Reaching for the Balkans: Russian geo-strategy in South-Eastern Europe

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October 9, 2015 –

Sergey Baranov, PolitNavigator – 

Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski

“The return of Russia to the balkans via Novorossiya and Moldova”

The current strategy of Russia in Eastern Europe is based on the recognition of the status-quo following defeat in the Cold War and the attempt to establish relations with the comprador national elites of states configured to be not only anti-Russian, but Russophobic. However, despite all attempts at bribery and gas diplomacy, Russia has not gained allies and influence, and any of its projects, such as the South Stream or Turkish Stream, can be blocked. The problem is not even the pro-Western elites, but the very essence of these states and their nationalisms which see Russia as a sacrifice and food. 

The essence of change in the transition from the protective line to active restart among a number of states, it is better to say, is the liquidation of their present from and creating out of their pieces states by definition friendly to Russia or, if their ethnic composition allows, the creation of bases of Russian states. In those cases when the Russification of states is impossible owing to their distance from the Russian world, a radical change of political and economic system and their places in international alliances is necessary. 

Who do I have in mind? It could be, of course, not all the countries of Eastern Europe, but only those internally vulnerable owing to a complex ethnic composition or poverty, and those of them which represent for Russia a larger or simply notable strategic interest. So to say: “weak links in the chain of global Western imperialism.” First and foremost, this means Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia. 

It is clear that it hardly makes sense to talk about activities in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Russia lost its levers of control over the situation in Central-Eastern Europe and can only agree to play on contradictions. But the importance of Central-Eastern Europe for Russia, Europe, and Asia will fall. 

But in South-Eastern Europe, Russia can fight back. The region is much more significant and is associated with larger risks for Europe and Asia. Speaking about the Balkans, usually referring to the fragments of Yugoslavia, this is a product of restarts and liquidations which took place without our participation, although it has not quite ended, and it is possible to be successful there if there if some interest for us and, most importantly, a lever. Without leverage in the Balkans, we are no one. They can easily prevent us from building a pipeline or anything. So, speaking about the active influence of Russia on the Balkans, at least on Serbia, it is necessary to think about geopolitical leverage, not about the virtual or cultural, but real leverage that can be reached in a geographic sense. This lever can only come via the south of Ukraine. Therefore, speaking about Kiev, we in fact are looking at the Balkans and towards the warm, Southwest wind.

What is the geo-strategic value of the South-East wedge of Ukraine? This is the strongest lever of geopolitics in Europe. It rests on the Danube and Moldova and, by wedging, divides Western Eurasia into two parts: 1) the south – the Black Sea and the Balkans, and 2) the northern part – Central-Eastern Europe and the native East-Slav Russian territories. 

In fact, the West of Odessa regions and Moldova are already South-Eastern Europe if one is oriented by Western maps. It should be noted that the mouth of the Danube is one of the key nodes of European history, the point of its beginning in the 4th century B.C. Such nodal points do not completely lose their influence. 

With that said, the main goal, of course, is Ukraine. Today it is the largest “sick man of Europe,” swallowing a part of the Russian population and territory. For it, such a strategy of restart is initially applicable. In Ukraine, it’s all about the South-Eastern-South-Western wedge, so-called Novorossiya, down to the sea. The “reset” of Ukraine has already begun with the separation of Crimea and Donbass. Crimea is a stand for the wedge – a lever. Crimea itself is not a lever in the Balkans. Russia was compelled to begin to partition Ukraine due to the pressure of circumstances of the Maidan and 2014, and this was contrary to the policies of the Russian leadership on the unity and integrity of the former Soviet republic, which had to be supported. But it’s unclear: why?

Ukraine already came under the control of NATO, and its division is a result of being under NATO control, which is most significant for us. All of Ukraine has not yet escaped the iron hands of the West. But Russia doesn’t need a hostile Ukraine, yet Ukraine is arranged such that on the whole it will only be hostile because it feeds itself from our South-Eastern part. 

And what about Moldova? Is this just a poor little country that no one wants? Then why is their such a fuss? The value of Moldova can’t be understood without the lever that is Novorossiya. But the lever of Novorossiya is being built before our eyes. The meaning of Moldova has always been understood in the West’s strategy, and they have not planned to give away Moldova as a Russian protectorate. 

Moldova has practically already become a victim of the West, even as an anti-Russian nation-state. She is doomed. Moldova plays a role as part of Greater Romania. But over the course of struggle, it may be split into parts. The center will be pro-Romanian; the north will be pro-Slavic; Beltsy and part of South Bukovina (in the Ukrainian variant, this is actually mixed Slavic-Moldovan) and the south will be Gagauzia, and the East is Russian Transnistria. From these anti-Romanian parts, it is possible to create a second federative Moldovan state as part of the Russian world. Such a state is viable under the conditions, of course, that Russians control the Odessa region of Ukraine. 

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However, the disintegration of Moldova and the creation of a pro-Russian Moldovan federation as a counter-play is already possible now, even with a Ukraine captured by fascists and a stabile situation in the EU. Current events surrounding the new Maidan in Chisinau can hasten this scenario. 

