Russia uses nationalist sentiments in Europe against Ukraine – ISW

Russia is fuelling and exploiting neo-imperialist and nationalist sentiments in Europe to bring discord between Ukraine and its western neighbours.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: The ISW analysts pointed out that László Toroczkai, a right-wing Hungarian politician and leader of the Our Homeland Movement party, said on 27 January that Hungary should claim Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Oblast in the event of Ukraine’s defeat in the war.

At the same time, Claudiu Tarziu, one of the leaders of Romania’s far-right Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) party, said on 29 January that Romania needs to “reintegrate” the territories of Ukraine neighbouring Romania, where the Romanian population lived, in order to preserve its sovereignty.

Experts believe that Russian sources amplified Toroczkai’s and Tarziu’s statements and emphasised these ultra-nationalist claims by Hungary and Romania to Ukrainian territory. Earlier, before the full-scale invasion, Russia proposed the idea of a “division of Ukraine” between Russia and the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials renewed this narrative in December 2023, stating that Ukraine has historical “territorial disputes” with Poland, Romania and Hungary, but can maintain its “sovereignty” if the entire country consists of the borders of Lviv Oblast.

Military analysts believe that the Russian ultranationalist concept of the “Russian World” seems to have gained popularity among nationalist European factions and their own nationalist ideologies.

Actors in the Russian information space are likely seeking to use this ideological inclination to drive a wedge between Ukraine and its European neighbours.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 29 January: 

  • The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MoD) denied rumours about the purported resignation or dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi on 29 January.

  • Russia may be retooling aspects of its air defence umbrella in deep rear areas amid continued Ukrainian drone strikes within Russia.

  • Russia appears to be fueling and seizing on neo-imperialist and nationalist sentiments in Europe in order to drive wedges between Ukraine and its western neighbours.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and [self-proclaimed] Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a series of economic and technological agreements on 29 January advancing the Kremlin’s efforts to further integrate Belarus into the Union State structure.

  • Russian forces recently advanced near Kreminna and Avdiivka and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.

  • Russia reportedly deployed more Rosgvardia troops to occupied Ukraine ahead of the March 2024 Russian presidential election.

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