Author: Emanuel Pietrobon – 06/04/2020
After months of talks and behind-the-scenes diplomacy North Macedonia recently became the NATO’s 30th member, marking the official end of the Great Game’s Balkans edition. The once-romantic and revolution-powered ideals of Russian-inspired conservatism, pan-slavism and Orthodox brotherhood are no longer capable of attracting the attention nor the heart of the masses but Western (il)liberalism, Americanism and pro-Europeanism have proved able to do so.
Russian started losing the Balkans soon after the USSR collapse, when the imperative to focus on internal problems was wisely and quickly exploited by the West to facilitate Yugoslavia’s dissolution. Then the NATO, along with the European Union, turned the eyes on the former countries of the Warsaw Pact, and the rest is history.
The dream of a pan-slavic corridor from Saint Petersburg to Bar, Montenegro’s small-but-strategic port in the warm Adriatic sea, is lost forever and Russia’s remaining ally in the peninsula, Serbia, is completely encircled.
The 2006 Montenegrin independence referendum was the latest trap designed by the EU-US axis to resize Serbia and to deprive Russia of its strategic post in the Mediterranean. They richly succeeded and despite the several accusations and evidences of irregularities and foreign interferences no inquiry was set up.
Montenegro got independence, then entered the NATO and now has joined the Western-sponsored holy war against the Orthodox Church, which is Russia’s very last instrument to have a voice in the peninsula and that’s why its unity is increasingly challenged by the appearance of autocephaly requests. But this is another story.
Now that the Balkan mission is accomplished, the NATO can re-open and speed up the completion of two unfinished agendas: Ukraine and Georgia.
Some important declarations have been made in the days that have followed the enlargement, two of which deserve much attention.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, speaking about Ukraine and Georgia, has said: “We are committed to all of those countries to become the future members of NATO. We want all of them. And we have been to Georgia, we have been to Ukraine. We want their reforms to come forward so that they can prevail over the Russian misinformation and actual border-enforcing of parts of their countries – Georgia and Ukraine.”
Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, has been even more punchy: “There is no provision in NATO’s founding documents prohibiting a country in a military conflict from joining NATO. Therefore, from a legal point of view, Ukraine has the same opportunities as other countries that don’t have a war […] The political decision on Ukraine’s joining NATO will depend on the development of our country – the introduction of military and other reforms, ensuring the democracy of the rule of law, etc. We will certainly join NATO – this is only a matter of time”.
Why do their words matter? Because they are simply ground-breaking: for the first time ever the NATO admits clearly that the presence of frozen conflicts within the borderds of want-to-be member states doesn’t represent a problem.
We are witnessing a profound paradigm shift whose consequences will be as revolutionary as tremendously risky in terms of regional security and war scenarios. Georgia is home of two Kremlin-backed unrecognized states, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while Ukraine experiences a similar situation with the rebel republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
We are speaking of two countries which have lost the control over considerable parts of their territories, now ruled by parallel states with their own institutions and even with their own foreign policy.
If the NATO would ever greenlight Georgia’s and Ukraine’s entry it would inherit their frozen conflicts and, again, it’s mandatory to use the “if”, if Russia would ever reply to the hostility by ordering the rebels to re-open the conflicts this time the prospects for success would be very low in light of the spectrum of the collective defense. Furthermore there is the high risk to trigger a large-scale war with Russia – this scenario is increasingly realistic.
And there’s another country to which the frozen conflict message might be addressed: Moldova. The half Romanian and half Slavic country has been being under Moscow’s sphere of influence since the early 1990s but this allignment is more and more challenged by the protagonism of the European Union via Romania, the US, and Turkey – the latter is very interested in Turkic-inhabited Gagauzia as part of its pan-Turkic Eurasian grand strategy.
Moldova’s future permanence in the Russian orbit is unlikely: too many players to confront, little resources to exert economic influence, deep social changes – the Russophile generation is getting older and the youth tends to be both pro-European and “Romaniaphile”.
The only thing that bonds Moldova and Russia together is actually Transnistria, the ever-rebel and secessionist republic – and de facto independent state – established in 1990. For the above-mentioned reasons the small country is expected to join the EU and the accession to NATO would be a natural consequence.
The US has an interest in Moldova as shown by the week-long official visit paid by the former Prime Minister Maia Sandu in Washington last August and by John Bolton’s landing in Chișinău the same days. The West has all the instruments to exploit the social change underway and the country’s poor economy, Russia hasn’t.
The NATO will not cease to expand and the dogmas about the untouchability of Moscow’s backyards have been broken in 2014 with Euromaidan – the most important watershed moment of recent history, the realization of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s dream of encircling and resizing Russia and converting it from an Eurasian empire to an Asian empire.
Russia must be prepared to the worst scenario: the arrival of NATO soldiers and weapons to its borders. It’s something unthinkable yet but it has to be, because this is how the future looks like. Ukraine’s color revolution was the testing ground to evaluate the Kremlin’s will and capabilities and Russia didn’t pass the exam: it won Crimea but it lost the motherland of Russkij Mir and now it has to accept that the next step might be the complete encirclement.
But not all is lost yet, there is a way out: it is still possible to challenge Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Westernization processes because they are in the early stage and the identity factor is strong enough to allow trend reversals. Russophobia is galloping in society and politics but centuries of brotherhood can’t be erased in a few years and culture can be weaponized still.
Russia might study Turkey’s pan-Turkic model to elaborate a proper strategy for the reconquest of what it has lost – but it has to do it now, the alternative is the encirclement.