March 5, 2015

Should We Expect Changes on the “Western Front”?

One of the main factors to deter V. Putin's regime in the implementation of its plans for Ukraine, is a clear, coherent and consolidated position of Western countries and international organizations in the matter of putting pressure on Russia. And in support of our State (in some Western and Ukrainian media recently has appeared quite a phrase — “Western Front”). Thus, in response to Russia's hidden military aggression against Ukraine, the USA, the EU and NATO have resorted to a complex of international political and economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, which has already led to significant negative consequences for it. First of all, here is meant undermining of Russia's international positions, as well as large-scale sharpening of problems in the Russian economy.

Taking into consideration the critical nature of these processes for the Putin regime, the Russian side is trying to actively oppose the USA, the EU and NATO, using the measures to undermine the unity of the Western world (“Western Front”), as well as the pressure on European countries and strengthening its influence on them. The RF leadership's main attention is paid to the countries of Central-Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, where there is the difficult economic situation, the high level of dependence on Russian energy and a lot of interest in the trade and economic cooperation with Russia. In addition, Russia is trying to play on the economic interests of the leading members of the EU, where there are powerful business circles oriented on the Russian Federation.

Such Moscow's approaches can be seen in the following: on the one hand — there is pressure on the USA and the EU, in particular by introducing “counter-sanctions”, among other things, providing for a ban on the import of certain groups of products (primarily food) to Russia, on the other — demonstration of readiness to develop economic and trade (primarily energy) cooperation with individual European countries, demonstrating a certain loyalty to Russia, and to provide “help” to solve their economic problems.

In particular, in February 2015, against the background of closure of the Russian market for Poland's dairy products (as one of the most active and consistent allies of Ukraine), Russia signed a number of agreements with Hungary (as a country, loyal to the Russian Federation) in trade and energy sectors, as well as demonstrated its willingness to give financial assistance to Greece (after the radical pro-Russian political forces had come to power).

Similarly, Russia is using the dependence of EU countries on Russian gas (20-30 % in Germany and 80 % in CEE and Baltic countries). Thus, imposing its European partners new projects of transport and energy corridors bypassing Ukraine, Putin's regime constantly threatens them with interruptions in gas supplies, as well as applying the practice of reducing the volume of gas supplies to the countries of CEE that provide reverse of the European gas for our country.

To increase the pressure on the EU and deepen the contradictions between them, Moscow is using the situation around the project of construction of the gas pipeline “South Stream” at the bottom of the Black Sea. The absence of funds for its implementation is presented by the Kremlin as “the European Union's blocking the project” that “brings tangible losses to CEE countries and undermines their energy security”. Besides, due to the declaratively announced reorientation of the pipeline to Turkey (within the framework of the so-called “Turkish Stream”) Russia actually opposes it (Turkey) to the European Union.

 “National Front” “Alternative for Germany” “Austrian Freedom Party”
“The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia” SMER «Fidez»

At the same time, the Russian Federation's leadership is taking active measures to promote pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian lobby in the United States and European countries, by bribing some politicians and experts, as well as to create and financially support pro-Russian, leftist, nationalist and “Euroskeptic” forces (movements) in their political space. In particular, the most important of such forces for today are as follows: “National Front” in France, “Alternative for Germany” in Germany; “Austrian Freedom Party”; “The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia”; SMER in Slovakia; “Fidez” and “Jobbik” in Hungary; “Harmony” and “Union of the Russians” in Lithuania; “Bulgarian Socialist Party” and the nationalist movement “Attack” in Bulgaria; “Kresy (anti-Ukrainian) organizations in Poland. Besides, in February this year, with the help of the Russian Federation's hidden participation and funding, in Poland was created a new pro-Russian party “Zmiana”.

«Jobbik» “Harmony” “Union of the Russians”
“Bulgarian Socialist Party”  “Attack” «Zmiana»

These political forces are used by Russia to organize and influence the positions of the European countries in terms of their attitude to the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as well as to provoke tensions both within the EU and between the USA and the EU.

