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Opinion / Editorial

Challenging Russian geopolitics

Challenging Russian geopolitics

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) known as the Soviet Union was constitutionally a socialist state extending into Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. With the exception of a few transitional periods (especially after the deaths of Lenin in 1924 and Stalin in 1953), The Soviet Union was a de facto dictatorship, with power centered around the General Secretary of the Communist Party, which became a prerequisite for leading the country. Vladimir Lenin founded the Communist Party in 1912, but spent in exile the years leading up to the Russian Revolution, while Germany would organize another return to Russia to oust them from the First World War. Lenin led the October Revolution to overthrow the Provisional Government that had overthrown the monarchy during the February Revolution. Lenin and the Communists very quickly consolidated power and eventually won the Civil War (1917-22). Lenin spent the last years of his life trying to shape the future of the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin then helped shape the new Soviet Union through the Russian Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War, and the invasion of Georgia. During this period, Stalin clashed with Lenin and other Soviet leaders over his violent ideology, strategy, and tendencies. After Lenin's death, Stalin amassed power and eventually became the undisputed leader in 1929. Stalin developed his economic policy of Collectivization and tried to industrialize the country. He purged, executed and expelled his enemies in Siberia. The Soviets and Germans signed a pact and agreed to divide Eastern Europe, then Hitler violated it and invaded the Soviet Union. But Stalin led the Soviet Union to victory in World War II over Germany. Georgy Malenkov, after Stalin's death, became the leader of the Soviet Union. He was a reformer, calling for cuts in military spending and easing political repression. This fact led to his downfall after Nikita Khrushchev organized a coalition depriving him of all authority as a leader. Nikita Khrushchev joined the Communist Party in 1918 and fought in the Red Army. Khrushchev quickly rose through the ranks of the KP during 1930-1940. Shortly after Malenkov took over the leadership of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev delivered a speech denouncing excesses under Stalin. The speech was the beginning of his de-Stalinization policy, which resulted in protests in Poland and Hungary which were suppressed. Khrushchev eased restrictions on free expression, released political prisoners, and embarked on bold but ultimately unattainable agricultural reforms. He tried to pursue a policy of peaceful coexistence with the West, but at the same time began producing missiles and building the Berlin Wall. Leonid Brezhnev, also built the BS army at high economic cost. During the 1970s Brezhnev pursued an open policy with the West in an attempt to normalize relations, but the costly Soviet decision to invade Afghanistan in 1979 ended pro-Western policy. Yuri Andropov led an anti-corruption campaign and ousted many party ministers and secretaries. He also reluctantly continued the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Konstantin Chernenko played a greater supportive role for labor unions and education and propaganda reform. He negotiated a trade pact with China but did little to escalate the Cold War, boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics and did not end the invasion of Afghanistan. Mikhail Gorbachev engaged in a space race with the United States to produce nuclear weapons that were costly to the suffering Soviet economy. Gorbachev managed to end the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1987. He worked to secure more freedom and reform for the Soviet people with his policies of glasnost and perestroika (opening and restructuring). In 1989 Gorbachev organized elections and demanded that KP members compete against non-members to establish a more democratic electoral system. He also abolished the constitutional role of the Communist Party in governing the state, which inadvertently led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Throughout the existence of the BS, influential policies would be a centralized program detailed and strengthened by Moscow with the aim of expanding and opening Moscow and placing under the Russian umbrella all border states and beyond. This program would remain even later, in the geopolitical DNA of the Russians, as we shall see! After the overthrow of BS, the dominant political and governing figure of Rep. Fed. Russian remains V. Putin. While the countries of the Eurasian region are led by their democratic governments, today Russian influence is still strong and diversified! This influence manifests itself in the forms of civilization according to the Russian model, the preservation of Russian identity and the re-creation of the former union through the Russian (Slavic) language and culture, investments in pro-Russian media, investments in energy dependence, military infrastructure investments, investments in security systems and services which make Russia responsible for border countries, as it once was. True, Russia's geographical "infrastructure" changed dramatically after 1991, but it remains the successor to the BS, as it has the strongest economy, the strongest army, the largest markets, the richest in natural resources and energy systems. Pursuing internal control at all levels and providing public support for closer political, economic, energy, religious relations with the former Soviet countries, Putin's strategy is to restore Russia as the region's capital. He is the engine of Russian military and foreign policy strategies based on his strategy on three principles: security-Moscow-Russia. According to him, the security system was the heart of the state, Moscow was the heart of Russia and Russia was the heart of the former BS. Cultural ties, ethnicity and especially the Orthodox Church also play a role in preserving and enhancing the post-Soviet identity. Geopolitically, considering the economy a geo-strategy with the region, Putin has invested in energy, security systems, making the surrounding countries dependent on Russia but also Russia to have deep control over aspects of the economic and political life of these countries! The mottos "Russia's job is business" and "what is good for Gazprom is good for Russia" are indications of the tendency to make Russia an economic superpower. For countries around Russia (not only), energy is a critical issue because it affects their economies and influences political discourses. Permanently, Russian hegemony has brought threat and consequences to peace and stability in the region and the west. Consequences in maintaining international norms, in the use of force against the EU, in Russian 'bilateralism' seeking to break European cohesion, in trying to create ideological alternative to the EU and in economic interactions npm import-export and the inclusion of technologies. The US and the EU should set strategies not towards Russia itself but towards the former Soviet states which want and seek the support of the West, seeing it as a way out of Russian tentacles and as a process of further advancing the internal democratic life. The EU should develop policies that exceed sanctions, reduce dependence on Russian energy resources, curb Russian production and supply autocratic countries with gold measures of mass destruction. Under Putin's leadership, Russia looks set to advance the project of ruling and controlling neighboring states, regardless of price. Other states of geostrategic interest to Russia may be targets of Russian hegemonic strategies. Russian actions and policies are a threat to international order and peace. Considering this risk, The US and the EU must formulate and enforce their strategy of maintaining peace and freedom in Europe and beyond! The cost of inaction will be really high.