In recent weeks, Telegram channels and the expert community have been actively discussing the change of the Russian official overseeing the LDPR and the Ukrainian direction in general. During many years Vladislav Surkov, Kremlin intriguer and ideologist, well-known in Russia held this position. It is no coincidence that rumors about the personnel castling arose just after the presidential elections in Ukraine, when no one doubted Poroshenko’s loss.
Just a week after the second round of Ukrainian elections Mikhail Babich was recalled from his position of Russian Ambassador to the Republic of Belarus. Experts hastened to call this decision of the Russian President the “sacred sacrifice” that Moscow had to bring to please Minsk, which failed to ‘digest’ the excessive activity of Babich. This hypothesis may be viable, although the context for the current situation is likely to be much wider.
First of all, one must take into account that some sensitive for the Kremlin foreign policy misses in the CIS space have had an effect. Moscow has realized the need for personnel rotation due to very negative cases. It should also be remembered that the real foreign policy of the Russian Federation is traditionally implemented through the Presidential Administration of Russia, which creates the concept, strategy and tactics of Moscow towards the CIS countries. In this sense, the Foreign Ministry remains a classic diplomatic agency.
In light of these circumstances, the entire Presidential Administration unit responsible for the western region of the post-Soviet space – Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, where Moscow’s position has weakened the most and where the risk of unfavorable developments is particularly high, is likely to undergo a radical revision.
There is every reason to believe that the resignation of Mikhail Babich, who is part of Putin’s circle of trust, was forced, and the ex-Ambassador himself is up for promotion after a successful six-month run-in in still friendly Belarus. The new foreign policy official can be entrusted with both recognized countries and unrecognized state formations: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transdniestria, the DPR and the LPR, which have long been an inevitable part of the political situation on the post-Soviet perimeter. It is interesting in this regard that at the end of last week Viktor Medvedchuk – the contact person of Surkov in Ukraine – defiantly left a negotiating table with Russia. Since then, there is no doubt that the unrecognized Ukrainian republics go under the care of the new Kremlin ‘guardian’.
Despite the unusual role, Mikhail Babich one way or another will come into contact with the Belarusian theme. The reason for this will not be the most ‘smooth’, as it is dense military-technical cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine, without which Kyiv would hardly be able to properly supply its army and continue fighting in the Donbas direction.
No less important for the Kremlin in this regard is the Moldovan track, ‘stuck’ on the fault line of the strategic interests of different countries and blocs. Today, perhaps the only influential political force in the political space of Moldova advocating friendship with Russia is the Party of Socialists and its ideological inspirer, President Igor Dodon. However, the protracted political crisis after the February parliamentary elections in Moldova is fraught with different scenarios and carries obvious risks for Russian interests. Hence the principled position of Moscow about the impossibility of a coalition between the Plahotniuc’s PDM and the Dodon’s Party of Socialists, and eloquent wait-and-see silence of Russian officials.
At the same time, given the ambiguity of the situation in Moldova, the content and quality of the efforts may change significantly. According to some experts, against the background of activity on the Moldovan track, Moscow’s attention to Transdniestria has decreased slightly, which American and European diplomats have taken advantage of. In this context, Mikhail Babich in addition to the LDPR may get another unrecognized republic in the general foreign policy portfolio.
The appointment of Babich as an official overseeing the Moldovan track may mark an unambiguous signal of Moscow’s ‘big return’ to the intensive work on the Moldovan track and a revision of the Kremlin’s tactics in this region. The specific parameters of future changes will be clarified during the current year.
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