Letter From the Editors
This week saw two historic meetings in Moscow. May 16 marked the CSTO summit commemorating the 20th anniversary of this post-Soviet alliance. Then came the first-ever meeting between the leadership of Russia’s Security Council and the heads of 96 diplomatic missions of foreign states in Russia. Judging from coverage in the Russian press, the latter was a golden opportunity for the council’s bigwigs to lecture the world about how the US cannot be trusted. For example, Deputy Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Venediktov drew oohs and ahs when he showed a map of American biolabs throughout the world. According to him, the locations of these 400+ facilities suspiciously coincide with the outbreak sites of new, dangerous diseases.
Demonization of the US was also the theme of an Izvestia interview with Russian Federation Council leader Valentina Matviyenko: She blames the current outbreak of “Russophobic hysteria” on the US and NATO, as they pressure the rest of the West to follow suit – including Finland and Sweden, which have now applied for NATO membership. Matviyenko expresses a dim hope that “the current European politicians can remove the blinders from their eyes and stop tailing after the US.”
Interestingly, this Western solidarity is stirring up mixed emotions in the post-Soviet world. At the aforementioned CSTO summit, Belarussian President Lukashenko even expressed admiration for NATO, lamenting the CSTO’s relative lack of unity: “Can we say today that we still stand together in our organization, that we are still bound by bonds of solidarity and support?” Citing the fact that most CSTO states abstained from recent UN votes condemning Russian actions in Ukraine, he answered his own question: “It doesn’t look like it.” By contrast, Lukashenko continued, “NATO has strong internal solidarity, and we need to follow its example.” In his opinion, a show of solidarity with Russia by the CSTO would have mitigated the impact of this year’s sanctions.
In the economic sense, writes Stanislav Pritchin, the rest of the post-Soviet space – especially Central Asia – is stepping in to fill holes created by Western sanctions. For example, Kyrgyzstan is acting as a financial intermediary, exchanging dollars for rubles; and Uzbekistan has started delivering automobiles to Russia. However, Pritchin continues, they are limited politically in the amount of support they can offer: “The countries of the region continue to come under intense pressure by the US and its allies, who are carefully watching for any attempts to bypass sanctions.” Thus, the former Soviet republics are caught in a dilemma “between boosting cooperation with Russia by taking advantage of this window of opportunity or scaling back their level of interaction with their biggest partner to their own detriment.”
This observation is in line with the opinion expressed by Andrei Kortunov: “The fact of the matter is that Russia will have to gear up for a protracted confrontation with the newly consolidated ‘collective West.’ . . . Luckily, the modern world is far broader than the ‘collective West,’ even if the latter has once again become aware of its common historical destiny.”
Matviyenko in her interview seemed to question the very idea that the West has such a common destiny. Citing former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov’s order to turn his plane around on the way to a US visit when he learned that NATO had started bombing Yugoslavia, the parliament leader said that European countries should make their own “U-turn over the Atlantic” to defy American pressure. Perhaps the future of our planet will be decided not by bloc confrontation, but by the decisions of smaller nations that can take their own strategic turns to chart an optimal course.