It is true that the West did not keep its promises, reneging on its assurances that were held out to the Soviet Union just prior to the end of the Soviet Union. It is also a fact that Nato tried to encircle the second biggest military power on earth during and after the catastrophic decade of the 1990s when Russia suffered economic meltdown and internal strife. But is waging wars on smaller states and annexing their territories a way forward? Is staging sabre rattling to instill fear in the heart of neighbouring states’ leaders a prudent policy?
These are some of the questions that analysts sympathetic to Russia have been raising for some time. They agree with Moscow that the West is not trustworthy but they are not ready to buy the Kremlin’s argument that it has a right to go around invading smaller countries, snatching away their territories and incorporating them into the Russian Federation. Such an approach is creating an impression that Russia is becoming irredentist again, creating fears among the smaller states that have lived with the mighty power in peace for years now.
For instance, look at the reaction that the leaderships of Sweden, Finland and other smaller states demonstrated over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For decades they have had normal relations with Moscow, avoiding any confrontation with the second biggest military power. Even thousands of Soviet weapons could not create a sense of insecurity among them and they continued to maintain a neutral position during the cold war, striking a balance between the Western capitalist world and the socialist bloc.
But they were flabbergasted by the invasion, forcing them to rush towards Western capitals seeking to get membership of the Western military alliance in order to ensure their territorial integrity remains intact. Such an approach will not benefit Russia in the long run because it has prompted more countries to seek refuge under the umbrella of the military alliance that has been waging wars for decades, ravaging country after country.
Their inclusion in Nato is likely to create a ripple of excitement among the merchants of arms and ammunition who will seize this opportunity to churn out more weapons and destructive arsenals. This is likely to foment more tensions not only in Europe but across the world, creating a spectre of total annihilation which should worry every pacifist not only in the largest country on the earth but all parts of the world.
Many believe that the invasion of Ukraine was meant to help Russia secure an influential position on the global stage but what the leadership of the Slav nation should remember is: invasions never burnish the credentials of political leaders. They might extend some momentary benefits to them but in the long run they prove to be very catastrophic for the nation that is involved in militarism and jingoistic expeditions. Germany, Japan and Italy are modern examples of this. Their leaders manipulated the people, plunging them into a bloody conflict that brought nothing but humiliation, spelling disaster for them and other states of the world.
If Russia really wants to secure influence at an international level, it can be obtained by respecting the territorial integrity of its neighbours instead of threatening them or staging any saber-rattling. Such an approach will only create fears which will benefit the United States and the West that have been projecting President Putin and his cronies as the political maniacs who want to treat the former Soviet socialist republics as their satraps and vassals. Moscow needs to dispel this impression by ensuring that it respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all political units – big or small.
But in the long run only a socialist Russia can earn the type of honour and respect that Russian leaders have been yearning for since the end of the communist bloc. The Soviet Union may not have been a flawless state but at the global stage, it enjoyed the support of various developing countries that viewed it as a model during the decades of the 1930s and after World War II. The USSR not only granted greater autonomy to the nations that fell within its territorial jurisdiction but it also extended help and support to all states in the Global South that were fighting the Western imperialist countries that had subjugated the vast majority of humanity during the two terrible wars. Had the communist country not been there, more than 80 per cent of the globe would still have been in the clutches of the colonial powers.
It was the influence of the Soviet Union and the spectre of a communist revolution that forced many Western colonial powers to abandon their colonies. Moscow not only supported freedom fighters from Africa to Asia through diplomatic means but also extended military support in some cases. At the international level, the USSR was the only vocal voice for the oppressed colonies that had been ruthlessly plundered by the Western colonial powers. It was because of this approach of the first socialist republic that earned her respect in large swaths of the world.
It was not only the poor countries of the world where the Soviet Union enjoyed a lot of support but many parts of the Western Europe and the advanced capitalist world also had such pockets of support. For instance, Italy and France had large communist parties that were sympathetic towards Moscow. Similarly trade unions in the UK, Germany and other parts of Europe also looked to Russia for guidance, support and solidarity. Academics and several students’ bodies in the US also had a soft corner for the socialist republic.
It was not the military might of the Soviet Union that protected it from an insane American ruling elite in the aftermath of the devastating nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but the immense public pressure that was not opposed to war only but hated the very idea of any confrontation between Moscow and Washington. Many of those who opposed wars and conflicts were also sympathetic towards the USSR, asserting that a counter force was necessary to prevent the American war mongers who were advocating the use of nuclear might against Moscow.
So, if Moscow wants to earn the same respect then it must go back to its original roots, showing support to states that were reduced to ashes because of Nato and US invasions instead of carrying out military expeditions itself. It must align with the Global South ensuring the smaller states that its military might is not meant to threaten them but to counter Western hegemonic designs.
President Putin and his kleptocratic friends might be nostalgic about the Soviet Union but in reality, they despise the philosophy of the union which granted greater autonomy to the federating units of the socialist country. During that time Russians as a nation made tremendous sacrifices to uplift other regions of the union, offering their human resources for the development of the backward entities of the socialist confederation.
The Russian people must rise with the same spirit of internationalism and regional brotherhood instead of resorting to the rhetoric of nationalism. If they do favour internationalism, they would find sympathizers from Africa to the streets of Latin America. Workers, academics and oppressed nations all will support them. Russian salvation does not lie in support of the ultranationalists of Serbia or the extreme political leadership of Hungary but a true socialist internationalism, which is really the way forward for Moscow.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
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