- Critical sections of Russia’s international security architecture would be dismantled if Armenia and/or Belarus sided with the West
- This would expose Russia to geostrategic vulnerabilities that were unthinkable just a year ago
- These changing circumstances can work to tip the strategic balance against Russia and towards the West
- Could run the risk of leading to the dismemberment of Russia itself, which remains the sought-after ‘final solution’ for Western policy makers
The New Cold War, despite only "officially" being a little over a year old, has already seen its fair share of dynamic developments, some of which had been totally unexpected. These include the Ukrainian Civil War, the sanctions war, the death of South Stream and birth of Turkish (and perhaps Balkan) Stream, the US’ flipping of Cuba, and failed American threats against Vietnam, to name some of the most newsworthy.
Given all the action that’s unfolded in such a short period of time, it’s likely that the momentum will continue and more dramatic surprises will certainly await.
Two of the most shocking events that could possibly happen by the end of the year would be the defection of Armenia and Belarus to the West and away from Russia. While it may sound like the realm of political fantasy to some, a closer examination of key statements and developments reveals that it’s uncomfortably not as far-fetched as one would initially like to think.
US Grand Strategy
The US is reviving two concepts from the last century in an effort to promote its quest for unilateral dominance in the current one, hoping that the combined interplay of both resurrected strategic doctrines will weaken and eventually dismember the Russian Federation:
The Asymmetrical Neo-Barbarossa
The US has structurally commenced a North-to-South offensive against Russia on geographic par with the one that was initiated by the Nazis in World War II, the pivotal difference being that it remains asymmetrical and has yet (key word) to transition into conventional, direct aggression.
Washington is capitalizing on a mix of interrelated advantageous factors such as the Soviet dissolution, NATO expansion, and EU enlargement. Here’s what it looks like in detail, moving from North to South along Russia’s Western flank:
The states of Greater Scandinavia have recently formed the Viking Bloc, the northernmost component of NATO’s new strategy of regional fighting blocs. This sub-regional military organization is meant to aggressively confront Russia in both the Arctic and Baltic, behaving overly assertive due to their knowledge that the US nuclear umbrella covers most of their members.
Everyone is already familiar with the Ukrainian Civil War and the causes behind it so there’s no need to redundantly describe it, but what’s less known is the formation of a Commonwealth Bloc between Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine.
These three states, two of which are NATO’s most anti-Russian members, are coalescing together over the historical lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and providing backdoor Shadow NATO membership to Kiev (which for its part, now officially wants to join the bloc).
US aims in this region include the expansion of destabilizing "missile defense" installations in Romania (which might one day be outfitted with offensive missiles to target Crimea) and the agitation of the Transnistria conflict in Moldova.
Since Romania is a littoral Black Sea state, the expansion of its naval capability under American stewardship could present a tantalizing workaround for circumventing the Montreaux Convention’s limitations on out-of-regional warships (read: American) in the Black Sea.
The ideal end game for the US is to create a Black Sea Bloc centered on Romania and including Bulgaria, Moldova, and perhaps even Georgia to create complications for Russian policy in the region.
Georgia’s steady march towards NATO is alarming to Russian policy makers, and the intensification of the country’s Shadow NATO integration poses serious headaches for the already convoluted Caucasus.
Just like Romania, Georgia by itself poses no significant threat to Russia’s interests, but when it takes on the role of regional node in a larger, coordinated North-South strategic offensive against Russia, that’s when the real problems for Moscow begin.
As icing on the cake, both Brussels-based organizations have an overlap of geopolitical interest in the Neo-Barbarossa, focusing intensely on Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Each of these states has signed their own Association Agreement with the EU, and per the so-called “Ukraine Freedom Support Act” signed last December, the US also recognizes all three of them as major non-NATO allies. Thus, one can see a clear pattern of the EU’s Eastern Partnership evolving from an economic battering ram into a military one for use against the Russian Federation’s interests.
The Neo-Reagan Doctrine
As the author wrote about in a previous article focusing on Central Asia, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a 21st-century modification of the Reagan Doctrine in order to disrupt Russia’s post-Soviet integration plans. Clinton had threatened to destroy the Eurasian Union back in December 2012, one year before EuroMaidan broke out in Kiev, when she warned that:
There is a move to re-Sovietise the region, It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that, but let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.
As the author remarked at the time, “This is none other than a 21st-century application of the Reagan Doctrine, whereby the US will now seek to aggressively roll back Russian influence in the Near Abroad instead of Soviet influence across the world”, which is exactly what happened in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia through the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.
While the specific template of the Neo-Reagan Doctrine can be adapted and improvised for forthcoming circumstances, thus far it appears as though the Eastern Partnership will continue to lead the way in destabilization along Russia’s Western reaches.
Counting The Consequences
Aside from the scenario of a Western-staged Nagorno-Karabakh Continuation War, there are several other serious consequences for Russia if Armenia and/or Belarus pivot to the West. Here’s what Moscow can expect if either of them breaks ranks:
The Eurasian Union Crumbles
It’s been Russia’s plan all along that the Eurasian Union members would eventually enter into a free trade area with the EU through a bilateral agreement between both blocs, but if Armenia and/or Belarus jump the gun and try to do this on their own, then it would ruin this opportunity for Russia and its associated economic partners. As such, it would deal perhaps the greatest blow to the fledgling economic group that it received thus far, and embody the spirit of Hillary Clinton’s Neo-Reagan Doctrine.
The CSTO Cracks
The movement of Armenia or Belarus closer to the West may foreshadow their self-distancing from the Russian-led CSTO defense apparatus as well, thus initiating a crisis within the organization and raising questions about its overall cohesiveness and solidarity.
Historical record from the 1990s and early 2000s clearly indicates that countries pursuing warmer relations with the EU simultaneously did so with NATO, and there’s nothing to suggest that this pattern won’t continue into the future with either of the two potential pivot states.
Geostrategic Vulnerabilities Widen
Critical sections of Russia’s international security architecture would irrefutably be dismantled if Armenia and/or Belarus sided with the West in the New Cold War, thereby exposing the country to geostrategic vulnerabilities that were unthinkable just a year ago. These changing circumstances can work to tip the strategic balance against Russia and towards the West, possibly even ushering in emboldened asymmetrical offensive operations that could run the risk of leading to the dismemberment of Russia itself, which remains the sought-after ‘final solution’ for Western policy makers.
The New Cold War can succinctly be described as the efforts of the West to dismantle Russia’s peripheral economic and physical security before striking straight at the core of the targeted state itself.
The massive asymmetrical North-South offensive undertaken in the past year reminds one of the infamous Operation Barbarossa that the Soviet Union had to defend against over 70 years ago, albeit this one has been slowly in the making ever since 1991.
The US has more motivation than ever to destabilize the Eurasian Union due to the coordinated integration that it will be pursuing through China’s Silk Road projects, as proudly announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Victory Day visit to Moscow.
While it remains possible that Russia can weather the blow of both Armenia and Belarus simultaneously straying from its intimate sphere of influence if it came to that worst-case scenario, it would still seriously destabilize Russia’s interests and offset its strategic balance against the West in two key theaters. Additionally, even if the full-fledged anti-Russian political pivots never reach fruition, the fact that two formerly trusted Russian allies are flirting so intensely with the West puts Moscow on the relative defensive of having to re-secure its partnerships and perhaps even compete for their future loyalty.
No matter which way one tries to spin it, Armenia and Belarus’ advances towards the West in the context of the New Cold War surely create complications for Russian foreign policy and have the disturbing and very realistic possibility of devolving into nightmare scenarios for Moscow and the future of the multipolar world.