Military Review

Are there limits to the influence of Russia?

Dimitar Bechev, a well-known political expert, devoted his new analytical article to the growing influence of Russia in the Balkans. In his opinion, the growing military power of Russia promises "consequences" for the security system of individual members of the NATO alliance and the entire alliance.

Dimitar Bechev is a researcher at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies at the University of North Carolina and a freelancer at the Atlantic Council. In his new article for "The American Interest" He notes that in the games that Russia leads, it is rather building a strategy on the use of opportunities, that is, it is an opportunist, rather than acting as a puppeteer, pulling puppet strings. At the same time, if we touch South-Eastern Europe, it should be noted: Moscow’s increased military power means “far-reaching consequences” for the security of NATO members, whose borders pass through the Black Sea, as well as for all of NATO.

Russia's influence in the Balkans is “real” and “easy to observe.” Both before and after the Ukrainian crisis, this influence affects the region in a variety of ways. Russian oil and gas companies, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft and LUKoil still play a huge role in local energy markets, despite the local “resistance” they have, and the tightening of European legislation aimed at encouraging competition and diversifying supplies. The “cult of Vladimir Putin,” the author notes, and solemn statements about the “rebirth of Russia on the world stage” are regularly made headlines in the press.

Russia is putting pressure on both Europe and America - on two guarantors of the order of security in the region. Intense political competition encompasses a vast arena. Despite hopes of relieving tensions and even some kind of “grand deal” with Russia, which for some reason are “advertised” by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, the upcoming political contest is not expected to end. Here it is important to avoid “lazy thinking”, the author points out, and it is important to discern the perspectives of the “Russian challenge” and clarify its limits.

There is no return to the cold war, says Bechev. In Southeastern Europe, there are neither blocs nor any alliances that would oppose each other. And this already means dissimilarity with the recent Soviet past. Moreover, Russia has neither permanent allies, nor a coordinated ideology that would be supported abroad and which could be “exported”. Moscow is not able to create a basis for economic integration, for example, to expand the Eurasian Economic Union in the Balkans by joining Serbia, Republika Srpska, Macedonia or anyone else. Even the “best friends” of Moscow in the region are economically not towards Moscow, but towards the European Union, recalls the analyst. These same "friends" continue to pursue "positive relations with NATO and the United States," he points out.

Russia, in turn, is improving its fighting skills in this arena, without, however, trying to “establish its hegemony,” the expert believes. A certain very “ambitious” enterprise would prove to be prohibitively expensive for Moscow. The Kremlin would not have received "returns" from this kind of "investment."

Of course, there is some similarity with the cold war. And yet “we are not witnessing the“ Back to the Future ”scenario, the analyst believes. Returns to the era of geopolitics "big game" no. Even in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Russia had a much greater influence in the Balkans in comparison with the present day thanks to its constant military intervention and the very structure of Europe at that time. But in those years, Russia "by no means" was an important economic factor. In our days, the author continues, Russia, on the contrary, uses a “much more efficient instrument” in the form of energy enterprises and in the form of financial investments in the region. Whether it is the South Stream gas pipeline or sanctions against Turkey in 2015, the economy plays a central role in Russia's relations with South-Eastern Europe.

A broader context deserves special attention here: “an unprecedented degree of interdependence and border permeability in Europe after the 1989 of the year”. Tighter connections were formed between societies, financial institutions, firms, government agencies, the media, and so on, not to mention the Internet, which greatly contributed to the development of Russia's ability to influence events in the context of "soft power."

In the Balkans, Russia, according to the expert, has the following goal: “to undermine and destroy existing institutions and rules introduced by the West”. Bechev also emphasizes the “fact”: Russia “does not act alone.” She always had "supporters and fellow travelers." They "cooperate with Russia, promoting their own political and economic interests." It is noteworthy that some of these Russian partners were previously considered pro-Western. Some examples: Milorad Dodik from Republika Srpska, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Nikola Gruevsky in Macedonia. Others, however, moved in the opposite direction, rejecting Russia and integrating more fully with the West (Milo Zhukanovich in Montenegro). Russia's policy, therefore, can be based only on opportunities (be opportunistic).

The “footprint” of Russia in Southeastern Europe, which increased dramatically in the 2000s, became more noticeable only recently. This happened "thanks to a confrontational turn in relations between Moscow and the West." This is due to many factors, including the "desire of Putin's regime for internal legitimacy before the fact of a stagnant economy and a reduction in public confidence in the system." In addition, the Kremlin seeks to “uphold Russian interests in a growing multipolar, but uncertain world,” characterized by the “chronic indisposition” of the European Union. Because of the "mechanics of power politics" or because of the "internal factors", Russia is even ready to "challenge America and its allies." Moscow is eager to become an "international compiler" of the agenda, and not those who dance to someone else's tune. Fears of Western plots of “color revolutions” and “Maidan” within Russia itself, writes Bechev, form “foreign policy thinking of Putin and his inner circle.”

