russia and friends

I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time and the russian terrorist attack on Sunday was the last straw.

There a saying: tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are. Of course it’s not always true but it hints on the usual way of choosing friends to have a lot of common with you. The same stands true not just for people but for whole countries as well and you can guess which countries we’re going to look at today.

First, here’s a list of countries that support or openly befriend russia (the list is composed from the countries that russia openly called friends or those behaving in that way):

  • Afghanistan
  • Belarus
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Chad
  • China
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Hungary
  • Iran
  • Mali
  • Myanmar
  • North Korea
  • Serbia
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Türkiye
  • Uganda
  • Venezuela
  • Zimbabwe

So what’s common between those countries? They can be divided into two major groups—former colonies with a dictator ruling it (or demokratur, see that post for the explanation) or leftovers of former empires that dream of restoring their old glory (and have about the same government). The first group befriends russia mostly for the benefits (the same way many African countries befriended USSR), the countries from the second group usually went the same way as russia itself and thus they have some class solidarity, though it does not prevent them from (ab)using russia to their own benefit. Now let’s look at them closer.

Negotiable affection friends

Afghanistan. If you haven’t forgotten yet, this is a country where a corrupt weak government was forcefully replaced by a terrorist organisation recognized in the whole world (even russia, which led to a rather funny situation where they invited Taliban representatives to various forums and diplomatic talks while still not lifting a status of terrorist organisation). So you have the same terrorist mindset to keep them close. And in somewhat recent news they asked for a large oil shipments in return for something undisclosed. Considering how good Afghanistan is economically and that russia won’t be able to mine for natural resources there effectively it looks like typical Soviet-African friendship.

Belarus. A former Soviet colony (sometimes called “most Soviet of all Soviet republics”) with a dictator ruling it since 1994. Lukashenko had been using russia for his own benefits (like buying oil cheap from russia and selling petroleum not-so-cheap to Europe or even getting non-returnable loans for various purposes) for a long time, usually under pretence of making Union State something different from a bureaucratic fiction. But after the coup against Belarusian people in 2020 he has to rely on russia for everything and that’s why Belarus serves as a large military base for russian forces and that’s why he makes various bellicose claims (while not actually trying to engage his own forces because they’re more likely to turn against him).

Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe. I can’t say I know much about those countries so let’s look what’s common there. Former colonies (mostly French ones)—check, rather poor countries—check for many of them, dictatorship/demokratur—also check for many of them (or military junta like in Myanmar). So it seems to me they’re friends with russia because they behave the same or just use it to get cheap resources or military equipment.

Myanmar.—this country seem to go the same route as some African countries: former colony, low quality of life and civil war, recent military coup (after which it befriended russia).

North Korea

I think this country makes a category of its own. On the one hand it enjoys benefits from “befriending” russia as it can sell its resources there and send workers to earn good money (by their standards), on the other hand it’s russia that tries to resemble DPRK. And let’s not forget about the recent news about russia buying artillery munition from it (there are unverified claims that in the first months of war russian minister of war went there to beg for other Soviet equipment like missiles). Though the dynamic between North and South Korea reminds a lot about the current situation including the constant threats of using nukes to destroy Americans (in South Korea).

Countries resembling russia

China. This country has history resembling russian one a lot. Having an long-running proud history that’s mostly fake—check, being conquered by Mongols—check, getting rid of an emperor in the beginning of XXth century—check,this event being followed by creating a Western-type government that was deposed by communists—check, communist terror—check, reforms that tried to make the country more open to the West —check, a dictator who wants to bring country back to the glorious past—check. Territorial claims for the (pieces of) neighbouring countries—check. Rather passive population that does not care about anything—check. Not keeping their word, taking whatever businesses they like from the foreigners and not allowing them to de facto own anything—check (yes, China does it in a more refined way but you should remember how your business there should have at least 51% partnership by Chinese and how the stock of Chinese companies traded overseas is not actually a right of ownership in a company and what had happened to ARM China). And of course copying or stealing ideas and design from the West while pretending it’s their own (again, China is doing it much better and actually develops on it). Here’s a personal story: my great-grandfather worked at a local locomotive-building plant (mostly famous for creating the T-34 tank) which was founded by a French society (a fact not often mentioned in the USSR) and in 1950s he was sent to China to help them build their own industry (a fact not mentioned often in China).

Though you should not forget that some of the territories that China wants to return are those taken by russian empire. And you should not forget that China acts pragmatically so when russia threatened to sell its natural resources to China instead of Europe and make reserves in yuan, it essentially made itself dependent on China which can now dictate the prices for oil and gas (and doing operations with yuan also requires an approval of Chinese government). Currently China pretends to not support russia because Western sanctions hurt. But we’ll see if this stops them from attempting to conquer Taiwan.

