The five-day march ordered by Putin followed a three-day visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The move indicates Russia has not ruled out following the “central administration” as it hopes to create new institutions for greater control over former Soviet republics as European powers prepare to work closer together with Moscow.
In August, Merkel’s new government authorized its foreign ministry to form working relations with Russia’s foreign and security policy and enhance economic and military cooperation with Moscow. She also called for better coordination between the EU and Russia.
The letter from Putin is the first of its kind and showed he has not abandoned the aggressive approach he has maintained throughout the six-month conflict in Ukraine, says Tony Sebior, a political scientist at Poland’s Wroclaw University.
“I would expect some kind of tightening in relations between Russia and Poland’s post-Soviet governments,” says Sebior, “[Putin] is not coming to reassure [government leaders in Poland and Ukraine] of anything. It’s just to remind them of the current risks.”
The letter is seen as an “intimidation move,” Sebior adds. Russia has placed borders around some of its neighbor’s regions, and officials like President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus have also worked closely with Russia and were not surprised by the Moscow-imposed deadline. The same goes for Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In an apparent reference to the approaching expulsions of refugees to Russia, Putin wrote, “Many of our partners in Europe, in particular in the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and several other countries have announced their decisions to forcibly return refugees and immigrants from Ukraine and other regions of the former USSR, after they failed to reach agreements on their rights and their resettlement here,” Putin wrote.
Both Latvia and Estonia, among other Eastern European countries, were strongly opposed to the order, saying it is both illegal and detrimental to their security. The governments said the decree violated international agreements and violated their citizens’ constitutional rights. Some have also warned the influx of refugees to Russia will undermine local economies.