Russia expands its partners as special military operation progresses

Contrary to what Westerners predicted, Moscow is gradually looking like an attractive alternative for emerging countries.

Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Sciences at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant. 

One year after the start of the special military operation, little seems to have changed in the Russian diplomatic landscape. NATO’s members and allies continue to condemn Moscow’s actions, while virtually the rest of the world remains neutral – in addition to a number of states openly supporting the operation. The Russian Federation is not isolated in the global society and all measures aimed at making it a “pariah” have had the reverse effect, making the collective West itself a “bad partner”.

Since the beginning of the special military operation for the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, Russia has maintained a team of great partners, guaranteeing strong diplomatic support. Countries with a more openly pro-Russian geopolitical position, such as North Korea, Belarus and Syria, support the operation and vote against anti-Russian resolutions at the UN, while countries with a more neutral position, such as China and India, abstain from voting and demonstrate tacit support for Moscow through economic cooperation.

Throughout 2022, the West tried to coerce emerging countries to adopt hostile policies against Russia, but this proved ineffective. Anti-Russian sanctions have become an exclusive practice of NATO allied countries, with no adherence to such measures among emerging nations. Even governments of emerging countries that act with ambiguity and try to maintain good ties with the West continue to insist on a neutral foreign policy, without actively joining one of the sides in the conflict. This is the case of Brazil, for example, which voted against Moscow in UN resolutions, but continues to refuse to comply with requests from the West to supply weapons to Kiev.

Indeed, this conclusion contrasts with what many Western biased analysts predicted last year. Many experts stated that as the conflict progressed, it was most likely that Russia would naturally become more isolated on the international arena. There was a bet on the propaganda capacity of the Western media to promote the narrative that Moscow would be blamed for the global security crisis, but apparently this type of discourse is no longer able to convince most state officials around the world.

Countries that remained neutral or pro-Russian were able to see over the course of one year what happened to states that, unlike them, adhered to the Western-Ukrainian axis. Among almost all NATO member countries or allies, the scenario arising from observance to the irresponsible policy of sanctions against Moscow was the same: economic crisis, energy instability, food insecurity and government unpopularity.

Europe entered a deep social crisis, with its development rates declining significantly. But the European states did not even consider banning sanctions against Russia, maintaining a posture of subservience to the US. In addition, there were some episodes of direct violence against European countries, such as the sabotage against the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which showed how relations between the US and its allies are maintained through coercion and fear.

Of course, this just made joining the anti-Russian side even less attractive for most countries. It is now evident to the emerging world that the US allied countries have beenseverely harmed due to their decision to side with Kiev in the conflict, although they continued to be absolutely submissive. This resulted, contrary to what optimistic Westerners predicted, in a growth in the number of neutral and pro-Russian countries.

For example, comparing the vote on the anti-Russian resolution of March 24, 2022, with the resolution of February 23, 2023, it is possible to see that the number of countries voting against the withdrawal of Russian troops increased from five to seven, as well as that abstentions increased from 32 to 38. In practice, this means that, as time passes, more countries are adopting neutral or pro-Russian attitudes.

If this has been the scenario so far, it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon. Countries that chose to maintain friendly ties with Russia at the beginning of the special military operation tend to continue to maintain them, regardless of what happens on the frontlines and of what the West does to try to persuade them. Neutrality has proven to be a more interesting, strategic and pragmatic path for most states, and that will certainly not change.

In fact, with the recent visit of China’s top diplomat to Moscow and the reaffirmation of the unlimited cooperation ties between both countries, this scenario seems increasingly clear to the whole world: Russia’s friendly countries will continue to cooperate with Moscow. The Western strategy of relying on coercion and propaganda to prevent Russia from having allies has absolutely failed. As the operation continues, Russia gains more allies and deepens ties with the already-existingpartners. The best the West can do is to prioritize diplomacy and accept the reality that Russia cannot be isolated.

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