Updated at 20:14,02-06-2020

Expert: In case of conflict escalation with the EU Russia will swallow Belarus first

Sergey Kozhukov, EuroBelarus

For Putin’s regime, EU’s disintegration to the state that it used to be in before the World War II is an ideal variant. EU can have a sparring dialogue with Russia; but most separate countries can’t.

Crimean wars is a long history that can be called an eternal damnation in relations between Russia and the Western countries, assumes Sergej Sumlenny, the head of the Heinrich Boell Foundation Representative Office in Ukraine. He stated that at the conference “Political techniques in modern authoritarian regimes as a challenge to transformation” that took place on November 27 in Minsk.

Let us recall that the event was organized by the Center for European Transformation (Belarus) with the support of the International Consortium “EuroBelarus” (Belarus, Lithuania), and Heinrich Boell Foundation (Germany).

“When in March 2014 Russian intervention into Crimea took place and when people without distinctive signs on them appeared there, for Russia it became a certain revenge for humiliations that the West inflicted earlier in these wars”, - Sumlenny said.

The political scientist noted that during he Crimea’s annexation by Russia he worked in Moscow and was able to observe the escalation of nationalist hysteria. “It was happening before my very eyes: “Putin “cries” with the heart-shaped Crimea in the background; patriotic youth that allegedly has no connection to the state structures has colored a lot of firewalls in the colors of the Russian triumph. Whereas the West perceived the history of Crimean invasion with decent amount of non-understanding as to what was happening”, - he said.

As a result, Vladimir Putin’s approval rate that balanced at 40% then, immediately soared to 60%. And this was happening at the same time as economy was steadily falling for some years in a row; however, the fulfillment of a demand for a nationalist triumph was doing Putin good.

"We shouldn’t think that the occupation of the Crimea was a sudden turn in Russian politics, - emphasized Sumlenny. – Before the Crimea Russia has consistently been creating an instability zone in the post-Soviet region to the south of Russia: the conflict in Georgia, the instability in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations, and the establishment of the Transdniestrian People's Republic, where Russian troops are still deployed."

"I believe that the Russian policy –aggressive, nationalist, imperial, and chauvinistic - directly develops from the experience of the conflict in Transdniestria in 1992. Dmitry Rogozin, who was in charge of the separatists in Poland, is now occupied with defense orders and military-technical cooperation. Last autumn he was the organizer of the in conference in St Petersburg, which brought together representatives of the neo-Nazi organizations from all over the world, "- the analyst said.
According to him, Russian policy, as was most clearly demonstrated after the annexation of the Crimea, is aimed at creating consistent hotbeds of instability in Europe, on consistent support of the most radical parties around Europe. "Neo-Nazi parties in Europe often inherit the mythological ideas about the lost territories. There’s no doubt they find the issue of Crimea’s return to the Russian Empire close. For example, for some time Germany used to be a little more than it is today. That’s why right-wing Germans like Putin a lot, assuming that Russia’s aspirations in Crimea is the natural desire of Russians", - the expert said.

What does this situation mean for Belarus and Europe? Firstly, Sumlenny stated, we shouldn’t forget that, for example, the idea of a war with Europe on Russian state TV is not so taboo. For example, on May 9 one of the Russian TV channels made a report about how "fantastically Russian troops can punish the European deniers of the Soviet Union's role in the World War II and sent Russian tanks to march on Berlin for the second time." "If you look at the map, you’ll see that the road to Berlin lies through Belarus and the Baltic States", - the analyst underlined.

The experts associate the reason for supporting radical European parties on the part of the Russian authorities with Russia's desire “to create numerous hotbeds; to support groups that want to escalate the chaos and who fight for radical ideas."

"It is necessary for Russia for many ideas. On the one hand, it supports their radicalism. On the other, it weakens their own opponents in the face of traditional politicians like Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande. Since while demonstrations of neo-Nazis are roaring close by there is somehow no time to argue with Putin. This is mutual interest: the Russian side gets support of the Western progressive politicians, while the European far-right parties are supported with the Russian money, sharing of experience, learning new technologies, and a meeting place", - Sumlenny claims.

At the same time, the expert said, such policy is also related with the Russia’s attempts to maneuver when it comes to sanctions. "We know what Russian politics were doing ahead of voting on introducing the EU sanctions. They were trying to get round the Greek delegation, saying that if it votes against the sanctions, Greece will be given a privileged position in the EU-Russia relations", - the expert reminded.

What dangers does such situation suggest for Europe? "Firstly, it is an imbalance of political debate. If the influence of radicals is growing and reaches 20% of the population, you cannot, for example, have a normal political debate on refugees. Secondly, it is a deliberate discrediting of moderate politicians by the Russian authorities. And it is the wish to insulate small countries. There is nothing more terrible for Lithuania than the fear that the fifth article of the Charter of NATO (an armed attack against one or more NATO countries will be considered an attack against organizations in the country as a whole) won’t work. There is nothing worse for Slovakia than the situation when the EU doesn’t show its solidarity in case of an influx of refugees", - said Sumlenny.

The expert believes that Russia's policy is the desire to "divide the EU and transform it into a conglomerate of countries, most of which can’t have a sparring dialogue with it." "The EU can have a sparring dialogue with Russia; but Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, and Slovakia can’t. The perfect picture of Putin's Russia happens when Russia supports radical European parties. Because For Putin’s regime, EU’s disintegration to the state that it used to be in before the World War II is an ideal variant. In case of Belarus it means that if conflict escalation with the EU happens Russia will swallow Belarus first”, - the expert is convinced.