Russia’s new imperial patterns in relations with neighbouring states 2008‒2016
Based on the current experiences – on the examples of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova – it can be concluded that Russia has got a systemic approach and long-term programme for drawing “near-abroad” countries into a dependency relationship and then politically realising this dependency relationship. To this is often added the advantage in terms of distance and history over other regional great powers in the realisation of its plans. Taking into account the rise of oil and gas prices in 2016, and Russia’s strategic ambitions, it is fairly rational to expect an improvement and wider use of Russia’s imperial pattern in 2017–2018, while for many target countries the situation is already complicated as it is and offers few ways for exit. Russia’s ambitions in the development of dependent partnership and achievement of political control concern in particular Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, but they have implications also on the Baltic states in so far as these patterns can be applied also to us, should favourable conditions arise.
In the light of the above, there is reason to analyse, on the basis of Russia’s new imperial behaviour pattern, where and with which methods Russia could create favourable conditions for the development of a next dependency partnership and the consequent achievement of political control, and to what extent that would concern Estonia.
What could be recommended to the victim countries and their allies in terms of solutions? Regardless of Russia’s behaviour, the potential target countries of “new aggression” can prevent falling into economic dependence on Russia with systemic activity and international support which would deprive Russia of the possibility of creating political instability in neighbouring countries in a longer perspective. Generally it is possible to escape dependence on Russia at a time when the federal budget of Russia is in deficit and domestic interests are a priority. At the same time it is complicated for the “victim countries” to exit an already deepening dependency relationship as they lack the economic means and political capability to reverse the process. Thus a decisive impetus should come from outside, for example from the European Union. In other words, if the European Union seriously wishes to support the aspirations of the former Soviet Union republics towards independence and democracy, this must be done more systematically and with better funding: if changes are desired, it is necessary to be more “present” in these countries in terms of both greater representation and a more convincing package. At European level, a greater understanding would be needed that, the better the “prizes” offered by the EU, the more complicated it will become for Russia to influence the victim countries. For example, there must be simultaneously an internal readiness to make quick and principled decisions, a functioning framework and a visible “saving package” for the country who wishes to become free from the dependence on Russia, as well as the readiness to use it.