Moldovan politics are closely connected in relation with Romania. The destabilization of Romania is necessary for the neutralization of its role in Moldova. In Romania, the weak link is the problem of the Hungarian part of Transylvania, and in this case, Hungary is acting as an ally of Russia. Unreliable and situational, but an ally nonetheless. Its current leadership is inclined towards this. 

The allotting out of the Hungarian part of Romania is impossible, but it can be one of the factors of tension. Hungary is also interested in the autonomy of the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine (former Subcarpathian Rus), which could come under it as an informal protectorate. Here also is a mutual interest between Russia and Hungary. The autonomy or secession of Transcarpathia is also an unavoidable part of the restart of Ukraine, if such continues. 

Processes in Romania and Transcarpathia, with the participation of Hungary, and in Buokvina (Chernivtsy region) with the participation of Russia via the north of Moldova (South Bukovina) will become real in the case of a general crisis of the European Union and its partial disintegration. Romania might be neutralized, but it will remain an enemy of Russia. 

Thus, the strategic South-Eastern wedge, directed from Russia through Ukraine and Moldova to the Balkans – Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia – bumps us into two typically hostile Eastern-European state: Romania and Bulgaria. We are generally indifferent to the situation with Romania as we described, besides the blocking of her possible aggression in Moldova and Bukovina. 

Bulgaria remains. Unlike Romania, with whom ethnic conflict remains with Russia over Transnistria and other parts of Moldova, we are interested in Bulgaria as a stable ally – a territorial foothold in the Balkans leading to Serbia. But what do I mean by a stable ally?

Maintaining the integrity of current Bulgaria also makes no sense for Russia, for us. No matter what we say about the sympathies of ordinary citizens, Bulgaria the country is a constant traitor to Russia. In its current form, it will only be an enemy. Breaking up Bulgaria is also impossible. But it has to be taken out of Western hands. Bulgaria needs to return to the camp of allies. On one condition – that she will leave the EU and lose its independence, or betray Russia again. 

Bulgaria has become an economic, social, and political victim of the European Union. In the EU, nothing lights up Bulgaria. In fact, she has the status of an internal colony. The destabilization of the internal situation with the advent of “friendly” forces and exit from the EU and NATO together with Greece – this is not a bad scenario for Bulgaria and the current Balkans in general. 

At the heart of all this strategy is the Odessa region. If Russian troops will stand on the Danube in Odessa, relations with Bulgaria and Greece will be different. Again, the question of a crisis of the Eurozone lies in its ability and desire to influence Bulgaria and Greece and pay for them. 

In connection with Odessa region and further work concerning Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, it is necessary to pay attention to three rather large Russified diasporas in the CIS, which are already growing into a larger Russian nation: the Bulgarians, the Greeks, and Moldavians. 

In the case of a realization of this scenario, Russia will again be in the Balkans. The road to Serbia will be opened and from there to Central Europe as well as to the Mediterranean sea. The age-old Russian dream can come true! Russia will return to the position of the 19th century after the Russian victory in the Russo-Turkish War.  What is needed, of course, are not merely the straits and Balkan states, but the possibility to realize our projects through the Balkans. 

The scenario of restart-partition-liquidation can be applied not only to the countries of the South-Eastern wedge. It might turn out that crisis will overtake such a stable and friendly country as Belarus. In Belarus, there is a growing nationalism with the connivance of the authorities, and it is difficult to exclude a victorious Maidan. Then, Russia will also have to take the unpopular step of either supporting a friendly regime “by bayonets” (yes, yes, alas, this is realistic), or liquidating the country and including it in Russia, possibly not even entirely. Conflicts in Latvia and Estonia are not excluded, but they are more of distractions. 

I would like to note that similar to the restart of nation-states, there is the strategy of creating a buffer of quasi-states, such as Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, DPR, and LPR, which, while having limited effectiveness, are more like a blind defense. What is needed is a liquidation of hostile nation-states in their present form, and if it impossible to liquidate them, then restart them. The further fate of such titular nations for Russia doesn’t matter, as many of them are artificial and deliberately anti-Russian projects. 

Russia belongs to the same civilization as the countries of Eastern Europe and, as a rule, to the confession of the Orthodox Church, but this does not play the main role in civilizational identity. We bring together three of the main components of civilization – Slavic origin, Orthodoxy, and a socialist past, as well as the gloomy reality of being a Western colony. 

Russia is an active center of this civilization, and the other countries of Eastern Europe, as a rule, are a periphery of this civilization, but closer to the world center than Russia.

Eastern Europe is a native zone for Russia, from which it has almost been squeezed out. The greatest civilization identity against the West has been kept by South-Eastern Europe and the Balkan-Carpathian region.

Russia cannot seriously affect the situation in Europe without having a strong influence on the countries of Eastern Europe, or at least on a part of them. The sanitary corridor excludes this. If it is not punched, Russia will be pushed into Eurasia, into the sphere of China. 

Today, there is a strong, irrational fear of the instability of states, but it is in fact the stabile states of Eastern Europe which are carrying out subversive activities against the Russian world and the interests of Russia. So the choice is obvious. 

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