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Russian imperial mindset must change for real victory


The attitude of Russia’s elite – and wider population – to the states which used to constitute the USSR needs to change in order to solve the Russia challenge.

Although the reverberations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly stretch around the globe, the strongest shocks are – and will continue to be – felt by those countries Moscow used to directly rule.

These countries struggle to shrug off a Soviet legacy as, to varying degrees – linguistically, technologically, culturally, and politically – they bear psychological and physical scars of Russia’s colonial past and its present mentality.

It does not help that these countries lack an appropriate collective descriptor. Over the years there has been ‘Newly Independent States’ – hardly appropriate after 31 years – the now-defunct ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’, the ‘post-Soviet space’ and ‘Former Soviet Union’ which both reference the past, and simply ‘Eurasia’ which is hardly appropriate for either Ukraine or Turkmenistan.

Some of these former ‘colonies’ are as badly governed and as sinister – albeit not as lethal beyond their borders – as Russia itself. Others, most notably the Baltic states, are modern, liberal, affluent societies, but Moscow’s shadow still looms.

There is a strong mindset in most of Russia’s citizens that, because that it used to rule these other countries, it either still has privileged rights over them or they are not real countries at all – but instead historical aberrations to be extinguished.

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