In Russian political vocabulary, Near Abroad is a very instrumental term that puts a particular stress on military security. This is Russia’s external perimeter, the territory of the Kremlin’s “red lines”.
“Near Abroad” is a very useful term for anyone who tries to understand and predict Russia’s foreign policy.
“Near Abroad” is an expression of unknown authorship, popularized by the first FM of post-Soviet Russia, Andrei Kozyrev.
He started to use it about all the former Soviet republics. Despite their newly-won independence, these nations continued to be connected to us by thousands of ties. This made everything that happened there of particular relevance for too many in the Kremlin, as well as among the rest of our nation.
In the West, they often talk about the “sphere of influence” to describe our approach. However, this is too broad and imprecise. Closer to truth would be the ancient Roman word foederati that described tribal territories outside the Empire. Their relevance to Rome was mostly in the sphere of security. They were too poor to be interesting markets, or objects of colonial exploitation—but very useful as a kind of cordon sanitaire against external military threats.
External security perimeter
Since the word foederati seems to be known to few specially interested, “near abroad” is a good substitute. Albeit these territories are not exactly “ours”, we need to watch what’s happening there very carefully. This also covers NATO members in the the Baltics. Their decision not to have foreign bases and keep down the concentration of the NATO’s military is therefore very wise. This makes us less nervous, and reduces the pressure on them.
The Russian concept of “Near Abroad”, i.e. former Soviet state around our borders, is aking to the Roman concept of Foederati. We provide benefits to them in exchange for a certain degree of protecting our security and military requirements.
Soon after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the Kremlin launched the concept of “near abroad“. It included all former Soviet republics that had gained independence. Yet, these continued to be connected to us by thousands of ties. This made everything that happened there of particular relevance for too many in the Kremlin, as well as among the rest of the nation.
In the West, they often talk about the “sphere of influence” to describe our approach. However, this is too broad and imprecise. Closer to truth would be the ancient Roman word foederati that described tribal territories outside the Empire. Their relevance to Rome was mostly in the sphere of security. They were too poor to be interesting markets of objects of colonial exploitation but very useful as a kind of cordon sanitaire against external military threats.
Baltics sit pretty awkwardly between us and the Baltic sea, cutting us
off from the Kaliningrad enclave. Estonia is also too close to St.
Petersburg for comfort.
Ukraine is sort of an ex who left and
slammed the door with too much broken china and bad blood left behind.
If they build their military to the Turkish level, or just join the
NATO, it would mean their tanks can theoretically reach Moscow in a
matter of one day or two. We never had to live with a neighbor like
Georgia is more or less a settled case. Putin won’t let
them take back Abkhazia or South Ossetia, so his presidential palace in
Sochi is pretty safe for some time ahead. Turkey seems to be friendly
right now. Yet, if Turkey decide to move in and take Georgia under their
wings, then our union with Armenia, and the base there will hang in a
very thin thread. No time to relax about Georgia either.
This way, these are not exactly “our” territories, but we need to watch what’s happening there very carefully. This also includes the NATO members, the Baltics. Their decision not to have foreign bases and keep down the concentration of the NATO military is therefore very wise. This makes us less nervous, and reduces the pressure on them.
As to the other former Soviet states, any sign of alienation there signals to us a dangerous breach in the foederati perimeter of security right outside our borders.
In plain terms, Russia’s neighbors where Russian-speaking minorities experienced injustice ran the risk of losing the territories where these minorities lived. Just like this happened to Ukraine. On March 7, 2014, President Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov, announced that Putin was the guarantor of security in the Russian World.
Where exactly are the borders of the Russian world? Pretty much where Russia’s territory goes now, with some additions:
Estonia and Latvia (large Russian minorities there)
Belarus (we consider them to be Russians that need to be rescued from under an unfortunate Polish influence)
Ukraine, with the possible exception of its fiercely nationalistic westernmost part. We see them as slightly retarded Russians that speak a weird archaic dialect.
Transdnestria, the Russian-speaking enclave in Moldova.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions of Georgia with pro-Russian minorities.
The whole of Kazakhstan, or the northern part of it. Russians used to make up at least half of its population.
Alaska. It used to be Russian, before we made fools of ourselves selling it to Americans in the middle of 18th century.
Port-Artur and Dalian in China used to be our naval bases before the Japanese messed up with us a hundred years ago. We also built a railroad connecting Vladivostok with Siberia directly over the Chinese territory. Would be nice having these back.
Svalbard archipelago in Norway. We mean to be the first settlers there, not the Norwegians.
The entire Arctic Ocean in the triangle between the Bering Strait, the North Pole and the Russian border with Norway. If Alaska returns to Russia, we would like that additional slice of Arctic sector too.
Serbia + Montenegro + a selection of Orthodox monasteries in Greece would be an excellent addition to heartland Russia. Our brethren in the Balkans may have some doubts about losing their statehood, but we’ll explain how it is much better than being part of Godless, gay-loving, Muslim-infested Europe.
Armenia. The little nation’s only chance to withstand enmity from their Muslim neighbors.
Istanbul/Constantinople, with a sizable addition of adjoining territories. The Promised Land of Russian Orthodox church. Superior location for coronation of Russian presidents, winter Olympics and Mr Putin’s second winter residence.
The logic behind this is rather straightforward. The Russian world is the territories that at some point in time were controlled by the House of Romanov, or considered to be under their spiritual protection, or frequented by Russian colonizers.