"Moscow's geopolitical significance plummeting"
    Political analyst Petro Oleshchuk talks to Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  16 March 2023 - 15:00

    Vadim Mansurov

    Hybrid war, a proxy influence of Russia or its direct military invasion into the territory of the CIS countries with the aim of creating a kind of "USSR 2.0" - a scenario that is being discussed by analysts and experts around the world after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. And the main question is who will be next. Time brings changes: Russia's military expansion in Ukraine has clearly stalled, and it is already clear that Moscow is forced to fundamentally reconsider its plans, and the intention to absorb the neighbouring states, if that was in the Kremlin's plans, is certain to be reconsidered. In addition, many analysts are convinced that even with the failure of the Ukrainian blitzkrieg, Moscow has not lost its ambitions, and attempts to annex any CIS country could take place in parallel with the "SMO". The only question is the form of the invasion and the force of the pressure.

    Ukrainian international expert and doctor of political sciences Petro Oleshchuk states that as far back as 2021 the Kremlin voiced its intention to bring back the entire former USSR and even the former Warsaw bloc under its control. But as the political scientist notes, the Kremlin was preparing a different scenario for each country which includes conventional, hybrid, and proxy war tools. However, in any variant, at the first stage, Moscow will set the task to crush the appropriate state, annex some of its parts directly and put loyal politicians on the "right" political path somewhere. Well then, according to Oleshchuk, the Kremlin will rely on fear, intimidation, and propaganda under the slogan "so that such a war does not happen again".

    At the same time, in a conversation with Caliber.Az, the Ukrainian political analyst noted that now that Russia's influence in the South Caucasus region has noticeably weakened due to setbacks on the Ukrainian front, we can talk about a certain change in its intentions.

    "Of course, there were plans to establish control over all the republics of the former Soviet Union. That is, in some republics where the authorities would informally acknowledge Moscow's military and political dominance by concluding some defence treaties, and in other republics - in the form of direct occupation," the Ukrainian political scientist stressed.

    According to Oleshchuk, Russia's plans regarding, for example, Moldova, were most likely developed a long time ago and were a continuation of the plans to occupy Ukraine. And this plan was more similar to the Georgian plan: control over some breakaway regions and eventually establishing a regime loyal to Moscow, which would follow all the instructions of the Kremlin even without formal integration into Russia.

    "But since Russia's plans for Ukraine, it is now safe to say, have not been implemented and will not be implemented at all, they will have to adjust those plans somehow. Now it seems that all the plans consist simply of the idea of creating some point of instability in Moldova - to divert attention, to force Ukraine to concentrate its resources there," the political scientist suggests.

    As for the current situation in Georgia, according to Oleshchuk, Russia will put pressure on Tbilisi.

    "If even the government is not changed, but some agreements are made on the possibility of changing the government in future elections, this is very bad for Russia. That is why I think the Kremlin will put pressure on Georgian authorities to go the way of escalation. I have a suspicion that now there will be a situation similar to what happened in Ukraine in 2013, when everything started very peacefully, but then due to the pressure of the authorities, it turned into a revolution. I think that now it is important for Russia not to demonstrate weakness, in particular, that it is losing its influence in the CIS countries, so Moscow will put maximum pressure on the Georgian authorities so that they, in turn, exert appropriate pressure on the protesters in Tbilisi," Oleshchuk said.

    However, he noted that no matter how pro-Russian the Georgian authorities are, they should remember the fate of Yanukovych.

    "Therefore, I expect two tendencies: one from Moscow - to crush the protest processes, the other from Georgia - to win it all back with minimal losses for itself. It is difficult to say which of the two will win. Time will show", the Ukrainian political analyst believes.

    As for the South Caucasus, Oleshchuk has no doubt that Russia has long used the conflict over Karabakh as a means of pressure on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to maintain its influence there. But after it, involved in the war in Ukraine, and showed that it was incapable of solving anything anywhere, Azerbaijani-Armenian negotiations mediated by the West took place.

    "I think Moscow's geopolitical significance is plummeting, and the Russian leadership is becoming less and less concerned about the situation in the South Caucasus. And Yerevan will simply get out of Moscow's control because Moscow will not be able to promise or guarantee anything. And so Armenia will have nothing left but to settle relations with Azerbaijan under some kind of guarantee from another centre of power, for example, the US. I think that once Moscow starts to finally lose its influence in the world and its ability to add fire to all these conflicts in the post-Soviet space, Azerbaijan and Armenia will have a chance to permanently settle their relations," predicts the Ukrainian expert.

    As for the outcome of the war in Ukraine, Oleshchuk doubts that the "military hysteria" in Russia will stop and disappear on its own, even if the aggression itself ends in Ukraine and Russian troops return home.

    "They have so massively promoted their propaganda, put it at the service of this big war, that I simply do not believe in a subsequent 'peace of mind' in Russia. Russia will not be able to just admit the collapse of its geopolitical ambitions, I do not rule out the possibility of a repeat of the situation that occurred in 1917, when the defeat of Russian troops at the front launched a chain of global transformations in the country - a revolution, a civil war. Even if there is a change of leaders of the state, it will not end there. However, it is difficult to say so far, there could be many scenarios, what is important for Ukraine now is to achieve an end to the war, which would ensure stable movement towards European, Euro-Atlantic structures, and guarantees that the war in this format will not happen again. But for now, these goals can be achieved only in case of new military victories over Russia," Oleshchuk summed up.


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