Sometimes, Russia reminds me of my favorite childhood television show, Pinky and the Brain. At the start of each episode Pinky asks his companion Brain, the genetically engineered super-genius mouse, what they should do tonight, to which Brain invariably responds: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!” One imagines Vladimir Putin’s Security Council engaging in the same exercise. Putin responds: “We’ll do the same thing we do every night – provoke tensions in a small neighboring country, claim to be protecting ethnic Russians, and then initiate a covert land grab!” Cue theme music.
Joking aside, there is no denying the pattern in Russia’s relations with its neighbors. Trade barriers, ‘passportization’ of diaspora Russians, and support for separatists in states from Georgia to Ukraine have led to the re-ignition of a number of post-Soviet ‘frozen conflicts.’ This pattern obscur...
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