Staunton, VA, January 11, 2017 – Moscow analyst Yury Khristenzen says that Moscow plans to “export separatism” across the entire former Soviet space, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to break those countries to its will, confident that it can do so because the West will not be willing to go to war against a nuclear power to defend them.
In the third and concluding part of his survey of Russia’s wars, Khristenzen argues that the Kremlin “has drawn a red line on the border of the former USSR and identified [as its priority targets] those countries closest mentally, linguistically and in terms of religion”.
As evidence of this, he points to the following: At the end of 2013, shortly before Moscow’s Anschluss of Crimea, Tamara Guzenkova, the deputy director of the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, told a group in Moscow: “You can’t even imagine how far we can go in order to preserve our positions in Ukraine.”
And Khristenzen insists that it is not a matter of NATO bases on Russia’s borders given that “no one will fight with a nuclear power,” a reality that the Kremlin can use against all and sundry. But among the most important weapons in Moscow’s arsenal are plans to create “peoples republics” within these countries of interest as a basis for projecting Russian power.
Many associate this idea with Vladimir Putin, but in fact, it has a long history extending back at least to August 1991 when supporters of the coup against Gorbachev planned to form such “peoples republics” in Estonia and Latvia in order to block their recovery of national independence.
This plan was described by Viktor Alksnis, a member of the Union group of the USSR Supreme Soviet, who said this was the application of a more general principle that the coup organizers had come up with.
The defeat of the coup, Western pressure and the extension of NATO membership to the three Baltic countries prevented Moscow from carrying out these plans. But as Khristenzen notes, “Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine” remain in significantly more difficult situations.
And he argues that the Kremlin has only delayed but not cancelled its plans to use this tactic even against the Baltic states. “In the event of the weakening of the US and the EU, it is completely possible that a Narva, Khokhta-Yavelskaya, Shlachininkaiskaya or other ‘peoples republics’ will appear on their territories.”