From US to China, from Turkey to France, Russia is on a roll
A profound observation from Gordon M. Hahn; it seems that lately on the international stage everything has been going Russia's way. Whichever part of the globe one looks at things are getting better, not worse for Russia.
The 'Near Abroad':
In Russia’s main security zone and immediate sphere of influence – central Eurasia or the ‘former Soviet space’ – Russian continues to strengthen the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in what can be termed its ‘Eurasian-Asian pivot.’ Post-Ukraine Moscow won agreement from Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to join the EEU. Armenia even abandoned an EU association agreement it had been working on for years and officially acceded to the EEU in January 2015. Kyrgyzstan did so in August the same year.
In Eurasia writ large, Moscow has been able to tighten its ‘strategic partnership’ with China economically, politically, and militarily. Both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or SCO and Moscow’s farther-flung project BRICS are deepening ties with potential new members singing up observer members, expanding economic cooperation, and deepening military ties.
In October of this year Russia and India signed a series of military-industrial and civilian economic contracts, including attack helicopter and nuclear plant deals. The Kremlin has been careful not to step on India’s toes as it develops post-Cold War relations with Pakistan.
At the same time, Moscow has sterling relations with the world’s largest democracy because India, unlike the Western democracies, is not seeking to expand a military alliance into Russia’s sphere of influence. It has neither encouraged nor supported illegal, revolutionary seizures of power in states neighboring Russia.
Even in Europe, matters have been moving in Russia’s direction. Last month saw Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova and NATO and EU member Bulgaria elect pro-Russian presidents. In the former, all recent opinion polls show that the Moldovan population stands two-thirds opposed to the country joining NATO, and whereas a year ago it supported EU membership, less than half do now. Newly elected president Igor Dodon has set as one of his first three acts the closing of NATO’s office in Kishinev.
In France, November’s center-right primaries saw the victory of Francois Fillon, who, like his main competitor, former president Nikolas Sarkoszy, stood on a pro-Russian platform. When elected in May 2007, the latter took a pro-American position. Fillon is considered very pro-Russian, even a Putin admirer.
In Germany, center-left leaders want to abandon Berlin’s leadership role in leading European efforts to counter Russia such as the Eastern Partnership and NATO buildup in reaction to the Ukrainian crisis. They advocate a return to ‘Ostpolitik,’ with (West) Germany balancing between East and West.
The sharp turnaround in Russo-Turkish relations is yet another example of recent Russian foreign policy successes. Whereas before Russia’s intervention in Syria, Turkey was firmly following the Western line by backing the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, including its Islamist and jihadist elements, to the point of shooting down a Russian jet fighter earlier this year, now Turkey has apologized for the attack that killed a Russian pilot and begun to cooperate with Russia in the war. Moreover, on November 20th Turkish Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey is considering joining the Sino-Russian-led economic and increasingly military alliance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization .
In Syria itself, Russia’s air, ground and intelligence support has allowed Syrian government forces and allied partisans to roll back the opposition’s hold on Aleppo and other areas.
Last week, President Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe achieved a significant breakthrough in the seven decade-long dispute over the Kurile Islands taken by the USSR from Japanese jurisdiction after World War II. For the first time, Moscow and Tokyo agreed to engage in joint economic activity on the [Kuril] islands and declared their intent to do so as a first step in confidence-building towards resolving the long-standing territorial dispute.
The coup de grace, one with which Moscow had little to do, was the victory of relative outsider Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential elections. This change offers an opening through which Russia could consolidate all the gains mentioned above and then some.
Either the Russians are doing something right or this is one long lucky streak.