2015 and Russian Catapult
New year’s eve a year ago: none of us could foresee where we stand with Russia after a year. The escalation of the kind of politics we all thought was part of distant history, not of future, took all of us by surprise. We are back in the situation what Yuliya Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine, describes in her recent op-ed article in Gulf News as her outlook for next year: “ 2015 could mark the return of an European and world order that was supposedly overcome seven decades ago”.
To be clear, we are back in power politics. An Ukrainian friend told me last summer: he strongly believes Putin has no other interest but to turn Ukraine into a vassal state and restore a Russian veto over its neighbor’s international relations. In other words: no European future for Ukraine. A full stop to Ukraine in its search for democratic and economic development through leaning on West.
In order to have perspective to all this, let’s take another perspective on recent history. There is no coincidence in the fact that China’s extraordinary spurt through the roof in their economic performance started to take shape right after the Soviet Union collapse in early 1990’s. Indeed, one of the greatest security risks China had before that event was indeed its border with Soviet Union. We can be sure China’s leaders understand this very well and it is not in their interest to let world fall back in the situation of those days. Chinese are certainly struggling with growing uneasiness with Putin’s imperialism and, consequently, China’s lending to Russia has already started to decline.
Even more important is, however, what happens in 2015 for European and US resolve to stand up for the legitimacy of their sole existence in the face of Russian power politics. I am talking about three mental cornerstones here: freedom to express oneself, social justice for all in terms of equality and belief in collaborative market economy. To safeguard these precious fundamentals, Europe and US may have sharpen their policies to help Russian leaders to understand that we are not reliving the old times. What is most important here is that there is a full support to Ukraine in their search to claim their basic right, to be fully sovereign and independent state that decides upon their own matters.
Here we turn to nasty economics: the more there is dependence on Russian energy supply the more Russia can still dream on acting as if three generations of European peace (leave out Balkan) have never happened. Obviously, in this situation, the most stupid thing you can do is rush to build even more ties Russian supplies and increasing the dependency ratio. But that is exactly what Finns did, with the blessing of their Parliament, by approving the plan to establish new nuclear power station built on Russian technology.
You may ask at this point, as one of high foreign diplomat did to me in Helsinki some weeks back: what on Earth Finland is doing? Why they do want to give signal to the Russian elite and to the world that contemporary Russian power politics is just fine? The truth is, hardly anyone outside Finland understand this. To be honest, I feel ashamed. The question banging in my head is: how naive and stupid can you get?
Finally, we need to consider how long Russian people will bear the wrecking of their economy in the face of Putin’s imperial ambitions? What will happen in 2015 if Russian economy will deepen its downswing and the security of Russian folks, after 20 years of market economy, is swept down the drain? I bear great deal of empathy towards Russian people who suffered so much under Soviet rule and now again are facing situation where their interests are forgotten.
Let us hope 2015 will bring some light to their tunnel as well.