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The Daily Vertical: The Limits Of Bribery And Blackmail (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

They're using massive subsidies to control Minsk. And they're deploying military might to pressure Kyiv and Tbilisi.

They're trying to buy Belarus's loyalty. And they're attempting to intimidate Ukraine and Georgia into submission.

When you strip away all the rhetoric, all the spin, and all the subterfuge, it's good old-fashioned bribery and blackmail that are the main tools Vladimir Putin's regime is deploying as it attempts to restore Russia's empire in the former Soviet space.

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And at the end of the day, neither is working all that well.

When Moscow tried to turn the recent Zapad military drills into a psyop to spook Poland and the Baltic states, Belarus threw sand in the gears by reassuring its neighbors that the exercises would not be used as cover to attack a third party.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also resisted Moscow's efforts to turn Belarus into an effective extension of Russia's Western Military District.

And just yesterday Lukashenka publicly touted his efforts to improve relations with the West.

Bribery, it appears, has its limits.

And despite more than three years of Kremlin-instigated war in the Donbas and despite Russia's continued occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Ukraine and Georgia have implemented association agreements and free-trade pacts with the European Union.

They're moving West, despite the pressure.

Blackmail and intimidation apparently also have their limits.

Authoritarian Belarus and the emerging democracies in Ukraine and Georgia may not have a lot in common politically.

But all three illustrate the limitations of Putin's imperial model in the former Soviet space.

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