2008 August 18 Monday
Passport Weapon For Russian Expansion

Here's your term for the day: Passport Diplomacy. Will Russia target Ukraine next with passports and then a move to protect Russian citizens?

Mr Medvedev also sent an undisguised message to other ex-Soviet countries thinking of challenging Russia's authority.

"If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens and escape unpunished, we will never allow this," he said. "If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response. We have all the necessary resources, political, economic and military."

Russia justified its invasion of Georgia in terms of defending its citizens of South Ossetia and Abkhazi - although it only gave Russian passports to the inhabitants of the two provinces five years ago. In the past week Ukrainian politicians have claimed that Russia has been doling out passports to residents of the Crimea, which has strong allegiances to Moscow, raising fears about the Kremlin's intentions in the region.

One Ukrainian member of parliament says the Russians are handing out large numbers of passports on Sevastopol.

Mykola Stretovych, an MP with Ukraine's ruling orange coalition, claimed that Russia was engaged in a massive operation to hand out passports in Sevastopol, home to 400,000 people, many of whom have historic ties with Russia.

Anatoly Gritsenko, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament's national security committee, launched a probe into the claims which, if true, would represent "a threat to national security", he said.

While President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia certainly blew it by sending troops into South Ossetia my fear is that Russia was just looking for an excuse to invade and even helped provoke Saakashvili. Putin was already very mad at the prospect of NATO membership for Georgia.

Three weeks later, Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia’s “red lines,” according to an administration official close to the talks. Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, “He’s been very truthful and to me, that’s the only way you can find common ground.” It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia’s anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.

If the people in control of Russia are executing a plan to rebuild the Russian Empire then Ukraine seems like a logical next target. The Russian speakers in Ukraine are an even higher percentage of the population than those classified as Russian.

Officially, 17.3 per cent of people living in Ukraine are ethnic Russians (around 8 million people). But more have Russian as a first language and they are concentrated in the east of the country, which nationalists in Moscow argue is culturally indivisible from the old Slavic motherland. Ukrainian nationalists vehemently disagree. The same goes for Belarus (official Russian population: 11.4 per cent, around 1 million people).

The Baltic states also have substantial Russian populations.

But the greatest tensions are in two of the Baltic States: Latvia (29.6 per cent Russian) and Estonia (25.6 per cent Russian). Although they formed part of the Russian empire in the 19th century, the Balts broke away when the Soviet Union was formed and were only forcibly reassimilated during the Second World War. Stalin then waged a brutal demographic war, shipping ethnic Latvians and Estonians to Siberia, and settling Russians in their place.

The Ukraine needs to negotiate a redrawing of borders that shifts Russians into Russia. Only then can Ukrainians feel secure within the borders of Ukraine. The Russians in the Baltic are more recent arrivals and paying Russians to leave the Baltic nations probably is the best way to assure territorial integrity of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

Demographic wars matter most in the long run. America is also in a demographic war of its own and America's most productive people are losing our demographic war.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 18 09:47 PM  Russia

Vicente Cueto said at August 19, 2008 2:41 AM:

As part of the plans of Stalin towards Soviet Russia, the russification of invaded countries (excomunist) was implemented. In latvia where I live, in one single night in March thousands of persons were sent out to Siberia to die in the cold and later russian populatin was moved to occupy the territory of Latvia. It happened the same in all the countries invaded. That's the reason russians are in those countries.
The conduct to follow is easy to imagine: a threat to russians in ANY of those countries (should I think, even a far country like USA is a target in the future, depending in the sociopolitical conditions?) is the key to an invasion like in Georgia these days.
Russia Government don't act (that we must understand) like a modern State but like a Government from the Past: Medieval or Imperialist (Peter the Great, Stalin are the models to follow for Mother Russia) its not a govenrment that uses the flag of freedom or democracy like USA. It's not a government that moves showing political abilities but imposing by force and showing off as in the past centuries or in the recent Soviet Union.
The declarations of the russian generals differ from the way american generales state their position: menacing. Nowadays the only ones that understand with whom they are dealing with are the excomunist countries (the prefer to be called "captive" countries), for they know all the "benefits" of a russian government. NATO is weak like Europe in terms of shy to act and prefers (seems so) to let americans initiative in so doing (Condolezza demanding a meeting in Brussels...the american representative MOVING the europeans to do something...). In the end. Only the USA is the country that can restablished the balance of power worldwide. Europe is weak...

Stephen said at August 19, 2008 3:20 AM:

I've sometimes wondered why Stalin (a Georgian) had it in for people like himself.

The east europeans do appear to have a predilection for the do-it-to-them-before-they-do-it-to-you variety of government.

Kenelm Digby said at August 19, 2008 4:05 AM:

Talking of Russian passports, there was a time (1948 - 1961),when great Britain gave out passports like confetti, in fact every former subject (1/3 of the world's population)of the former British Empire were entitled to them.
The end result is a Latvian like situation where at least 25% of the modern 'British' population is not in fact ethnically British.

Randall Parker said at August 19, 2008 7:43 PM:

Vicente Cueto,

What is amazing to me about Russian imperialism at this point is how much they are engaged in imperial overreach:

1) Russia does not have the demographics to maintain empire.

2) Russia does not have a wealth source sustainable enough to maintain empire. Their oil fields are going to decline.

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