Interview with Tomáš Pojar, Vice President for International Relations at CEVRO Institute, Prague. Former Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Israel (2010-2014) and First Deputy of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (2006-2010).

Conflicting with Ukraine Russia under leadership of President Putin has been walking on thin ice. The question why Mr. Putin is acting in this way has been answered many times. There have been answers looking for internal geopolitical as well as economic reasons. What is your opinion? Why has Russia been trying to threaten substance of Ukrainian statehood?

President Putin did say that the worst tragedy of the last century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. (For me it was the most beautiful historical event of my life.) He is smart enough to know that the re-creation of the USSR is a lost case in the present world. His goal is therefore less ambitious - it is the re-creation of the Russian Empire. Russian regime is dependent on reoccurring crises arising from that plan. Fear, glory and mythology about external and internal threats resulting from such policies only secure the regimes existence. Putin does not only dream about being the present day Peter the Great; he acts in the same way. He is quite frank about and we should take him seriously and appreciate his openness.

There is only a tiny chance to find out a real reason of Putin´s behaviour, however, let´s try to answer this question once again; this time in more general context. Why has Russia reacted so hard to any EU initiative proposing Russian neighbours reforms leading to democracy and real market economy? It looks as if Moscow is interested in instability on Russian borders.  

Russia is the only world power that likes unstable neighbourhood. Russian leaders are convinced that stable and prosperous neighbours would be more independent and Kremlin would lose much of its control and influence. Many of the free neighbours (if not all) would seek other alliances and partnerships. Instability creates at least partial dependence and gives Russian leaders certain degree of leverage. It is short sighted policy deeply rooted in inferiority complex which does not help Russian economy and goes against the freedom of Russian people. At the same time it fits into the idea of recreation of the empire - the 19th century one. 

Recent annexation of Crimea and followed reaction of world community on it demonstrated a certain weakness of world order which has been building since the end of WWII. If some of the states is strong enough and decides not to respect basic principles of mutual co-existence it may not be too concern about consequences of such conduct. Moreover, Russia ignoring negative reactions of UN, EU as well as NATO has questioned role of these organizations as sponsors of peace and stability. What might such state of affairs mean for the future?

The weakness of the reaction to the annexation of Crimea is not surprising. At the same time we should not overreact. It would not be smart either. Many people in post-modern Europe think that all problems will be solved by consensus and dialogue. They have forgotten that the hard power in the world still counts and the geopolitics has never disappeared. I hope that there will be more rational debate about future of Europe and Russia within the EU and NATO. They should finally put down the rosy glasses and forget wishful thinking in Brussels. It is usually better to see the world as it is rather then as one wants it to be. Only realistic policy can secure peace and prosperity on the European continent. If Russia sees strong and realistic EU and NATO it will adjust its own policies.