The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 25

Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn. Their advice, in
a spring 2013 report, “Building Mutual Security in the Euro-
Atlantic Region,” included the establishment of a new, high-
level “Euro-Atlantic Security Forum” to promote core security
interests throughout the region. Common to this report and the
2002 book on the same subject is the notion that this geographi-
cal construct should be thought of as a single security space in
the long term.
The Permanent Revolution
Back in February 2005, alluding to recent unrest in Georgia
and Ukraine, Putin speculated that some nations “are doomed
to permanent revolution. ... Why should we introduce this in the
post-Soviet space?” The answer, of course, is that those govern-
ments refused to meet pent-up demand for changes, leading to a
series of political explosions—which Putin accused Russia’s old
antagonist, the United States, of fomenting.
Putin’s belief in American complicity in the “permanent
revolution” had first surfaced during a Nov. 26, 2004, press
conference inThe Hague. Discussing the Orange Revolution in
Ukraine, he remarked: “We have no moral right to incite mass
disturbances in a major European state. We must not make solv-
ing disputes of this nature through street disturbances part of
international practice.”
Such warnings about permanent revolution stemmed from
his perception of Russia’s weakness and its possible fragmenta-
tion. On Sept. 7, 2004, after terrorists killed nearly 400 people,
many of them schoolchildren, in Beslan, North Ossetia, he said:
“Some would like to tear from us a ‘juicy piece of pie.’ Others
help them. They help, reasoning that Russia still remains one of
the world’s major nuclear powers, and as such still represents a
threat to them.”
Later in the same speech, Putin remarked: “We are living
through a time when internal conflicts and inter-ethnic divi-
sions that were once firmly suppressed by the ruling ideology
have now flared up.” Russia had not reacted adequately to these
new dangers, he lamented; instead, “we showed ourselves to be
weak. And the weak get beaten.”
In other words, Moscow must show itself to be tough, even
at the expense of its own best interests. Any step back from
dominance over the new nations of “post-Soviet space” would
be tantamount to encouraging the disintegration of the Russian
Federation itself. Similarly, compromises with Russia’s enemies
are a slippery slope that can only lead to a serious weakening of
its international and domestic position.
A New Iron Curtain?
The last straw for Putin was probably his conclusion that
the West was determined to prevent him from realizing his
vision of a Eurasian economic bloc, dominated by Russia, that
would include at least Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. When
Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, seemed
ready last fall to sign an association agreement with the Euro-
pean Union, Moscow pressured him to reverse the decision.
Putin saw an American hand behind the resulting popular upris-
ing that ousted Yanukovych.
A desire to have friendly neighbors on one’s borders is not
unique to Russia, of course. Nor is it unusual for a powerful state
to expect that its opinions and interests will exert considerable
influence on the policies of neighboring states. But there is a
line beyond which a special relationship becomes domination.
If things remain as they are in Putin’s Russia, the reality of a
continent divided will congeal, leaving most of the newly inde-
pendent republics trapped on the other side of the fence from a
democratic Europe.
This appears to be exactly what the Putin Doctrine is
intended to achieve. Writing in the July/August issue of
eign Affairs
, Alexander Lukin, vice president of the Diplomatic
Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that
some in Moscow are searching for an ideological foundation for
a Eurasian union. Lukin wrote that the distinctive value system
of Eurasian people had helped Putin “succeed in establishing an
independent power center in Eurasia.”
Putin and the “siloviki”—his former colleagues in the KGB
who now occupy key positions in the Russian government—are
disposed to confront Washington if American activities seem
to be encouraging too much independence within “post-Soviet
space.” Putin’s rollback of the democratic institutions in Russia
that his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, had encouraged underscores
the fact that joining a Western-oriented community is not one of
No government likes to borrow trouble from the future, and
democracies, including the United States, are very poor at setting
strategic priorities and sticking to them.
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