Moscow operates in other regions. However, its "military intervention in Syria" has not yet received recognition in the Middle East. In the United States, the question of Russia's alleged interference in elections and cyber espionage is still acute.

As for post-communist Eastern and Central Europe, including the former Yugoslavia, it is “an obvious goal” for Putin. The same with Turkey: Moscow has the means to take advantage of Ankara, destroying its relations with the United States and the European Union. Western sanctions and a sharp drop in oil prices weakened the Kremlin, but he still knows how to play influence games and how to exploit weaknesses and opportunities on the periphery of Europe.

And it cannot be said that the Kremlin is seizing the opportunity ineptly. Across Europe, there are enough people who want to join his game: they want to enlist the support of Russia to achieve their goals. This behavior is “not unique to Southeast Europe, where historical ties with Russia, admittedly, play a role. ” Therefore, Putin "has his followers" in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Austria and, not least, in Germany. Regardless of the political climate, there will always be players who want to do business with Russia, Bechev concludes.

Can the current Russia "undermine the inside" of the European Union, starting the game with "relatively vulnerable south-eastern states"? Probably not. First, the Kremlin does not seem to have a consistent model that is “exported” outside the post-Soviet space. Neither the “managed democracy” nor the “sovereign democracy” of the first two periods of Putin’s rule, nor the later theses on conservative values ​​and religion, nor the statement about Russia as a “unique civilization opposing global liberalism” does not work These ideas have many supporters throughout the European Union, from Belgrade to Ankara, from Sofia to Budapest. All these “dysfunctional” democracies and retreats to authoritarian politics are “home-grown diseases”, and not the results of the “sinister Muscovite” activities, D. Bechev ironically.

Nevertheless, “Putinization” is a threat, he said. Therefore, you need to clearly find out who the "real Putinizers." More importantly, the following: Russia, apparently, does not have economic resources for expensive “ideological crusades”. Yes, the European Union may be depressed when faced with a series of existential crises, but it still has “charm” thanks to its market, significant financial transfers and, to a lesser extent, the strength of its fundamentals.

The only question is that for the European Union, where it has always been difficult for Member States to “speak with one voice” in relation to Russia, and for the United States it is difficult to reconcile the “right balance” between the containment of Moscow and its involvement in its orbit.

In the meantime, Southeastern Europe will sail "over the dark waters" of this political contest. For the most part, the expert believes, the states of the region will still bow to the West, but will keep the doors open for Putin. The owner of the Kremlin "would be stupid" not to use this situation. However, the tango dance together.

The analyst, we note, highlighted not only the economic weakness of Russia, which prevents it from “reigning” in any region, and even in the world, but also the weakness of the EU and the USA: they lack the “single voice” they would talk to Moscow . That is why, using the political weakness of the West, the “sinister Muscovite” is advancing on the world stage, and Russia's influence is growing every year. No wonder Bechev recognizes the threat of "Putinization".

Observed and commented on Oleg Chuvakin
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  1. Loess
    Loess 13 November 2017 18: 15
    to Europe, and to America - on two guarantors of security in the region
    I think that, for example, the Serbs are unlikely to agree with this statement ...
    1. St Petrov
      St Petrov 13 November 2017 18: 25
      guarantors of a new world order, if only yes. try to guarantee its safety.

      but something went wrong.

      Russian oil and gas companies, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft and LUKoil still play a huge role in local energy markets, despite local “resistance”

      Europe is a noble resistor. Gazprom will also be shown the best way to bypass

      economically gravitate not to Moscow, but to the European Union, the analyst recalls

      Of course, because the hand of the free market imposes sanctions on those who begin to rise as an alternative.

      However, “Putinization” is a threat, he said.

      what clowns are they. So pissing one specific person is strong. Vlad will force you before leaving and leave the other president with a good starting position in the international arena. 98 will be no more.

