The president of Russia addresses in his own way the 30th anniversary of the end of the USSR that will be celebrated next December. Vladimir Putin considers the dissolution of that State as the explosion of a “delayed action mine”, the “mine” being the right to leave the Soviet Union, which the 15 federated republics that make up that country possessed by virtue of its Constitution and its founding treaty (Treaty of the Union of 1922).
As early as 2005, Putin described the end of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, but the issue, and especially Ukraine, hangs over the president’s head until today. In your article On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians recently posted on the Kremlin page, Putin considers Ukraine a “Soviet creature” formed “at the expense of historical Russia.” Both in his text and in some hasty explanations about it (in the form of an interview, also on his official website), the president treats the Slavic neighbor as the instrument of a Western platform against Moscow (the “anti-Russia”), whose roots he places In XVII century.
Ignoring all the bilateral and multilateral agreements that oblige Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Putin goes so far as to suggest that this country should be territorially reduced to what it was when the Union treaty was signed. The approach is selective and worrying, as the map of the Eurasian continent in 1922 was different from today and not only in Ukraine. Kazakhstan, independent since 1991, was at that time part of an autonomy in the territory of Russia and there was also a Federation of the Transcaucasus (co-founding entity of the USSR together with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus), formed by Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia (today three independent states). Maps in Europe changed in the 1930s largely due to the ambition of Hitler and Stalin, were reformatted again as a result of World War II, and altered again with German reunification and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Over the years, moreover, the USSR itself underwent internal restructuring for the benefit of one republic or another for changing political and economic reasons. When these cuts were just administrative handovers, Russia received land from Ukraine and vice versa.
In the 1990s and against the backdrop of the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia, the relatively peaceful nature of the end of the USSR was appreciated with relief, with the exception of the victims of several still-open conflicts (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Upper Karabakh and Transnistria). But in view of the two wars in Chechnya and the new conflicts that opened in 2014 – Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for secessionism in eastern Ukraine – the relief was perhaps premature. Putin sees Ukraine as a country subject to “direct foreign leadership” from the US and the EU. “We will never allow our historic territories and the people who live there and who are close to us to be used against Russia,” he writes. “And to those who try, I want to tell them that in this way they are going to destroy their country.” “I am convinced that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible precisely in association with Russia,” he points out in his article.
The president’s words are subject to various interpretations. Some consider them the ideological foundation of future action and urge to be prepared for a continuation of the Kremlin’s expansionist project. Others see them as an exercise in rhetoric. However, Putin’s obsession with Ukraine is such and such is his lack of respect for that State, its leaders and its citizens that in a certain way one comes to feel like a spectator of a peculiar version of Carmen, Bizet’s opera, in which Putin would play the role of Don José and Ukraine that of the freedom-loving cigarette woman.
Moscow’s foreign policy has taken a Copernican turn since the USSR disintegrated. The latest version of Russia’s security strategy, signed by Putin on July 2, proclaims an independent and sovereign state, which aspires to self-reliance and which appeals with emphasis to national unity and to “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values. ”To face the enemies that supposedly surround and penetrate it. In the document there is no reference to the diversity of cultures, peoples and languages that enrich Russia, since diversity is treated as a weak point that is exploited by enemies (the United States and its allies, transnational corporations, non-governmental organizations , religious, extremists and terrorists) to undermine the “traditional convictions of the peoples of the Russian Federation”. In the Commonwealth of Independent States, “some countries” inspire “disintegrating processes” to destroy Russia’s relations with its traditional allies and “increase the danger of armed conflicts in local and regional wars, also with the participation of nuclear powers,” the strategy states. .
The official language of Russia today is the opposite of that used by the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in the documents that ended the USSR. 30 years ago in the Belarusian forests, those leaders expressed their intention to “build democratic states of law” and to “respect their territorial integrity and borders”. They spoke of the “inalienable right to self-determination”, of “the renunciation of the use of force”. They wanted to contribute to “the expression, preservation and development of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of the national minorities that populated their territories and established ethnocultural regions.” In addition to guaranteeing inviolability and also the opening of their borders, those Slavic leaders aspired to reduce military expenditures, to “liquidate all nuclear weapons” and to “extensive disarmament under international control” and they proposed to coordinate their foreign and military policy with a project open to other countries, whether or not they were members of the USSR. The Belarus agreement was voted on in the three Slavic parliaments and in Russia it achieved 188 votes in favor, six against and seven abstentions (out of a total of 247 deputies) on December 12, 1991. A few days later, on December 21 In Alma-Ata, 11 countries (the three Slavs plus eight other former Soviet republics) promised not to be the first to use nuclear weapons and reiterated their commitment to respect freedom, including the rights of national minorities.
That was 30 years ago. The reasons why reality went the other way are not given in terms of an anti-Russian conspiracy, but rather as a product of multiple actions and reactions (some more forceful than others) that have been weaving thick and tangled networks in the post-Soviet space. Hopefully, while we try to analyze them, Putin does not dream of staging his own version of Carmen regarding Ukraine, to later say “I killed her because she was mine.”