Since recently the Russian propaganda industry has a new product. It points out that its actions in Donbas are carried out by “coalition forces”, that is, Russia “and its allies”. Since there is almost nothing original coming from Russia, the formulations about some kind of “coalition forces” in the Donbass are a clumsy copy of the former military actions of the Western allies in the Middle East. With the difference that the Western coalitions in Iraq or Afghanistan were really a broad military alliance of dozens of countries, while the Russian copy of “coalition forces” includes Russia and the military forces of – Luhansk and Donetsk.
No one in the world, except for the Russian public, can buy such a propaganda trick. It is as pathetic as the effort to downplay the departure of McDonald’s by creating a domestic fast-food chain Vkusno (delicious) in abandoned McDonald’s restaurants. It is as sad as the attempt to restore the production of Lada Niva in the Togliatti factories, stripped of all modern technology and returned to the standard of the late 1980s.
Russia is struggling to show that it is not isolated from the world. It has been struggling with this for years, ever since it annexed the Ukrainian Crimea in 2014, due to which the EU and American sanctions were imposed. For years it has been trying to mask the wall of isolation from the world not asking for the price of any international contact, meeting, conference on any topic. It has long since run out of space to show itself as an active international player, and is often forced to fabricate international involvement, which often looks bizarre. For example, with the story about the military action of the “coalition forces” in Donbass.
Also bizarre was Russia’s statement to the UN on June 1 saying that it was concerned about the conflict in the eastern part of the Congo and that it hoped that government forces, in cooperation with UN peacekeepers, would restore security in that part of the country. This was announced by the country which has been destroying the sovereign state of Ukraine for three months, committing aggression, killing and expelling civilians. Russia does not expect any international reaction to its “concern” about the Congo, it is aware that it has been put in a corner in the UN, without any influence, even expelled from one of its most important bodies – Human Rights Council. Russia’s mission at the UN “cares” about the Congo in order to show the domestic, Russian, public that it is still present on the international stage, in order to extend the illusion of Russia’s irreplaceability on the world stage as much as possible.
Sergey Lavrov visited Congo recently. He was welcomed by the head of diplomacy, Jean-Claude Gakosso, cordially, with open arms, addressing him in Russian. What else can you expect from a journalism graduate from the University of Leningrad? Just a student?
Lavrov’s “African tour”, during which he also came to the Congo, was supposed to mask the last in a series of diplomatic disasters, when he left the G20 summit in Indonesia faster than he came. This company of really big and influential countries didn’t want him there, they boycotted him, they didn’t even want to be photographed with him, and so Lavrov’s stay was unsustainable.
In recent years, which have been difficult for Russian diplomacy, Serbia was one of the few places where leaders from Moscow could travel and show their public how they can have high-level meetings in Europe. They can’t even do that anymore, and once again Lavrov was the one who was subjected to the humiliation of physically not being able to travel where he supposedly wanted.
How diplomatically isolated Moscow is, more and more every year, is perhaps best shown by the fact that in 2015 the traditional military parade on the occasion of Victory Day was attended by about 30 foreign statesmen, even some from Western Europe. That number would drastically decrease from year to year, and the last few parades were held without the presence of foreign friends. This year even Russia’s faithful ally, Kazakhstan, refused to organize a Victory Day commemoration in its country, which caused anger and feeling of betrayal in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin recently dared to leave the country for the first time since he launched the invasion of Ukraine. He expected that the meeting with Iranian leader Ali Khamenei and Turkish leader Erdogan in Tehran would be a diplomatic triumph, a propaganda operation that would show that Moscow is not isolated. However, humiliation followed as he waited for a full minute in front of the cameras for the Turkish president to join him for the official photo shoot. But an even more painful political and military debacle followed, because Iran hesitates to deliver combat drones to Russia, which was the main reason for Putin’s first international trip since launching invasion of Ukraine.
The series of Russia’s diplomatic failures will continue that is certain. There will be no one from Moscow at the farewell ceremony for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is scheduled for the end of September in Tokyo. The Japanese government will invite all countries with which it has diplomatic relations, but not Russia, to this commemorative event of the highest level, because Japan is among those countries that have imposed travel ban on officials from Moscow.
The longer the aggression against Ukraine lasts, the more isolated Russia is from world affairs, and the more intolerable it is for Moscow. Russia has become someone with whom you should not be seen in society, even at “mass” diplomatic gatherings. It carries the image of a renegade from the global order, and even if you have not aligned yourself with the bloc that isolates Russia, your contacts with Moscow will be condemned by those who are certainly much more important to you than Russia. Yes, on the international diplomatic scene, there is a cancel culture when it comes to Russia, and its protagonists do not want to hide it. They even ask everyone else to join them in isolating Russia, because that is the essence of international resistance to military aggression and the annulment of the sovereignty and identity of a great country like Ukraine.
Although Putin’s propagandists reassure themselves and their public that Russia does not need anyone to carry out its historic affairs with Ukraine, the fear of isolation has long since crept into the bones of Kremlin leaders. If it wasn’t present, Lavrov wouldn’t be frantically looking for the capital where they want to receive him, and Putin wouldn’t even leave Moscow. The humiliations they are subjected to in maintaining the illusion that the world is open to Russia are becoming more and more frequent, and with the passage of time will be inevitable. Until the day when no door in the world will be open for Moscow’s leaders, and that is the day that the Kremlin truly fears, because they know it is approaching.