The illusion of Russia’s weakness
One demonstration of the fact that this task was successfully achieved are the myths that are still alive among some Western analysts and pro-American Russian “opposition”. For example, if Russia opposes another instance of Western adventurism, it is “bluffing to save face”, the Russian elites are totally dependent on the West because “their money is there”, “Russia sells out its allies”.
However, the myths of “rusty rockets that do not fly”, “hungry solders building dachas for generals”, and about “economy in tatters” are essentially gone. Only marginals believe in them, who are not really incapable, but are too afraid to acknowledge the reality.
These very illusions of weakness and readiness to back off that fooled the West into belief that the Russian question is solved and prevented it from rapid political and economic attacks on Moscow, gave the Russian leadership the precious time for reforms.
Naturally, there is never too much time, and Russia would have preferred to postpone the direct confrontation with the US, which started in 2012-13, by another 3-5 years, or even avoid it altogether, but the diplomacy won 12-15 years for the country – a huge period of time in today’s rapidly changing world.
Russian diplomacy in Ukraine
To save space, I will give just one very clear example, most relevant in the current political situation.
People still blame Russia for not counteracting the US in Ukraine actively enough, for failing to create a pro-Russian “fifth column” to counterbalance the pro-American one, for working with elites, rather than with the people, etc. Let us evaluate the situation based on real capabilities, rather than wishful thinking.
Despite all references to the people, it is the elite that determines the state policy. The Ukrainian elite, in all its actions, has always been and still is anti-Russian. The difference is that the ideologically nationalistic (gradually becoming Nazi) elite was openly russophobic, whereas the economic (comprador, oligarchic) elite was simply pro-Western, but did not object to lucrative links with Russia.
I would like to remind you that not somebody else but representatives of supposedly pro-Russian Party of Regions bragged that they did not allow Russian business to Donbass. They also were the once who tried to convince the world that they are better for Euro-integration than nationalists.
The regime of Yanukovich-Azarov precipitated economic confrontation with Russia in 2013, demanding that despite signing the treaty of association with the EU Russia retained and even enhanced favorable regime with Ukraine. After all, Yanukovich and his fellows in the Party of Regions, while they had absolute power (2010-2013), supported Nazis financially, informationally, and politically. They led them from marginal niche to mainstream politics in order to have a convenient opponent in the presidential elections in 2015, while suppressing any pro-Russian informational activity (not to mention a political one).
The Ukrainian communist party, while retaining pro-Russia rhetoric, never had a shot at power, and played a role of convenient loyal opposition indirectly supporting oligarchs, channeling protest activity into venues safe for any (including current) powers.
Under these conditions, any Russian attempt to work with NGOs or to create pro-Russian media would be perceived as an encroachment on the rights of Ukrainian oligarchs to rob the country singlehandedly, which would cause a further drift of the Ukrainian officialdom towards the West viewed by Kiev as a counter-balance to Russia. The US would, quite naturally, see it as transition of Russia to direct confrontation, and would have redoubled its efforts to destabilize Russia and support pro-Western elites all over the post-Soviet space.
Neither in 2000, nor in 2004 Russia was ready to openly confront the US. Even when (not by Moscow’s choice) this happened 2013, Russia needed almost two years to mobilize its resources in order to give a strong response in Syria. The Syrian elite, in contrast to the Ukrainian one, from the very beginning (in 2011-2012) rejected the option of compromising with the West.
That is why during 12 years (from “Ukraine without Kuchma” action, which was the first unsuccessful attempt of pro-American coup in Ukraine) the Russian diplomacy worked on two key tasks.
First, it was keeping the situation in Ukraine in unstable equilibrium; second, convincing the Ukrainian elite that the West was a danger to their wellbeing, whereas reorientation towards Russia was the only way to stabilize the situation and save the country as well as the position of the elite itself.
The first task was successfully achieved. The US has managed to switch Ukraine from the multi-directional mode into the mode of anti-Russian battering ram only by 2013, having spent enormous amount of time and resources and having acquired a regime with huge internal contradictions incapable of existing independently (without growing American support). Instead of using Ukrainian resources for their benefit, the US is forced to spend their own resources to prolong the agony of the Ukrainian statehood destroyed by the coup.
The second task has not been accomplished due to objective (independent of Russian efforts) reasons. The Ukrainian elite turned out to be totally inadequate, incapable of strategic thinking, of evaluating real risks and advantages, but living and acting under the influence of two myths.
First – the West will easily win in any confrontation with Russia and share the spoils with Ukraine. Second – no effort, except the unwavering anti-Russian position, is necessary for comfortable existence (at the expense of Western financing). In the situation of choice between orientation on Russia and survival, or siding with the West and dying, the Ukrainian elite chose death.
However, even out of negative choice of the Ukrainian elite the Russian diplomacy managed to get maximum advantage. Russia did not let itself be sucked into a confrontation with Ukrainian regime, instead forcing Kiev and the West into the grueling negotiation process on the background of a low-key civil war and excluding the USA from the Minsk format. By focusing on contradictions between Washington and the EU, Russia managed to burden the West with Ukraine financially.
As a result, initially consolidated position of Washington and Brussels disintegrated. Counting on a politico-diplomatic blitzkrieg, the European politicians were not prepared for a prolonged confrontation. The EU economy simply could not support it. In its turn, The US was not ready to accept Kiev exclusively on its own payroll.
Today, after a year and a half of efforts, the “old Europe”, which determines the position of the EU, such as Germany and France, has abandoned Ukraine completely and is looking for a way to extend a hand to Russia over the heads of the pro-American Eastern European limitrofes (Poland and Baltics). Even Warsaw, which used to be the main “advocate” of Kiev in the EU, openly (although semi-officially) hints at the possibility of dividing Ukraine, having lost the faith in the ability of the Kiev authorities to keep the country together.
In the Ukrainian political and expert community hysterics about “the treason of Europe” is growing. Former governor of the Donetsk region (appointed by the Nazi regime) and oligarch Sergey Taruta states that his country has eight months to exist. Oligarch Dmitry Firtash (who had a reputation of the Ukrainian “king maker”) predicts disintegration as early as in the spring.
All this, quietly and imperceptibly, without using tanks and strategic aviation, was achieved by the Russian diplomacy. Achieved in a tough confrontation with the block of most powerful, militarily and economically, countries, while starting from a much weaker position and with the most peculiar allies, not all of which were or are happy about growing Russian power.
Breakthrough in the Middle East
In parallel, Russia managed to return to the Middle East, retain and develop integration within the post-Soviet space (Eurasian Economic Union), together with China roll out a Eurasian integration project (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), and initiate via BRICS a global integration project.
Unfortunately, limited space does not allow us to discuss in detail all strategic actions of the Russian diplomacy for the past 20 years (from Primakov until today). A comprehensive study would take many volumes.
However, anyone who would try to answer honestly how Russia managed within 20 years, without wars or upheavals, to rise from the state of a semi-colony to the state of a recognized world leader, would have to acknowledge the contributions of many people on Smolenskaya Square (where the Foreign Ministry is located – translator’s note). Their efforts do not tolerate fuss or publicity, but without blood and victims yield results comparable to those achieved by multi-million armies in many years.
Rostislav Ischenko, analyst of “Russia Today”.