands”

In Ukraine, Russia claims that the concentration of troops on the border has only the objective of self-defense. In negotiations with the United States and European countries this week, Moscow reiterated demands such as a veto on Ukraine’s possible entry into NATO, that there be no expansion of the alliance and that the organization’s military activities not be carried out in countries of the former communist bloc, which have joined the alliance. NATO from 1997 – among them, three former Soviet republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

To Anatoliy Tkach, charge d’affaires of the Ukrainian Embassy in Brazil, Russia makes “intentionally unacceptable demands” while “holding Crimea hostage and fighting in Donbass, Russian special services undermine security on Belarus’ borders with Poland and Lithuania, and the gas supply becomes an instrument of foreign policy.”“The collective West will not agree to give Russia ‘legal guarantees’ not to expand NATO to the east, as this would be a defeat. strategic note. Russia’s demands for so-called ‘security guarantees’ are illegitimate and unacceptable. Russia has no right to decide our future, nor to interfere in our relations with NATO, the European Union and partner countries,” Tkach said in an interview with

Gazeta do Povo2022.

He highlighted that a “comprehensive deterrence package is being prepared that contains painful economic sanctions on the Russian economy as well as defense support for Ukraine”, and that Kiev supports a greater NATO presence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region.

“This could include, for example, the intensification of NATO’s rotating naval presence in the Black Sea, with the aim of supporting freedom of navigation and facilitating trade routes, or the establishment of NATO’s eastern hub, following the example of the alliance’s hub in Italy”, he explained.

Tkach pointed out that, in the context of Russian interventions in neighboring countries, Kiev follows carefully the steps following the SCSO action in Kazakhstan. “Foreign troops must respect the independence, sovereignty and national legislation of Kazakhstan and international law, and their stay must not extend beyond the stated limited period of time,” he emphasized.