Very active here is the Hungarian parliamentary nationalist party “Jobbik”, advocating cancelling the EU's political and economic sanctions against Russia, supporting the RF's actions towards Ukraine (in particular, it recognizes the annexation of the Crimea, and the so- called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics), as well as demanding autonomy for areas in the Trans-Carpathian region, densely populated by ethnic Hungarians (with the prospect of separation from Ukraine). At the same time “Jobbik” supports separatist movements among ethnic Hungarians in the Romanian and Slovak territories, so that there are problems in the relations between Hungary and Slovakia, and Romania.

Active anti-Ukrainian and Polish policy is pursued by Polish “kresy” organizations. Russia uses them to make split between Poland and Ukraine. Similarly act left and nationalist forces in Bulgaria, demanding from their government to stop supporting the EU sanctions against the Russian Federation, as well as not to enhance the grouping of NATO troops on Bulgarian territory.

Russia pays special attention to resumption of its positions in the Baltic countries, which are of particular importance for Moscow in terms of their having been part of the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. In particular, Russia exposes additional claims against Lithuania, which, together with Poland, holds the most intransigent positions with regard to the Russian Federation and actively supports Ukraine. Putin's regime is stepping up its efforts in the Baltic direction, actually applying the insidious and provocative methods of the “hybrid war”, used earlier in Ukraine. In particular, such techniques include support of pro-Russian forces in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (the “fifth column”), as well as methods of disintegration of these countries by spreading separatist sentiments among their Russian-speaking population (30-40 % of the total number of citizens).

Russia resorts to similar methods, provoking the emergence of problems between Lithuania and Poland, in particular, setting up ethnic Poles living in the Lithuanian territory on separatism.

 G. Schroeder N. Sarkozy S. Berlusconi

In turn, the Russian interests in the leading EU countries are mainly promoted also by some influential politicians, as well as by representatives of great business, oriented to Russia. In particular, the main lobbyists for the Kremlin's policy in the above-mentioned countries are: in Germany — Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder; in France — Former President N. Sarkozy; in Italy — Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; in the UK — a number of partners of Russian oligarchs from among the ruling Conservative party of the country.

As part of the “big politics” Russia imposes on the leadership of the European Union a variety of initiatives for resumption of cooperation between the parties “without regard to the Ukrainian question” (including to establish EU-Russia free trade zone and to build a “common security space”). At the same time Moscow is against the USA's participation in the EU-Russia formats of solving European problems, the conflict in the East of Ukraine included.

Besides, Russia is attempting to divert the USA, EU and NATO's attention from Ukraine and to spray their efforts by provoking and hidden support for conflicts in other regions of the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (by providing aid to the regime of B. Assad in Syria included). The latter can be used by Russia to stimulate growth in world oil prices.

These listed above activities of the Russian Federation are supported by practical steps on demonstration of force to the USA and Europe as part of scaling maneuvers and trainings of the RF Armed Forces (including their strategic nuclear component) in the West direction and providing them with an aggressive (offensive, often provocative) orientation, as well as building up groups of troops and increasing military activity of the forces in the Baltic, North Atlantic and the Black Sea regions. They are accompanied by deliberate provocations against the Baltic and Northern European countries with violation of borders of their exclusive economic zones by combat aircrafts and ships of the Russian Armed Forces.

The Russian Federation's actions are accompanied by a massive information campaign in the Russian and Western media both, with the help of corrupted journalists, political scientists and experts, and through the European satellite channels. It is aimed at: justification of Moscow's policy towards Ukraine; “Proving the Russian Federation's innocence” regarding the events in the East of our State; imposing on European countries the thought about “ineffectiveness” of sanctions against Russia and about such a policy being harmful for the European Union itself; opposition of the interests of the USA and the EU, as well as comprehensive discredit of Ukraine and its foreign and domestic policy. For example: thanks to the European satellite operators, in particular the company GlobeCast (France), Putin's favorite TV channel RT (RUSSIA TODAY) is broadcast in Russian, French, English, German, Spanish, Arabic and other languages ​​from more than 10 satellites, providing “Uncle Vova” with a very broad audience in the world. Isn't it time for the European Union to think about its information security?

