While the world sits in disbelief at major political events taking shape in Eastern Europe, over Syria, and in Turkey, many geopolitical analysts believe that everything is connected to what Vladimir Putin delivered in his state-of-the-nation address 10 years ago.
In April 2005, Vladimir Putin declared to the Russian people that the collapse of the USSR is considered to be the century’s major geopolitical disaster. Putin, addressing the Russian parliament and the nation’s top politicians, further commented that tens of millions of co-patriots and co-citizens are now living outside the borders of present-day Russia. He also believes that the disintegration of the former Soviet republics has reached ‘epidemic’ proportion that is now threatening the entire country.
The lost glory of the former USSR, with many of its so-called Soviet republics breaking away as independent nations, has been considered by many world leaders and political analysts as the major impetus for Russia’s involvement into Ukrainian incursions and the Crimean invasion.
In the early turn of the century, Russia was doing great economically. Putin was successful in making some transitions into a market-based economy. When the state took control of privately-run Yukos in 2003, it signaled the state-takeover of major energy players in Russia. Putin wanted these companies under full state control, the way the former Soviet Union did. With the Great Russian Recession in 2008, the nation’s financial markets plummeted, draining more than 1 trillion USD and severely exposing Russia’s over-reliance on a single commodity – fuel.
By 2014, after being embroiled in a war of words with Kiev and occasional show of force, Putin finally laid claim to Crimea, citing Crimea as technically a province of Russia. The world responded by putting economic sanctions on the already-dreadful Russian economy. With the US embargo and other countries following suit, Russia’s second wave of recession has been sealed. Putin believes in the glory of the former Soviet Union never to submit to Western sanctions. Thus, Russia issued countersanctions and began a more aggressive stance towards the possible annexation of Ukraine. Its military has been flying in certain NATO-controlled airspaces in what many analysts believe as fishing for a confrontation.
The Soviet Union has always been epitomized as anti-US and anti-Western. As such, many geopolitical analysts believe that Russia’s involvement in world events where the US or its Western allies are involved is more often seen as championing the cause of other countries – mostly Arab countries – who share the same negative sentiments towards the US and its allies. While the Syrian conflict is generally considered a civil war, Putin more than happily obliged to send in his troops after Damascus’ official request. Many believe that this is simply a formality for the Russian military to come out from its clandestine operations in Syria. Russia’s involvement in Syria is widely seen as more political than it is merely military support.
Political experts believe that Putin’s maneuverings in the Arab state is one way of projecting the lost glory of the former Soviet. Other analysts say that Russian involvement in Syria and the region is more of a cover for its annexation of Crimea. With the world’s attention drawn to the tensions rising in the region, especially with the Turkish shooting down of one of Russia’s fighter planes, more and more people are forgetting what they did to Ukraine and Crimea.
There is only one thing that is in Putin’s mind: bring back the glory of the former Soviet Union as a mighty super power able and capable of standing up to the US and its allies. If he cannot do it economically, he might as well do it the way Russia has been known for all along – its military expansionism. Call it a much warmer edition of the Cold War.