Syria has recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. That was the response of Russia and its allies, scheduled to fall on the same day as the decisions at the NATO summit in Madrid. That is the current reach of Russia on the international scene and the strength of its response to the West. On the one hand, Syria and Donbas, equally destroyed, without hope and without a future, and, on the other hand, rich, democratic and most desirable for living, Sweden and Finland, to which an official invitation was sent from Madrid to join NATO.
This is what the two worlds look like today, divided to the breaking point, both trying to strengthen their ranks as much as possible and gather as many loyal allies as possible. On one side the new trump card is Syria, on the other – Sweden and Finland.
In Madrid, at the summit marked by the Paris Le Monde as a “turning point”, NATO cemented the unity that was shown on the first day of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Until then, there was reason to talk about whether NATO was sustainable, even if it was necessary. Donald Trump and his four-year pampering of Putin contributed the most, with the simultaneous disintegration of NATO and the alliance with Europe. The Russian invasion of Ukraine put an end to this American and global adventure led by a man for whom there are many indications that he was the best positioned Western leader ever reached by the tentacles of a Kremlin octopus.
In Madrid, but even before that, NATO showed vitality, the ability to attract new members, even those whose tradition of military neutrality was impressive, such as Sweden and Finland.
In the second camp, the alliance is reduced to the already mentioned Syria, but there are also Belarus, North Korea and Eritrea, countries that sided with Russia when the UN General Assembly condemned its invasion of Ukraine and demanded its immediate withdrawal.
Russia has never had the attractive power to gain allies, and in that sense Russia is the consistent successor of the USSR. Only those that Russia subdued by military force stood with it, and the “brotherhood” was maintained by repression and bribery. Russia does not even understand the concept according to which sovereign nations seek allies among other states they can share some common interest with. Russia sees it in only one way – through occupation to integration.
Whenever it tried to create an international organization, an alliance, it was either a pirate copy of some already existing Western integrations or placing Russian domination in the area of the alliance. The Warsaw Pact was six years late security response of the USSR and its satellites to NATO. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European bloc, comes the security successor – the CSTO (1992), as a Russian copy of NATO, and its effectiveness was best seen during the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in which Moscow backed its Armenian ally with frequent statements calling for peace. Even less meaningful is the Russian copy of the European Union – the Eurasian Economic Union, created in 2014. Which has more appeal – Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia or – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and 23 other European countries?
Today’s Ukraine is the best proof of Russia’s understanding of international relations. Integration comes into consideration only if it is under the full control and domination of Moscow and what is no longer hidden – within the state borders of Russia. If someone does not want to integrate like that, and Ukraine did not want to, they will get the answer that Ukraine got.
Maria Zakharova speaks honestly about that, when she says about the recent decision of the Bulgarian authorities to expel as many as 70 Russian diplomats, that it was imposed by “foreign forces”. The imposition she is talking about is the only way the allies should cooperate; the only thing the Kremlin knows how to do. Neither Zakharova, nor her bosses know a different model of cooperation, according to them, it is impossible for a nation they consider to belong to their circle of influence to decide and go in the other direction on its own.
Her immediate boss, Sergei Lavrov, despite his vast diplomatic experience and skills, still cannot “digest” that when Moscow casts an eye on someone, that someone dares to make alliances over which Russia has no control. Recently, during a failed attempt to travel to Belgrade, he also regretted the missed opportunity to support the Open Balkan.
It is unbelievable that many in the region and among Western “experts” on the Balkans understood his cynical fabrication as Russia’s sincere support for the Open Balkan. Lavrov and his people are looking forward to such reactions, because their destructive idea had success – by supporting the Open Balkan they actually harm it and empower those who say that the Open Balkan is just an ordinary Russian conspiracy in which they do not want to participate.
Moscow does not want any integration of the Balkans, neither towards the West, nor with each other. Any connection, along any line, works directly against Russian interests in the region, because it pulls the Balkans out of the era of conflict and poverty, out of the mud in which Russia wants it to stay for as long as possible, best – forever. Russia can have an impact only in ruined, divided and hopeless parts of the world, where integration is possible only by its recipe. That recipe does not recognize the free will of free people, because Russia has never had that experience, nor does it want to. Who would want to “hang out” with such, and even make an alliance? Certainly not free people.