One of the necessary conditions for the existence of an empire is its constant expansion. Expansion is essential, and external threats must prevail over internal ones. There are plenty of examples of empires that have followed this glorious path in various historical epochs
Currently, there is only one empire as such — Russia, the Russian Federation. Although, of course, it does not call itself an empire, it carefully preserves all the signs of imperialism.
Its economic and social benefits were formed at the expense of the periphery formed by allied republics. Undoubtedly, they also played an almost central role in ensuring Russia’s external security. For a considerable time, questions of internal social stability in this country were «resolved» thanks to the «vigilance» of the totalitarian regime. This allowed the vast resources, primarily from the sale of raw materials to Western Europe, to be directed towards expanding the sphere of influence around the world. The geography of this «fraternal» assistance was quite extensive: Eastern European countries, the Middle East, Africa, Indochina, South and Central America. Wherever «fraternal» assistance appeared, there was inevitably a corresponding contingent of people in uniform tasked with overseeing stability in the imperial «territories.» Of course, «fraternal» assistance was far from altruistic. Territories acquired under the guise of «fair trade» saw a significant outflow of diverse resources to the metropolis, but the most important factor in these relationships was the opportunity for political and military influence of the metropolis in the respective country or region. Although imperialism as such had already left the political arena at that time, its classical manifestations in the form of expanding political, economic, and military influence continued to exist.
But what does today represent in the imperial life of Russia? Just as in bygone times, there was an event in the «life» of empires that acted as a trigger, setting in motion the process of their decline. And who knows how long Russia would have continued to actively spread its influence worldwide if it weren’t for this trigger. It is entirely objective to say that the events in Ukraine, provoked by Russia in 2014 (the annexation of eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea), and which escalated into a full-scale war initiated by the Kremlin leadership in the territory of a neighboring sovereign state in February 2022, ostensibly for the «peaceful resolution of the fraternal people.» To be fair, this war in the heart of Europe became a trigger not only for global political, economic, military, migration, and other processes, many of which even citizens not particularly interested in politics observe almost daily.
It is worth noting here that Ukraine was one of the first forces to actively resist aggressive Russian expansion. Of course, its successes in resistance would have been much more modest if not for the active support of the collective West, which provided Ukraine with military and financial aid and continues to provide all kinds of assistance. This step appears very justified and appropriate because, to be fair once again, one can only speculate about Putin’s further plans for Europe and its individual entities if the Russians had indeed managed to capture Kyiv in three days and resolve the Ukraine issue in two to three weeks.
As it is well-known, war always involves resources and money, often vast amounts of it. The longer and more global a war becomes, the more resources are required. Of course, in Moscow, no one anticipated that their intended «blitzkrieg» in Ukraine would turn into a bloody conflict lasting for more than a year and a half, consuming Russia’s human, material, and financial resources uncontrollably. Moreover, the sanctions imposed on Russia by the collective West, while not very swiftly, have been steadily undermining the Russian economy. The current situation in Russia is a testament to this. The Russian economy, touted as «strong and ready for anything» by the authorities, is entering a steep decline, and Russian oligarchs, generously nurtured by the government, are not in a hurry to withdraw their «hard-earned» funds from there. Sensibly anticipating possible consequences, many have moved abroad, where it’s more peaceful. However, within civil society, which bears the burdens of great-power ambitions, war, economic turmoil, and rising food prices, questions about the meaning of it all are emerging. This is a common occurrence in empires when the effects of spectacles and ephemeral external threats cannot compare to the cost of bread, leading to internal social conflict and eventually revolution, which ultimately leads to the empire’s downfall.
In essence, the war against Ukraine has become a litmus test for Russia, demonstrating to the world the actual state of affairs, which is far from brilliant, in many aspects of its activities. However, the rhetoric of Kremlin leaders, contrary to common sense, basic logic, and 300,000 military casualties, indicates an unwillingness to stop the senseless bloodshed.
Nonetheless, the law of conservation still applies, and actively financing the war in Ukraine forces Moscow to inevitably reduce its military presence abroad, leading to a loss of influence in several regions. Recent events in Nagorno-Karabakh are very telling in this context. Armenia, a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which had been following Russia’s lead for many years and served as a platform for the delivery of sanctioned goods to Russia, rightly expected Russian support in resolving the territorial issue. However, one can only guess why Russia did not «step in» to help Armenia, what were the reasons, political, economic, military… or perhaps it simply lost interest in Armenia. What is evident is that Russia is no longer as influential in the South Caucasus.
In fact, the concept of «Russian peacekeeping» has become nonsensical today because Russia only brings wars to the world, and its so-called «peacekeepers» are unwilling and unable to protect anyone. Ukraine, which has experienced all of Russia’s «peacekeeping» firsthand, is a prime example.
Even the President of Serbia, a country historically aligned with Russia, Alexander Vučić, compared Russia’s aggression against Ukraine to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
It is difficult to find a modern history example where Russian «peacekeeping» has led to stability and peace. Currently, aside from Ukraine, «Russian peacekeeping» is vividly manifesting itself in Syria and Africa. Similar situations to the Karabakh events will inevitably occur in other areas of Russian military presence: Transnistria, Tajikistan, and elsewhere.
It’s worth mentioning the spiritual aspect of «Russian peacekeeping.» As a result of Russian «help» to fellow Orthodox countries, Russia has strained its relations with most Orthodox countries in the world. Bulgaria, Romania, and Macedonia have all become NATO members, thanks in part to Russia’s «high love for fellow Christians.» Not to mention Ukraine, the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy, which now experiences Russia’s «deep brotherly love» firsthand.
What conclusion can be drawn from this narrative? Imperial «peacekeeping» comes at a high cost for those it is directed towards. The country that falls into Russia’s «peaceful» embrace will experience all the «benefits» of violence and chaos inherent to the metropolis itself. At the same time, the metropolis, Russia, is regularly hit by internal troubles and uprisings due to constant internal problems, which do not make life any easier for those «doomed» to be part of it. It seems that in the near future, we will witness such events once again. Alongside external issues, internal, primarily social problems are brewing in Russia. Uprisings are not far off…