Why Eurasia Matters to the West – New Eastern Europe

While a number of states have recently expressed their desire to support Ukraine, many internal critics have questioned the prospect. The West must now commit to the region to avoid further conflict.

January 24, 2022 – Mark Temnycky –
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Monument to sunken ships in Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea. Photo: Svetlana Lukienko / Shutterstock

Earlier this month officials from the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met with Russian dignitaries to discuss the recent military construction near eastern Ukraine.

To date, the international community has condemned Moscow’s aggressive behavior. In recent decades, Russia has launched military incursions into Georgia and Ukraine, occupied parts of Moldova and the Caucasus, meddled in international elections, and orchestrated multiple cyberattacks. The West has implemented numerous sanctions To punish Russia, but the Kremlin has still not changed its behavior.

While Western political leaders and elected officials have done so expressed their solidarity with these Eurasian States, others were less enthusiastic. have in the past few weeks companions at well-known think tanks, news experts, editors, and former government officials in the US have expressed their views on NATO enlargement and Russian aggression. Their arguments focus on three issues. First, they believe providing military aid to Ukraine or Georgia would do so destabilize the conflicts in these states. Second, these countries shouldn’t be allowed to join NATO. After all, they argue that these are Eurasian states not strategically important to the USA or to Europe.

This cannot be further from the truth.

Russia has borne heavy costs since its illegal annexation of Crimea and military incursion into the Donbass region. The Russian Federation issued billion US dollars annually occupy these areas. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has also resulted in the deaths of over 14,000 and the displacement of nearly two million. However, if the west should deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine, then this is it could deter the Russians. A better-equipped Ukrainian military could delay a second Russian invasion, but doing so would result in many more casualties. Russian President Vladimir Putin understands these possible consequences. He most likely wouldn’t want that risk his high domestic popularity for a failed and deadly operation in eastern Ukraine.

Opponents of western enlargement also argue that including countries like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in organizations like the European Union and NATO would do so aggravate Russia. They claim that Russia would stop interfering in these countries’ affairs if they simply abandoned their Western aspirations.

These critics should be reminded that these countries were invaded before expressing such desires. One could argue that these countries’ absence from Western organizations ultimately allowed the Russians to interfere in their affairs. Russia has been occupied since the 1990s Transnistria in Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Crimea and Donbass in Ukraine, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Azerbaijan region. Meanwhile, Belarus has slowly transformed to a Russian client state. With the the recent events sent to Kazakhstan, Russia thousands of troops to the Central Asian state to defuse the situation. Had these countries joined western organizations after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they might not have been attacked.

Finally, there are several reasons why the West should care about Eurasia. First, several regional countries, especially Ukraine, serve as one buffer zone between Russia and the West. The conquest of Ukraine would give Russia direct access to the heart of Europe. This would make Moldova, the Caucasus and Central Europe nervous as it could lead to future conflicts between Russia and the West. A certified Nord Stream 2 would also give Moscow additional leverage across the European continent as it would become heavily dependent on Russian gas. This was most evident during the recent European energy crisis.

Second, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will become regional success stories if they are able to improve theirs democratic processes. Reform their governments, promoting transparency and remove Corruption would strengthen the democracies and national security of these countries. It would show other countries in the region that they can do it to distance oneself from their authoritarian past. Recent protest movements in Eurasia have shown that the citizens of these countries want their governments to treat them with dignity and respect. The promotion and establishment of democracies in these Eurasian states would achieve this goal.

Third, if the West fails to defuse the situation with Russia, it will show that the West cannot hold aggressive states accountable for their behavior. Authoritarian rulers would continue to meddle in their neighbors’ affairs without consequence, and international law would become meaningless.

Collectively, the US, NATO and the OSCE must put pressure on the Kremlin to change its behavior. If these western officials can successfully deter Russia, it will result in a freer and more prosperous Eurasia. It will also create more stability in the region. But if the West attempts a fresh start with Russia, it will send a signal to autocrats around the world that it cannot hold those countries accountable for their actions. This would lead to greater instability around the world, and such an outcome would be both dangerous and costly.

Markus Temnycky is a accredited freelance journalist for Eastern Europe and a non-resident companion at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.


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Eurasia, Georgia, Moldova, NATO, Russia, Russia-West Relations, Russia’s Foreign Policy, Ukraine, West, Why Eurasia Matters to the West

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