GlobeCast RT (RUSSIA TODAY)

To date, the main result of such efforts of the Russian Federation has become the actual growth of disagreements within the European Union concerning the possibility of preserving and further increasing of sanctions against Russia. In particular, for a more stringent policy against Russia after its breach of Minsk agreements of 12 February, 2015 (first of all, capturing Debaltseve) are Germany, United Kingdom, Poland and Lithuania. While Greece and Hungary demonstrate the openly opposite position.

Besides, with the support of Ukraine's European integration, most western countries are rather skeptical about the possibility of its rapid entry into the EU and NATO. At this, they refer to Ukraine's “being unready” for the membership in these organizations, and to Russia's negative reaction, which could lead to “unpredictable” scales and forms. Similarly, because of the “unpredictability” of Moscow's reactions, most Western countries are against giving Ukraine “defense” (lethal) weapons to defeat the Russian-terrorist groups in the East of Ukraine.

V. Orban M. Zeman A. Tsipras

Another Putin's regime's “achievement” can be considered preservation of a number of pro-Russian positions of left and “Euroskeptic” political forces in some European countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic and Greece. In particular, this is shown by openly pro-Russian positions of the Hungarian Prime Minister V. Orban, President of the Czech Republic M. Zeman, and the coming to power in Greece “Coalition of the Radical Left” (SYRIZA, like most radical parties of Europe, supports Russia in the Russo-Ukrainian opposition), led by 40-year-old politician Alexis Tsipras (he has repeatedly stated that he supports lifting of international sanctions against Russia). Quite an exemplary character has also the renewed work of some Greek companies in the Crimea, which is a direct violation of the EU sanctions relating to the occupation regime of the Crimean peninsula.

These Russia's “achievements” are exclusively local in nature and do not allow to achieve the desired at the strategic level. Thus, the USA, the EU and NATO are united in their policy of pressure on Russia. At this, the authority of the United States and the European Union provides an opportunity to influence the positions of some countries, where there are pro-Russian tendencies. In particular, such an influence on the leadership of Hungary was observed when the USA imposed sanctions against several Hungarian government officials and businessmen, as well as when the European Commission decided to investigate the Hungarian government's violation of rights of foreign investors in the country.

A. Kiska K. Johannis

Confirmation of the benefits of European values ​​for the majority of the countries of Central-Eastern and South-Eastern Europe can also be considered a landslide victory of pro-European politicians in the presidential elections in Slovakia — A. Kiska (in March 2014) and in Romania — K. Johannis (in November 2014). Due to this has changed the attitude of these countries to Russia and Ukraine, in particular, the Slovak side has increased the volume of reverse gas supplies to our state. Similar changes are also possible in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where protests against the pro-Russian policy of some of their leaders keep growing.

As we see, in fact, all this shows the real defeat of the Kremlin's provocative foreign policy on the “Western Front”, which allows the USA, EU and NATO to continue increasing the pressure on the Russian Federation, causing more devastating and severe blows to Putin's regime.

But today, a lot of both Western and Ukrainian politicians and experts ask: is it enough for the victory of Ukraine in the confrontation with Russia? Has the “Western Front" completely exhausted its possibilities? Are the regular statements of individual Western politicians about their “deep concern” about bloody events around the insidious and cynical Russian aggression against Ukraine enough? How many more Ukrainians have to die for the USA, EU and NATO to understand: next in line will be Moldova, Georgia, the Baltic countries, Poland? Or will the “Western Front” be opened?

Today, leading both Western and Ukrainian politicians and experts are unanimous in their estimates and forecasts about the future strengthening of the “Western Front” in order to significantly pressure on Putin and to stop the Russian aggression against Ukraine, namely:

  • to maintain and strengthen the international political and economic sanctions against the Russian Federation while carrying out effective reforms in Ukraine;
  • to bring into the zone of the conflict a peacekeeping force under the auspices of the European Union and/or the United Nations;
  • to provide Ukraine with the USA, EU, the NATO's countries' “defense” (lethal) weapons;
  • to provide Ukraine with explicit guarantees and to agree on the terms of Ukraine's becoming a member of the EU and NATO;
  • to assist in accelerating the process of reforming the Armed Forces and the Military-Industrial Complex of Ukraine by Western standards, as well as in creation and introduction of an integrated system of public security and information counteraction in Ukraine.

So is there any hope that there will be changes on the “Western Front”?

And if yes, when exactly?