In a lead article published yesterday, the editors of "Gazeta" argue that "Russia is entering the stage of the final loss of influence in the post-Soviet space" because it has failed to take the interests of the other countries into account or offer them "attractive" economic and political projects (www.gazeta.ru/comments/2009/06/15_e_3210751.shtml).
The "Gazeta" editorial, of course, was prompted by the refusal of Belarus and Uzbekistan this week to sign on to Moscow's latest collective security project, but the "Gazeta" editors suggest that is only a symptom of a much larger problem - the rapid decline of Russian influence across the board over the last ten years.
The Baltic countries as members of NATO and the European Union are beyond Russia's orbit despite Moscow's occasional effort to "defend" Russian-speakers there. In the last decade alone, the editors note, Moscow has managed to alienate Ukraine. And the Russian invasion of Georgia led that country to break relations with Moscow.
Moldova, despite the presence of a communist leadership "ideologically close to the current Russian powers that be, total poverty, and Transdniestria" has not become a close ally, the editors point out, adding that "Armenia and Azerbaijan both are conducting a multi-vector policy and in the most active way are attempting to diversify their trade."
As a result of Moscow's use of force, they were "forced to seek various forms of geopolitical defense" against the possibility that Russia would use it against them. And as a result, they have take steps that reduce the significance of "the post-Soviet space" as a separate geopolitical region.
Yet another indication of "the real level of influence of Russia on the post-Soviet space is the absence in power in the former Soviet republics of even a single politician who could be called 'pro-Russian,'" something many in Moscow are inclined to blame on outsiders like the United States and the European Union but in fact is the product of Russia's own failings.
Moreover, the paper's editors say, "the US is not involved now and has not been involved in the establishment of its own orders in Central Asia and to reduce all the processes in Georgia and Ukraine to color revolutions 'planed by the State Department' would also be an oversimplification" and a mistake.
At the very least, the editorial suggests, "Russia did not offer these peoples any acceptable alternative." And it warns: "If Russia itself does not learn to conduct its affairs with the former Soviet republics as with completely independent states, where the elites have their own interests ... the situation will only become more complicated."
In that event, "the post-Soviet space" people in Moscow and in some Western capitals talk so much about "will finally become a post-Russian one," something that will leave the Russian government far more isolated and with far fewer possibilities than it has even now, a development that should lead the Russian regime to revise its entire approach.