If you listen to the conservative news in the United States today, one idea will surely jump out at you. Russia is ‘winning,’ and the United States is ‘losing.’ Russia has asserted itself as a key actor in the Syrian civil war, illegally annexed Crimea, continues a low-intensity conflict in Eastern Ukraine, used cyber warfare to hack into and publish incriminating documents, and has used propaganda to incite dissent and question the Western narrative and fact based media.
But is Russia winning everywhere? Or just where the Kremlin wants us to look? Let’s take a look;
Since gaining their independence from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro has continually moved closer to the EU and NATO. Today, Montenegro is the process of joining NATO. If confirmed, Montenegro will be the 3rd country from the former Yugoslavia to join NATO, after Slovenia and Croatia.
Despite a failed assassination attempt of the former pro-western Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic by pro-Russian nationalists, Montenegro currently awaits the approval of 5 more NATO members before it can join the military alliance.
If Montenegro joins NATO, it is all but certain it will seek EU membership next. This will be a considerable loss for Russia, a country who is a self-declared defender of the Slavic people and its values. In Russian, Yugoslavia means south (YUG) slavia/slavic (SLAVIA). And the spread of Western values and institutions into Russia’s perceived Slavic backyard may result in an increase of tensions between the Kremlin and Washington. But regardless of whether or not tensions increase, the acceptance of Montenegro into NATO is an unmistakable loss for Russia if another state from the Balkans drifts away from the Kremlin’s orbit.
Still to this day, Russia resents the American led bombing and intervention in the Balkans against the former Serbian President, Slobodan Milošević. And the expansion of NATO and the EU in the Balkans is extremely polarizing to the Kremlin.
As noted in an earlier blog post, Kosovo and Serbia are also experiencing tensions at the moment as well.
Amid an announcement by the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to abolish the requirement of visas for 80 countries (including the US and the EU), Russia retaliated against its long standing partner. As a way to punish Belarus’ liberalization, the Kremlin has cut its flow of cheap subsidized oil to Belarus, as well as stopped importing Belarusian food into Russia.
And although I discussed in an earlier post why Belarus is so important to Russia, it will be critical to the Kremlin that it does not overplay its hand and choke Belarus to such an extent that it runs open-arms to the EU.
Georgia, a country bordering Russia in the Southern Caucasus, was recently accepted into the European Schengen zone. The Schengen zone allows those that live within its boundaries to travel visa free between the participating countries.
And of course Georgia is also the country that was engaged in a conflict with Russia only 9 years ago over the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. But having already felt the wrath of the Kremlin in 2008, Georgia still chooses to pivot away from Russia despite the consequences.
So it would appear that the Kremlin is capable of losing too. Well, so long as you are actively looking around the world for examples and you do not take the Kremlin’s propaganda at face value.
- Montenegro may join NATO
- Belarus, may wish to move closer to Europe as the relationship between itself and Russia grows increasingly volatile
- And Georgia, the initial canary in the coal mine in terms of signaling Russia’s new and aggressive foreign policy, still chooses to pivot away from the Kremlin once more