Eesti Elu
Experts report: Russia claims “near abroad” as a region belonging to its special interest (3)
Arvamus 27 Nov 2009  Eesti Elu
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Russia has not abandoned its claim to have special interests in the territory occupied by the former Soviet Union new research reveals.

A new report released in mid-November by the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn contains an analysis of documents covering Russian international politics and its behaviour internationally. The report concludes that the Kremlin aspires to superpower status. The first step in achieving this goal is to have unchallenged authority in the region.

The report was prepared by academics and analysts from six different organizations: the Latvian Central and Eastern European Centre for Political Research, the Geopolitical Research Centre of Lithuania, the International Political Association of Moldova, the Georgian International Geopolitical Research Centre, the Political Analysis School of the Ukrainian National University, and the Estonian International Centre for Defense Studies.

“In its relations with countries of the ‘near abroad’ Russia uses a wide spectrum of means ranging from economic sanctions against Ukraine to military force against Georgia,” the report states. But in the main, Russia utilizes more benign methods, supporting Kremlin-minded organizations in these countries to nurture favourable attitudes, opinions and conditions that lay a foundation for pro-Moscow change.

Russian non-governmental institutions and foundations are being used widely, especially in Moldova and Georgia to boost separatist feelings and to manipulate domestic politics in Latvia and Ukraine. Such Russian-based organizations are named as “defenders of compatriots’ interests.”

The research points out that, in championing human rights at international forums, Russia is attempting to strengthen its position in the post-Soviet regions. “This has been verified in the case of Moldova. In spite of the fact that Moldova has satisfied Russian demands in the treatment of Russians in Moldova, Russia continues to interfere in Moldova’s internal politics,” the report states.

To draw Russians in the “near abroad” closer to their motherland Russia is using all available tactics, including the mass issuing of Russian passports to all who apply.

Concurrently Russia is actively interfering in the integration of Russians into the societies of their countries of residence.

The report also points out that Russia’s values system is drawn on the interpretation of the events surrounding the Second World War. For this reason Latvia, Lithuania, Estonian and Ukraine are the targets of sharp criticism. To them Moscow’s version of the war is unacceptable, a version that denies the USSR’s role as the co-initiator of hostilities, as the repressive occupier of formerly independent and democratic countries.

In summary, the report states that to reduce risks emerging from Russia’s intentions and behaviour, it is essential that countries in the “near abroad” adhere to the European Union’s approach, which favours societal integration and democracy.
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