“Russia is isolated from Europe and the West, but not from the rest of the world”

“No matter how much some want to isolate Russia, it cannot be done,” Vladimir Putin said Wednesday at an economic forum dedicated to Asia in Vladivostok, Russia’s Far East. The president of Russia, which is at war with Ukraine, believes that Covid-19 has been replaced by “Western sanctions fever”, which “threatens the whole world”. Is it really impossible to isolate Moscow, as the Kremlin leader insists? Do Westerners refuse to “see the facts” as claimed by the Russian head of state? 20 minutes make the point.

Can we say that Russia is isolated?

“Russia is isolated from Europe and the West, but not from the rest of the world,” concludes geopolitical analyst and Russia expert Carole Grimaud. “We can isolate Russia from Europe. We do this on mobility, with discussions on the energy plan, the banking plan and even visas for Russians. However, it continues its partnership with many countries,” the researcher explains. Because it is difficult to isolate the world’s largest country geographically.

“Even if someone tried to isolate Russia on the western flank, it would not be isolated on the eastern or even the northern flank. [au Nord] Because the melting of the ice allows transitions today,” says Taline Ter Minasyan, an expert on the modern history of Russia and the author of a biography about Gorbachev in the French university press. With 14 shared borders with other states, Moscow can change partners more easily than Lesotho.

Among the countries that refused to stand behind Washington, some, such as Belarus, were allied with Russia long before the invasion began, others have strained relations with the United States, for example, Beijing, and the latter “reflect their own relations. have vested interests and understand that they have more to lose by following the Western line,” deciphers Carole Grimaud. This applies to some African countries that Moscow has been aware of since Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov launched a seduction operation on the continent this summer. In addition, “the African Union is campaigning for the lifting of sanctions”, notes Taline Ter Minasyan. However, the Kremlin jealously guards its relations with Asia above all and seeks to strengthen them through war.

Who is Russia turning to?

Isolated from the West, which imposed sanctions against it and burdened its economy, Russia nevertheless managed to establish and strengthen bilateral relations. “Russia maintains relations with a large part of Asia, including China and India,” Taline Ter Minasyan said. And this orientation arose before the occupation of Ukraine. “For about ten years, since 2014, especially after the annexation of Crimea, there has been a desire to focus on the East, China and Asian countries,” explains Carole Grimaud. After the Kremlin’s overnight invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has redoubled its efforts to strengthen relations with the East.

Moscow is also very active within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Because Russia combines not only its economic interests with the East, but also its security interests. Last week, the country held large-scale military exercises called “Vostok-2022” (East-2022) in the Far East of Russia. India and China were involved.

Why is Russia so eager to claim that it is not isolated?

Back in 2014, Vladimir Putin hit it: no one will succeed in “intimidating or isolating Russia.” The leader has said this many times since Russia invaded Ukraine. This speech allows the Kremlin to “calm down the Russians”, as well as the financial circles shaken by the sanctions, notes Carole Grimaud. It’s also Moscow’s way of pretending that there are no consequences to cutting itself off from the West.

“Russia’s goal is, of course, to compensate for the West’s losses with Asia or other countries in the world, but the technologies are mainly produced in Europe and the United States,” recalls Carole Grimaud. Due to the sanctions, Russian airlines are forced to dismantle the planes in order to restore spare parts and continue flying to other foreign-made aircraft.

This discourse “allows Russia to forget, or make people forget, that cutting itself off from part of Europe is cutting it off from part of its identity,” notes Carole Grimaud. “The coat of arms of the country is a double-headed eagle. It is characteristic of Russia that it extends to its European and Asian parts. The first is the most developed, the most populated, the richest. If a Siberian sees a break with Europe from afar, it is a real break for a Muscovite,” the founder of the organization emphasizes. brain center Center for Russian and East European Studies (Creer) in Geneva. It will be difficult to forget the words of Vladimir Putin.

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