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The Daily Vertical: Turning Passports Into Weapons (Transcript)


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

Konstantin Zatulin is not giving up on his dream of turning passports into weapons.

Back in March, the State Duma deputy proposed legislation that would grant Russian citizenship to any Russian speaker who lived in the Soviet Union, as well as to the Russian-speaking descendants of those who lived in the Russian Empire.

Zatulin's bill -- which he co-sponsored with Natalya Poklonskaya -- has not passed. But it has also not gone away.

And the lawmaker has been busy this week lobbying for it in interviews with Russian media.

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

Under the proposed legislation, millions of Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, Moldovan, and Kazakh citizens would suddenly become eligible for Russian passports.

So would many EU citizens, as the bill would also cover Russian speakers in the Baltic states, Finland, and Poland -- all of which, of course, were once part of the Russian Empire.

The potential for mischief -- for the Kremlin to meddle in the affairs of its neighbors under the pretext of protecting Russian citizens -- is, of course, enormous.

Remember, Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008, which resulted in Abkhazia and South Ossetia becoming de facto Russian protectorates, was preceded by the Kremlin issuing Russian passports to residents of those territories.

Passportization can easily become a pretext for annexation.

What is not clear at this point is how much Kremlin support Zatulin's bill actually enjoys.

It could be a quixotic quest by an overzealous lawmaker. Or it could be an elaborate psyop.

But what is clear is that this legislation's fate is an important barometer of Vladimir Putin's intentions regarding Russia's neighbors.

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: I will be speaking at the Georgia Defense and Security Conference in Batumi from October 11-13. No Power Vertical products will appear on those days. The regular schedule resumes on October 16.​

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