  2. Antianglosax
    Antianglosax 13 November 2017 18: 37
    The feeling that I read this article 100 times. Deja vu, however. Eh, not enough fresh thoughts, however.
    1. St Petrov
      St Petrov 13 November 2017 18: 52
      geopolitics, it generally turns. I think 100 years ago it was written about the same thing and the interests of the countries were similar.
  3. ImPerts
    ImPerts 13 November 2017 18: 42
    It’s good to sit in North Carolina and talk about fellow tribesmen. Dimitar Bechev, most likely a Bulgarian. Looks like everything in Bulgaria got better when they fell under one of the guarantors of stability.
  4. turbris
    turbris 13 November 2017 18: 52
    The West will not understand in any way that the economic factor is very important, but does not provide sustainable political influence. In Europe, spirituality almost collapsed due to following tolerance, which was specially raised to the shield in order to destroy the remnants of spirituality. The Catholic Church has lost its influence, Europe is still attractive, mainly economically, but many are already disappointed in Western values, so much happens there without any Russian influence.
    1. aybolyt678
      aybolyt678 13 November 2017 22: 17
      Quote: turbris
      Europe is still attractive, mainly economically,

      Western Europe will always be economically attractive. even when the Notre Dame Cathedral will be called the Al Maria Ibn Issa Mosque
      1. turbris
        turbris 14 November 2017 11: 52
        I dare to object to you, the level of material well-being that is currently observed in Europe will be increasingly difficult to maintain and this will lead to its decline, taking into account the dynamically developing China and the ATO countries.
        1. aybolyt678
          aybolyt678 15 November 2017 21: 17
          Quote: turbris
          and this will lead to its fall, taking into account the dynamically developing China and the countries of the ATO.

          China and the ATO countries are sitting on the needle of low added value. In addition, everything that they produce is done on automated and robotic lines produced in the USA. In every car and iPhone there is a share of the United States. and considerable
  5. Eurodav
    Eurodav 13 November 2017 19: 35
    Yes there is no limit and never will be! Example: Even DAM breaks their stereotypes and globalism !!!)))))
    1. ImPerts
      ImPerts 14 November 2017 12: 52
      Well, at least that made me smile good
  6. enmesher
    enmesher 13 November 2017 20: 58
    I think the level of secondary authority of GDP is now equal to the level of authority of Stalin in the 40s. Moreover, the reign is also the same for them (15+). All this hysteria around Russia is exactly repeated both at the historical and political levels. It is not known whether the war will begin, but the outcome of the war can be predicted by reading the history textbook ...
    1. aybolyt678
      aybolyt678 13 November 2017 22: 22
      Putin created his own authority on the basis of the oligarchy, and Stalin created a state system from the world of fiction, which had been functioning for a long time.
  7. Overlock
    Overlock 13 November 2017 21: 33
    Quote: enmesher
    I think the level of secondary authority of GDP is now equal to the level of authority of Stalin in the 40s.

    it's you, old man, bent!
    1. enmesher
      enmesher 14 November 2017 12: 01
      Not quite correctly formulated, sorry. He had in mind the authority of GDP in foreign policy ...
  8. aybolyt678
    aybolyt678 13 November 2017 22: 31
    Are there any limits to the influence of Russia? Of course there is a limit - it starts where Russian oil and gas end
    1. turbris
      turbris 14 November 2017 12: 00
      Well, do not repeat these stamps about the gas station, then add grain to the same pile. Russia is developing (thanks to the sanctions) and in the near future the economy will become more balanced. And the impact, I repeat, depends not only on the economy. Why is the US so disliked in the world? Everything seems to be in order with the economy.
      1. aybolyt678
        aybolyt678 15 November 2017 21: 25
        Quote: turbris
        Why is the US so disliked in the world? Everything seems to be in order with the economy.

        And who loves whom? Who does Russia love in the light of the past 20 years? and who said that the United States does not like? Does Iran love us? there are many questions. Regarding the gas station: Well, we sold 100 million tons of grain abroad, although much less actually, even for a ton for every Russian, 12 thousand rubles for each !!! in year! laughing a neighbor bought a duster .. gave lyam,. I bought a phone for my daughter and gave 15 thousand, and I have two daughters. And at daughters on chewing gum apiece per month leaves. So the capitals are running. Without a state ideology, without closing borders - not enough
        1. turbris
          turbris 16 November 2017 10: 23
          Strange as it may seem, you combined Duster and the telephone with ideology and border closure. Who said that the United States does not like - the countries of the Middle East and South America and many others, even those that are economically dependent on the United States. But the point here is not in love, but in influence, and it invariably falls. And your neighbor could buy a domestic car, cheaper and in quality, about the same thing, that’s why he would support the auto industry and there’s no need to close the borders. It’s strange that everything is bad, but the neighbor lam saved up, is that how?
          1. aybolyt678
            aybolyt678 16 November 2017 13: 55
            Quote: turbris
            It’s strange that everything is bad, but the neighbor lam saved up, is that how?

            I sold the old one, took a loan, everything is as always .. The point is that when buying anything imported, we infringe on the domestic in exactly the same amount. The task of any state is to protect the domestic market. Just like that, everything will close the stench will be scary !! and if you start with ideology, give it legal force, and in the wake of Patriotism it can