G7 Summit, "Moscow's hand", and Ukraine's foreign policy

Oleh Bielokolos
14:00, 28 August 2019
Politics
643 0
Opinion

The question of whether it is possible to invite or not invite Russia to the Group of Seven doesn't really look too extraordinary for anyone who remembers that many wanted to see Putin at the 2016 Munich Security Conference. Rather, the current situation is a reflection of many historical trends and current political processes associated with the ancient phobias and present-day moods of the establishment and public opinion prevailing in many of the world's leading countries.

We, in Ukraine, should obviously be concerned about the future, and, as is often the case, we should look into the past to draw certain conclusions for ourselves.

Historians cannot clearly determine the time when the saying "Moscow's hand" originated, but there is a reason to believe that it gained ominous popularity in the late 1920s, attributing to the revelation of documents in Britain in 1927 where the activity of the Bolshevist Russia was exposed.

Although Soviet historiography claimed that these events were a "provocation of the reactionary circles of the bourgeoisie against a young Soviet Russia," subsequent events confirmed that almost immediately after the end of the Civil War, Moscow began purposefully setting up its clandestine network for the purpose of conducting provocations and propaganda moves to weaken the countries of the "Capitalist Bloc" from the inside.

A famous French historian François Furet in his seminal work "The Passing of an Illusion. The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century" wrote about the interwar period: "... Soviet diplomacy was ready to cooperation and rapprochement with states of all types, based on the circumstances and interests of today. [...] its peculiarity is that considering these states as adversaries - because they are all capitalist - the Soviet Union and its diplomats continue to expose them as such, even when it comes to temporary agreements. The propaganda's falsity is stimulated by the Third International, its agents and supporters, while another tool of persuasion is nothing but brute force."

The greatest success of Soviet propaganda was achieved in France

By the way, perhaps the greatest success of the Soviet propaganda was achieved in France, where many politicians, journalists, writers and trade union leaders fell under its influence.

However, we can also mention a spy group that worked for the Soviets in the United Kingdom, the infamous Cambridge Five. At the same time, its very existence became a symbol of how deep was Moscow's reach into European intellectual circles in the 1930s.

During the interwar period, Soviet Russia deftly took advantage of the Spanish Civil War, supporting and taking control of a broad European anti-fascist movement. By using the Comintern to organize international support for a Republican Spain, Moscow sealed a significant propaganda win: criticizing the Stalinist regime suddenly equated to criticizing its course toward "fighting fascism." Even Ribbentrop- Molotov's shameful pact of 1939, which was mentioned during the events commemorating the start of WW2 in Europe a few days ago, failed to prevent this.

During the Cold War, the ideological influence of the USSR in Europe initially increased significantly after the victory over Nazism, and subsequently began to decline as a result of the military suppression of popular uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The so-called "Euro Missiles" case was supposed to become a real attempt to destabilize Europe. In the early 1980s the Soviet Union deployed its SS-20 missiles targeting Western Europe, while the U.S. moved in with their Pershing missiles, as a response, which is why some European countries, especially Germany and France, saw a wave of stormy mass protests. At the same time, despite the rather powerful, albeit clandestine, Soviet support, protest moods have failed to become "mainstream" at that time, even among the youths. Moreover, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 intensified anti-Soviet sentiment.

Approximately after 2008, having received huge oil and gas resources, Moscow once again started strengthening its external influence. As it turned out, the openness of a civilized society, which has always been considered an undisputed advantage, could also be a flaw if it's not protected adequately. Technological innovations, among other things, have opened up additional opportunities for Russia and other players seeking to discredit the values ​​of European civilization and weaken the West politically. Today it looks like Moscow has already learned well enough to exploit the developments inherent to democracies, and just keeps acting brazenly and aggressively.

A prosperous Europe does not want complications with a difficult-to-predict Russia

Powerful information support and a wide range of "Putin's friends" helped Moscow hold its ground even after the occupation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine. The traditional pacifism of Western public opinion has also contributed to this. In other words, a prosperous Europe does not want to have complications with a difficult-to-predict Russia over a country long known for its notorious "multi-vector" foreign policy.

How is the "hand of Moscow" working today? It has a whole bunch of traditional tools, as well as some new ones. Suffice it to recall the story of the poisoning of ex-intel operative Sergiy Skripal and his daughter Julia in Salisbury, UK, which has undoubtedly become one of the highest-profile spy scandals, driving another wedge Russia's relations with the West.

The systemic nature of the Russian government's cyberattacks against government agencies, private companies, critical infrastructure, and internet providers around the world is no secret, either.

Using its nuclear status and its seat at the UN Security Council, as well as the involvement in conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere, Moscow demonstrates its "importance" in addressing many international issues. Moreover, Russia still harbors hope of regaining the "status quo" it enjoyed prior to the Crimea annexation. Data analysis suggests that the Kremlin will apply direct political corruption, business relations, professional and youth exchange efforts, and even international sports events to restore it.

Thus, the "hand of Moscow" will pursue its subversive activities. However, the post-Crimean matrix will no longer allow Russia to escape of this orbit, as any sharp moves could weaken the entire ideological (and not only that) structure the Kremlin has built since 2014.

For our part, we should finally give up on any naive illusions and realize that we have no right to veto Western contacts with Russia, no matter how much we want to. The world is much more complicated than we sometimes see it from the Dnipro banks.

Today, at a new stage of historical development, Ukraine needs a pragmatic and consistent foreign policy – the key to future success in the international arena.

Oleh Belokolos is an expert with the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation

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