Russia has revealed the five principles which will shape its foreign policy in the future. It signals a return to the age of empires and czars, at least in the way Russia sees the world.
The principle with the most serious implications is probably the protection of Russian citizens. According to President Medvedev:
Our unquestionable priority is to protect the life and dignity of our citizens, wherever they are. We will also proceed from this in pursuing our foreign policy. We will also protect the interest of our business community abroad. And it should be clear to everyone that if someone makes aggressive forays, he will get a response.
The BBC analysis:
The key phrase here is “wherever they are”. This was the basis on which Russia went to war in South Ossetia and it contains within it the potential for future interventions – over Crimea, for example, populated by a majority Russian-background population yet owned by Ukraine only since 1954. If Ukraine looked set to join Nato, would Russia claim the protection of its “citizens” there
I found this map of ethnic Russian populations in the former Soviet Union now outside Russia’s borders. The Russian population in Georgia is small change compared to other potential hot spots. The population of Latvia, for example, is over a third ethnic Russians. They were lucky to get into NATO before Russia got its act together.