Even If West Recognized a Russian Sphere of Influence, Moscow Lacks the Resources to Hold It, Portnikov Says
January 15 – Even if Donald Trump or other Western leaders were to recognize a
region as lying within Russia’s sphere of influence, Moscow does not have the
resources to hold it for long given the hostility to Russia felt the peoples of
the countries within such a sphere, according to Ukrainian commentator Vitaly
militarily occupy them because that would require more forces than the Kremlin
dictator has at his disposal, Portnikov says; and it cannot bribe them because
the Russian state today is cutting back its subsidies even for Belarus and
occupied Crimea and doesn’t have enough funds for its own needs (7days.us/vitalij-portnikov-sdelka-s-xuliganom/).
doesn’t mean that Putin doesn’t dream of such a sphere of influence, the
commentator says. He clearly does. And it doesn’t mean that Trump or some
around him may want to make concessions. But it does mean something
fundamental: no “big deal” between them is going to create something Moscow
couldn’t possibly keep under its control.
becomes obvious if one looks at the history of the 20th
century.At Yalta, the USSR and the West
divided Europe but the division depended on where the forces of each were
located. No country where there weren’t Soviet forces joined the Soviet sphere;
and none where there were Western forces changed sides.
Soviet Union was able to hold this sphere of influence only with the assistance
of brute military force,” the commentator points out.
Moscow couldn’t use force as in Yugoslavia and Albania, it quickly lost its
positions; and those two countries, each in its own way, moved out of its
sphere – and despite much huffing and puffing, there was exactly nothing Moscow
could do to stop that process, Portnikov continues.
Soviet Union, just like Putin’s Russia, was strong only where it had military
forces on the ground, and as the experience of Afghanistan shows, far from
always and forever even there.”
course, “in the division of the world into spheres of influence after World War
II, there was not only a military but also an economic dimension,” Portnikov
says. The US offered Europe the Marshal Plan, and the USSR had to subsidize “the
occupied countries with its own resources.”
the Soviet Union bought allies with aid packages of various kinds. But “as soon
as it turned out that [Moscow] would no longer defend ‘the socialist choice’
with tanks” or send money to its clients elsewhere, the Soviet sphere of
influence fell apart in the space of a few months.
The Warsaw Pack and Comecon
dissolved, and those “dictators who had been talking about socialism” when
Moscow was sending money “suddenly became champions of democracy and friendship
with the West” which had the resources they hoped to acquire. Only Cuba and
North Korea appeared immune to this.
“Of course,” Portnikov says, “Vladimir
Putin can dream about restoring in a new form the Soviet Empire. He can dream
also about the restoration of a Soviet sphere of influence. He can even think
that he will be able to reach an agreement about this with the [incoming]
“But there is in this a large ‘but.’”
And it is this: “There are no Russian forces on the territories which Putin
identifies as in his sphere of influence except Crimea, the Donbass, Abkhazia,
South Ossetia, Transdniestria and Belarus.Russia would have to occupy all the rest,” and there is little
likelihood any of them would agree voluntarily to that.
Stalin’s “zone of influence was
purchased with millions of lives of Soviet soldiers who died in order to secure
the dictator not simply victory over the Reich but also territories in Europe
and Asia. Putin’s “zone of influence would also have to be paid for with the blood
both of Russians and residents of countries” he wants to include within it.
But “even if Putin conquered
everything that he considers Russian and his, this “all” would have to be
supported, and Russia simply doesn’t have the means for that.”He can’t even pay for what Russians need let
alone what others would require.
And that leads to the inescapable
conclusion that what Putin is doing is “in no way a struggle for spheres of
influence.” What he is doing is an unusual form of “hooliganism” at the state
level.Barack Obama wasn’t prepared to
fall for this given his assessment of Russia’s fundamental weakness.
Donald Trump may have other ideas now
and may even think that he can make “a deal” with Putin and that everyone will
fall in line, Portnikov says.But that won’t
last because “sooner or later,” he will see that the hooligan has to be put in
his place or will cause no end of troubles for the world.
For these reason, the Ukrainian
commentator says, “there will not be any American-Russian deal, not because
President Donald Trump may not want it but because it cannot be realized by
Putin and Russia today.