Russia’s geopolitical games

  • 2011-11-30
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

On Nov. 23, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Washington that Russia could deploy nuclear missiles on the EU’s borders in response to the deployment of U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe. “One of these steps could be the deployment of the Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad,” Medvedev said in his Cold War-style televised address.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said that he has information that Russian nuclear missiles were already deployed in Kaliningrad some years ago.

Some Lithuanian political analysts say that nuclear missiles have been deployed in Kaliningrad since the Cold War era. “It is something related to Russian internal politics,” Arvydas Pocius, chief of defense of Lithuania, said about Medvedev’s statement when he was approached by journalists during the traditional annual military parade which was held in Vilnius’ Cathedral Square on Nov. 23 to celebrate Lithuanian Armed Forces Day. Indeed, the Russian parliamentary election will be held on Dec. 4 and Medvedev tried to please a nationalistic electorate with anti-American rhetoric.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the real head of Russia and ideological godfather of the ruling United Russia party, can present to his electorate a lot of geopolitical achievements. On Nov. 18, the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed to set up a Eurasian economic union in 2015. “Lithuania’s eastern border becomes the border between Europe and Asia,” Liberal MP Petras Austrevicius said. When Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite went to meet Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev on Nov. 22, she was forced to state that, although Lithuanian-Ukrainian bilateral relations are developing smoothly, Ukraine’s European integration process is getting complicated due to anti-democratic moves by Yanukovych. The anti-democratic stance of Yanukovych automatically pushes him towards closer relations with Russia.

However, Yulia Latynina, a famous Russian independent commentator on politics, said on RTVi on Nov. 26 that Putin needs to start worrying due to the change of mood of the Russian people during the last months: representatives of United Russia have been booed recently whenever they appear in public gatherings. The mood change is due to the availability of free information on the Internet, which is not controlled by Russian state security.

On Nov. 21, Putin himself was booed for the first time in his career when he showed up to speak at a martial arts fight event in the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Moscow. An appearance by Putin was planned for an anti-drug-themed rock concert event in the same stadium a couple of days later, but Putin did not show up there again.