Hungary. Former Kingdom of Hungary, later part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Current regime relies on the same principle as russia—praising “traditional values” and hating everything not from the country. And of course they want to get back territories “lost” after 1918: you should remember how orbán asked for Croatian port and pipeline during the European sanctions discussions. And they’ve been giving away Hungarian passports to Ukrainians living in Subcarpathian Ukraine for years along with trying to dictate what Ukraine should do in its region (russia had been doing the same in various places that later it turned into puppet states like Abkhazia).

The related thing is that how the government tries to gloss over its wartime atrocities (for example, this, even if the English version of the article does not mention them) and have installed a hypocritical monument to Hungary being a “victim” to Nazi Germany (being its willing ally until 1944 does not count apparently). The same way russia always accuses Germany attacking it in 1941 while not mentioning that it happened in the Poland which both of them occupied in 1939 (and their co-operation went further than that).

And of course you should not forget that Hungary gets most of its energy from russia: oil, gas and even fuel for nuclear power. Seeing how Hungary sells Serbia gas from an unknown source and then their minister going to Moscow to beg for increased shipment of gas is disgusting. Seeing how a plane delivering nuclear fuel from Moscow lands at NATO base in Hungary or how Hungary allows russia to build a new nuclear power plant right after what they’ve done to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is revolting.

Iran. While I have not heard about them having claims on trying to restore an old empire (which would be some extremely old empire in their case), they’ve been trying to conquer their neighbours (at least Syria) and destroy certain state for purely ideological reasons. They also have nominal democracy (i.e. you can vote for public officials but it’s certain people with religious authority who decide what will be done) and their rhetoric is the same as in russia (at least when russia does not repeat the speeches from Nazi Germany). And considering the recent news about their battle UAVs shipped to russia and a good deal of them being broken right from the start, Iran manufactures the goods (and lies about their quality) about as good as russia.

Serbia. This is a rather sad case. On one hand russian empire was seen there as the defender of Slavic nations in different lands (which has started the World War I among other things) and their historically significant territory Kosovo turned into Kosova. On the other hand Yugoslavia (both kingdom and SFRJ) was a mix of nations with significant differences (mostly in the religion) and typical highlander character that makes peaceful resolving of the conflicts less possible (just look how well various nations in Caucasian nations get along). So when the external pressure that kept them together was gone, the internal tensions made dissolution of Yugoslavian Federation a very bloody process that required an internation intervention to make the bloodbath end more or less. And yet Serbia seems to train its army for invasion instead of defence and considering recent moves on Kosov(a/o) and fuelling tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina there may be yet another tragedy brewing.

Türkiye. To condense its history, first there had been Ottoman Empire that grew around the Mediterranean Sea plus Central Europe and Mesopotamia, but after WWI it collapsed and was succeeded by Turkey, a country where army made military coups in order to preserve democracy since Mustafa Kemal himself (but sooner or later people elected autocrats anyway). (The) last coup in 2016 has failed and now we have Erdoğan trying to restore the old empire (and since he demanded to change the official country name to Türkiye I’m using it to denote the country under his rule and not the previous state). Of course he also wants to be a sultan and bring back the various pieces of land lost since 1922, from Albania to Yemen.

It’s hard to call him a complete friend of russia as he’s mostly using it for his own needs, but while he had closed Bosporus for their military ships and Turkish airspace for their military planes (mostly because he wants them out of Syria and to stop protecting Armenia as well), at the same time he does not support sanctions against russia and enjoys being an offshore. Recently it was agreed by two dictators that Türkiye will help russia to evade sanctions by allowing russian money in Turkish banks and russian oil to Turkish refineries (so later you can’t track the origin of oil and oil products). It is obvious that he’ll break any agreement with them as soon as it stops being profitable to him—but russia would do the same so they’re a perfect match.

South Africa. This one I can’t tell about but from random news I hear about it, it sounds a lot like russia—a corrupt government, main wealth coming from natural resources, and hardly any of this wealth reaches common people that have to live in shitty conditions.

Venezuela. Another country that resembles russia (and even more it resembles Soviet Union). You have corrupt non-democratic government that stifled all of the opposition, you have wealth coming from the natural resources (oil and gold) and thanks to the mismanagement the population is extremely poor and depends on the dole their government gives them.


I’ve not mentioned sympathisers like France or Italy that receive only russian tourists and oligarchs buying villas and yachts there so they don’t want to do anything against them and would rather have some peaceful solution, those countries are like a lighter version of negotiable affection friends. I’ve not mentioned current Germany that enjoyed cheap oil and gas for its industry and the position of main russian gas distributor for Europe and how this corrupted it on the border with high treason. I’ve not mentioned Armenia that has to be friends with russia because it “defends” it from Azerbaijan (while russia shipped weapons there as well). I’ve not mentioned Georgia that has a government elected on the idea “if you don’t elect us there will be a war with russia again, and here’s a bribe to make you feel less miserable”. I’ve decided to concentrate on the countries that are helping russia willingly (even if that will is compensated).

As you could see, most of russian friends are the countries expecting something (or a lot) in return for their friendship and (with one exception) none of them can be called prosperous. Misery loves company or birds of a feather flock together?

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