Written by 03:52 World

In Former Soviet States, a Tug of War Between East and West

In Georgia, protesters waving European Union flags have rallied against what they see as their pro-Russia leaders. Moldova’s government is pushing to join the western bloc, enraging citizens hoping for closer relations with Moscow. Armenia, too, has reached out to Europe, angered that Moscow, a longtime ally, is courting its enemy, Azerbaijan.

Fueled in part by the Ukraine war, tensions have been mounting within some of the former lands of the Soviet Union, pitting those favoring closer relations with Russia against those orientated more toward Europe.

Many of those tensions predate the war, rooted in longstanding domestic struggles over power, money and other issues, but they have been amplified by geopolitics, with both Russia and the West pushing countries to choose a side.

Across the former Soviet Union “the whole context is now shaped by how the Ukraine war has radicalized competition between Russia and the West,” said Gerard Toal, author of “Near Abroad,” a study of Russia’s relations with former Soviet territories.

Fearful of losing influence, Moscow has issued blunt warnings to countries like Georgia and Moldova: Remember what happened in Ukraine. Without threatening to invade either country, it has pointed to the tumult and bloodshed that followed Ukraine’s tilt toward the West after a popular revolt in 2014 ousted its pro-Russian president.

Russia is also hoping that recent successes on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine can help reverse the many setbacks it suffered to its prestige and influence in a string of former Soviet states earlier in the war.

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Last modified: 6 June 2024
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