Intervention is actually a mild word if one wishes to describe what Moscow has been up to lately with its push to have citizenship granted to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians living in the historical Russian “near abroad.” That near abroad not only includes the Baltic States, illegally occupied after WW II, but also countries that ended up being part of the Warsaw pact or under “indirect” Soviet rule, countries such as Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Associated Press writers Maria Danilova and Gary Peach addressed the implications of the Kremlin’s strategy in their article written for the wire service “Russia hands out passports, stirs fears in West”, published on February 22. As of the writing of this article, the AP report has, to the best of our knowledge not surfaced in mainstream newspapers. But it should, and let us hope it will.
Danilova and Peach outline the strategy of Russia using Western rules while holding fast to historic Russian intentions: those would be military, empire building intentions. This time the cannons and AK-47’s are made of stiff paper and coloured cardboard. The weapons are passports.
Danilova and Peach write, that according to the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) Moscow has issued nearly 2.9 million passports to “former Soviet citizens.” The FMS has not broken down the numbers to indicate whether or not since the fall of the Soviet Union some of those nearly 3 million ex-Soviet citizens have returned back to the rodina.
To quote an entire paragraph from the AP report:
“ Some fear Moscow will use its growing expatriate communities to meddle in the domestic policies of countries near its borders, or - as in the case of Georgia - as an excuse for military intervention. But the Kremlin says it is granting passports to Russians abroad for humanitarian rather than political reasons, to help Russians trapped in other countries after the breakup of the Soviet Union.”
An educated reader would find that term “trapped” more than ironic as well as proof of clever and typical Russian desinformatsiya, playing to a sympathetic and politically correct western world.
Danilova and Peach consider Estonia to be a “flashpoint,” this because the nation has “made clear it’s nervous about its large ethnic Russian population.” The AP writers note that Russians living in Estonia were denied (emphasis EL) automatic citizenship after Estonia’s regained independence in 1991. Furthermore, many Russians are “so-called ‘noncitizens’ who must pass a language exam before receiving an Estonian passport.”
And consider also Ukraine: the authors note that it has been estimated that about every 10th resident of Ukraine, or approximately 200,000 people hold dual Ukrainian-Russian citizenship. Dual citizenship is, however, against the law in Ukraine.
The AP writers simplify the issue somewhat by suggesting that the passport and dual citizenship issue is one of economics. They use Narva as an example, which thanks to Soviet policies is today a predominantly ethnic Russian city. Danilova and Peach note that Narva residents holding both a Russian passport and Estonian non-citizen paperwork (resident) can travel throughout the Schengen zone. The article quotes a Narva resident saying that even this advantage makes him feel like a “second class citizen.”
In Ukraine Moscow is “trying to do the same thing they did with Abkhazia and South Ossetia – establish legal grounds, at least in the Russian legal system, for intervention. Whether that be economic, political or military” the authors cite Peter Zeihan of Stratfor as saying.
But the most chilling for those of us living in the complacent west to read are the final two paragraphs of the lengthy AP article:
“Many remain convinced that Russia’s true motive in handing out passports outside with its borders has to do with politics and power. 'If there are some 200,000 Russian citizens living in Estonia, Russia will have the basis to intervene,’ said Sergei Stepanov, an ethnic Russian resident of Narva and noncitizen. “Who will stop them?”
Exactly the point. The politics of intervention require a measured but firm response from the West. Time to have an educated and reasonable intervention of our own.
Politics of intervention