Tuesday 26 August 2008

Medvedev's vision?

With the official recognition of the Georgian breakaway regions, the Russian President made himself heard all over the "Western" part of the world.

One question I keep asking myself is: What is the vision behind this step? I do not really see the strategic value of the recent military and political moves of Russia.

On the short term, everyone can see that the Russian bear can still bare its teeth. But on the medium term, Russia starts to lose its strongest power basis (beside the gas): The division within the European Union.

This EU division on the question of how to react to Russian tactics, provocations, and human rights abuses was one of the major obstacles of quick reactions from the block of the 27. Cumbersome diplomatic compromise formulas by the 27 member states could take weeks to materialise and Russia could bask in that indecisiveness while already preparing the next move. Russia could play with the internal division of the European Union, keep its diplomats busy with internal nonsense, and distract it from the real issues.

Additionally, Russia is also strengthening NATO. Some of us were thinking of NATO as an outdated instrument of the Cold War (despite the recent developments, I still do), but our arguments are losing in strength. It is not that I think that Russia would start a more open military aggression towards its western neighbours, but when it constructs itself as the old antagonistic force relying on 19th and 20th century big power politics instead of post-1990 trade-and-talk routines, it will face an antagonistic reaction that cannot be in the political and especially not economic interest of the country.

So where is Medvedev's and Putin's Russia heading? Does Medvedev need these foreign policy steps to consolidate his internal power by replacing the strong man's image of Putin by a similar picture with his own face in the centre? In this case, this will just be a phase until he has build up this position. Or is this really part of a strategic move by the 21st century Russia to reposition itself on the world stage? In that case, Russia would either need a policy of self-sufficiency or it will have to look for new partners such as the post-Olympic China.

But honestly spoken: So far, I do not have the impression that these moves are part of a greater vision. And maybe, that is the most dangerous thing for the whole of Europe.