The crises in Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh and Kyrgyzstan took the Kremlin by surprise. Vladimir Putin finds himself on the defensive to preserve Russian interests in the former Soviet republics and his image as a master tactician on the international stage.
In Belarus, Vladimir Poutine responded to the protest movement by supporting Alexander Lukashenko, at the risk of opposing public opinion previously considered favorable to Russia.
In Kyrgyzstan, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov declared himself “Ready to resign”. Moscow, which has a military base, supports the efforts of Omurbek Suvanaliev, the man who took control of the country’s powerful security services (GKNL), “To stabilize the situation and avoid chaos ».
In the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russia, which arms both sides, sees its room for maneuver reduced by Turkey’s play.
« These three very different crises have no direct link but they show the limits of a rigid policy that has not taken into account the evolution of societies, as well as the rise in power of other actors such as Turkey. , Iran and China in the post-Soviet space, analysis Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean, director of the Russia Center at the French Institute for International Relations (Ifri). Instead of anticipating, Moscow was content to manage the status quo and frozen conflicts with the sole aim of preventing these countries from joining alliances considered hostile. In addition, Russia is relatively poor and lacks levers. Hence his prudence and his wait-and-see attitude. »
Discrepancy between rulers and ruled
In the former Soviet republics, as in Russia, the authorities’ management of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic difficulties have exacerbated the gap between rulers and ruled. The new independent states have different trajectories, but they are less and less bound by the Soviet heritage. ” With the exception of Turkmenistan, these countries are no longer closed. New generations have access to the outside world through travel, the Internet and social networks, emphasizes Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean. In all of these countries, there is an aspiration for more transparent and less corrupt governance that respects human dignity. This is obvious in the case of Belarus. »
The Russian preponderance in its ” zone d’influence »Threatened? At the end of June, in a ballot without suspense and without opposition, Vladimir Poutine obtained, with more than 70% of the votes, a reform of the Constitution which allows him to remain in power after the end of his mandate, in 2024. In Russia, the strong man of the Kremlin remains behind in the management of the health crisis which did not produce the announced catastrophe. The population no longer has an appetite for new foreign military adventures and wants the authorities to focus on economic and social issues. Despite a strong erosion of his popularity, the president controls all the levers of power and locks the political space.
Red line in Belarus
For Putin, Russia has lost Georgia and Ukraine and there is no question of accepting in Minsk the same scenario as in Kiev. The rapprochement with the European Union and NATO remains a red line. ” Putin’s foreign policy paradigm has not changed and it is very emotional for him: to prevent the West from interfering in the sphere of Russian interests. Says Tatiana Stanovaya, a non-resident researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Therefore, the crisis in Belarus is, in his eyes, “The most important for Moscow”. “Putin considers Belarus to be part of ‘Greater Russia’ and puts pressure on Lukashenko to accept integration with a common currency and central bank”, she recalls. In Nagorno-Karabakh and Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, Russia’s geopolitical interests are less directly threatened.. “Russia and Turkey have different interests”, adds Tatiana Stanovaya, “But that does not prevent them from finding compromises, even in very hot situations like in Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria and Libya ».