Where Is Putin’s Next Target?

Mar 12 2014 @ 11:38am

Ioffe explains why Putin’s aggressive concern for Russian minorities doesn’t extend to the Baltic countries, where they actually face serious discrimination:

[W]here is Putin when you need him? Where are the Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms patrolling the streets of Tallinn, the referenda to join Russia, the town square electing marginal ethnic Russians to public office? And what, if you want to be cynical about it, of Estonia’s strategic importance? Think of Estonia’s prime access to the Baltic and Russia just happens to be building a northern gas pipeline to bypass Ukraine.

But Estonia, you see, is part of NATO. As is Latvia, as is Lithuania. And NATO has been stepping up air patrols in the region in the last week. So is it about protecting Russian speakers, or is about getting away with whatever you can get away with?

But Ed Morrissey points out that Moscow is planning to offer citizenship to Russo-Latvians:

This attempt to destabilize Latvia by making a quarter of its population Russian citizens gives away Putin’s game. It also serves as a direct affront to NATO and the West. Ukraine never did join NATO, but Latvia formally joined in 2004, as did its Baltic neighbors Lithuania and Estonia. Lithuania has a minimal ethnic-Russian population — less than 7% of its population — but Estonia’s population is 25% ethnic Russian. It’s no small wonder thatall three nations are now “jittery” over an “unpredictable” Russia[.]

Kazakhstan and Belarus, Adam Taylor reports, have reason to be nervous:

The Kremlin has justified the use of force in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine with a vow to protect ethnic Russians, an excuse that’s easily applied in other places. In Kazakhstan, there’s a significant minority of ethnic Russians in the north of the country, [director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution Fiona] Hill points out – some 24 percent of the country is said to be ethnically Russian, and the language is widely spoken. While Belarus has fewer ethnic Russians (8.3 percent), it has largely become a Russophone state and there are a lot of murky questions about who might succeed Alexandr Lukashenko. Of course, Russia has agreed to respect the sovereignty of both countries, but they did that with Ukraine, too: The 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which Russia says they are ignoring due to the change in government in Ukraine. Neither Kazakhstan nor Belarus has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the states that broke away from Georgia, by the way.

Peter Eltsov and Klaus Larres believe Putin is foolish to assume that those who speak Russian identify as Russians:

Many Russian-speaking people living in Ukraine and in many other post-Soviet states no longer consider themselves Russian. This illustrates a truth regarding national identity: Things change fast. Punjabis from Lahore and Amritsar speak the same language but have distinctively different national identities: Indian and Pakistani. Bangladesh is even younger that Pakistan, yet it did not take long for its citizens to acquire a new identity. During the last four to five decades many, if not most, of the three-million-plus Turks living in Germany lost much of their Turkish identity. In particular, this applies to those under 30. They sway to and fro between two cultures, whether or not they have obtained German citizenship.