Staunton, June 29 – Like most Westerners, Russians have always made a distinction between the three Baltic countries and the former Soviet republics, but now a Russian analyst says that by turning to Europe, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are following the Baltic path, an indication of Moscow’s diminishing influence and thus of its likely policies toward the six.
Aleksandr Nosovich, a commentator for the pro-Russian portal, Rubaltic.ru, says that the three new EU associates have stepped on to “the Baltic path to Europe” without recognizing that “this path is far from the best” and that it will not bring “the other post-Soviet republics … anything good”.
That path involves not only integration in European institutions, Nosovich says, but also membership in “Euro-Atlantic” ones, a term many Russian commentators use for NATO, the Western alliance of which all three Baltic countries have been a part for a decade.
But according to Nosovich, the Baltic path means more than that. It means a headlong rush to integrating with the West in a quest for status and separation from Russia and the rest of the post-Soviet space even if this requires the interests of the populations of these countries to be sacrificed.
While Poland spent a decade negotiating with the European Union over the terms of entry, the Baltic countries and now presumably Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia wanted to be separate from Russia and inside the West so badly that they were ready to accept almost everything. This “typically Baltic model of behavior,” Nosovich says, won’t help the others.
According to the Russian analyst, the Baltic rush to the West has led to “catastrophic” economic decline, the collapse and disappearance of “almost all industry,” and “an unprecedented emigration of the population.” Those same things, in Nosovich’s view, now await Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
If the governments of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia were prepared to move more slowly and negotiate with Moscow as well as with Brussels, they could avoid these negative consequences of “the Baltic path.” But at present, they seem incapable of doing that and are caught up in the same emotional world as the Balts.
They now view themselves as do the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians as “’a buffer zone,’ living by the categories of the cold war and with the complete certainly that it is simpler to cut ‘the Gordian knot’ of relations with Russia than to sit down together with it and with the West at a common negotiating table.”
What should give the three new EU signatories pause, Nosovich says, is that despite the fact that nationalists have been in power in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for “a quarter of a century,” young Estonians, young Latvians, and young Lithuanians are voting with their feet and not simply “emigrating but fleeing abroad.” The same thing awaits others on the Baltic path.
It is of course the case that in many of the new EU member countries people want to leave for economic opportunities elsewhere, Nosovich sys, “but neither in Poland nor in Bulgaria has this occurred as tragically as in the Baltic countries” – or may occur in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
The Russian commentator continues: “In the long term, the titular nations of the Baltic countries, the Lithuanians, the Latvians and the Estonians are threatened with extinction and their languages and national cultures with being forgotten.” Ukrainians, Moldovans and Georgians should be asking if they want the same fate.
And the minorities in these three countries should be asking themselves, Nosovich suggests, whether they really want to live under openly nationalist governments and to suffer the fate of non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia.
Despite its tendentiousness and misrepresentation of the Baltic situation, Nosovich’s article is worth noting for three reasons. First, it is a clear indication that many Russians view the actions of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as the crossing of a rubicon and on their way not only to EU membership but ultimately to NATO membership as well.
Second, it suggests that Moscow may now use against these three countries not only the economic and political leverage it has from other things but also the ideological messages and covert activities it has deployed against the societies and polities of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania over the past two decades.
And third – and this may be the most important – Nosovich’s article suggests that Moscow now sees the six as a common group against whom it may deploy increasingly common methods, something that could presage new and harsher Russian actions both against the countries which have chosen “the Baltic way” and against the Baltic countries themselves.