Das Neue Russische Reich?

8 March 2014

By Andrei Kovalev

For a long time now, and perhaps from its very beginning, the Russian State has suffered from gigantomania. For some reason, the Russian State has always striven to become bigger, reminding one in this way of a child who dreams, ‘When I grow up I’ll show them all …’ 

The Russian empire expanded to such an extent that it became ungovernable. This, along with inept foreign and domestic policies, that included unjustifiable participation in the Russian-Japanese war and the First World War, led the country to collapse. The result was the coming to power of the criminal Bolshevik regime. Soon the Russian Empire was recreated in the form of the USSR. As a consequence of the Second World War the USSR became significantly larger, taking in the formally sovereign states of Central and Eastern Europe. And again there followed economic collapse, as a result of which Russia lost many peoples and territories it had colonized. 

At the beginning of 1992 I was a witness and unwilling, passive participant in the beginning of the formation of a new Russian imperial policy. The fact was that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a policy of ‘protecting compatriots’ and the ‘Russian-language population’ in the other countries of the post-Soviet space. In my view, my then colleagues involved in this work were manipulated by imperial, revanchist forces that had infiltrated the circle around President Yeltsin and the country’s government. 

Thus were laid one of the foundations for the new Russian imperialism. 

The consequences of this development appeared soon enough. Its first victims were the Baltic countires, especially Latvia and Estonia. The Russians living there literally begged the Russian government: ‘Don’t defend us, you’re only making things worse for us’. Things were different in those States that became members of the CIS. In some of these the rights of Russians really were crudely and systematically violated. However, Moscow did not react at all to this. The fate of living people, as opposed to the political needs of the moment, geopolitics and the creation of a bridgehead for the future, did not interest the new authorities at all. 

From the very beginning Moscow wanted to exercise power over the post-Soviet space, especially over its more attractive regions. For example, as early as the first half of the 1990s the then minister of emergencies Sergei Shoigu announced to a select group that Russia would never leave Abkhazia. Of course, the current situation of Georgia, and that part of the country which is the truly beautiful Abkhazia, is well-known to everyone. 

Another prize piece of the former USSR to which Russia always wanted to return following the collapse of the Soviet Union was the Crimea. 

I do not know how it is now, but in the first post-Soviet years, in the words of a very well-informed source, the Black Sea Fleet based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol consisted of nothing more than a number of ‘rusty hulks’. That is why all the fuss about the port did not have, in the words of my interlocutor, any military significance at all. And yet, as we can now see, it had a very important political meaning. 

Why not send forces to defend the fleet? Of course, such an approach to settling the question would make any military professional laugh. But alas, at the point where madness sets in, it’s no laughing matter. 

And the current situation is crazy indeed. The Russian authorities are allowing themselves to be dissatisfied with events in the sovereign State of Ukraine, where the Kremlin puppet Viktor Yanukovich has been toppled and pro-European leaders have come to power. In response, the Russian authorities have not simply begun to make martial noises, but have committed, with all possible violations of international law, an act of aggression against Ukraine. 

The West has already once before betrayed Ukraine and its president Viktor Yushchenko, who strove to direct his country on to a European path. In just the same way, the West also betrayed the Georgian people and Mikhail Saakashvili, who had worked to achieve the same goal. (We also remember the most obvious betrayal, that of the Chechen and other peoples in the Caucasus, to please the inhabitant of the Kremlin). Moreover, the West has regularly betrayed the Russian people as well – the people, that is, not to be confused with the Russian authorities. These betrayals by the West have given Putin's Russia ‘most favourable regime’ status with regard to the violation of human rights - and not only in Russia, but in other countries. 

Even within its current borders, Russia remains an empire. But now Russia has taken the path towards the creation of a Russian Reich, with a foreign policy reminiscent of the notorious Third Reich, and with all the consequences that flow from this. 

Are today’s Western leaders able to understand what is happening and to take the necessary steps to prevent it? Or will they once again take the path towards Munich?

The views expressed in blogs published on Rights in Russia are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of Rights in Russia.