December 13, 2012

Eurasian Integration As Russia’s Global Geopolitical Project

V. Putin’s return to the post of the President of the Russian Federation was marked with a sharp activation of neo-empire and neo-colonial components of Russia's foreign policy. First of all, it concerns the strategic initiatives of Moscow as to the foundation of the Eurasian Union, which is now the main idea and one of the main directions of the RF's leaders' activity.

In this context plans are being realized of restoring something like the former USSR as a basis for the revival of Russia’s world leading role, and attempts are being made to switch the attention of the Russian from domestic problems of the country, which provoke mass dissatisfaction in the Russian community. Not less important are the intentions of the Russian oligarchic groups to take the leading branches of the ex-Soviet republics’ economies under their control.

The Russian are planning to realize the idea of building the Eurasian Union in three stages. 

The first stage suggests deepening the integration processes of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the Customs Union due to the creation of the Common economic territory of the three countries. 

The second stage includes transformation of the common economic territory into the Eurasian Economic Union ( by the end of 2015). 

At the third stage (2020-2025) at the basis of the Eurasian Economic Union the Eurasian Union will be created. All the three stages suggest that Kirghistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine will join the above mentioned integration formations.

At the same time, taking into consideration the fact that most of the countries of the former USSR don’t have a true desire to return under Russia’s control to the prejudice of their own national interests, the leaders of  the Russian Federation  are realizing a complex program of the forced involvement of CIS partners into Russian integration initiatives.

This program has the following main directions:

  • The first direction is preserving the basis of the economic unity of the countries of the former USSR at the basis of its energy system and co-operative relations in the economic sphere.

First of all, in this aspect Russia is trying not to allow decreasing of dependence of Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova from Russian oil and gas, as well as to preserving  Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan’s being “tied up” to the Russian pipeline network where it comes to their delivering energy resources to foreign markets. For this purpose the leaders of the Russian Federation are trying to stand in the way of Ukraine and Moldova's access to alternative gas sources and diversification of the ways of oil and gas export by the countries of Central Asia. In order to have additional levers of pressure on Ukraine in the energy branch, Russia is speeding up the construction of the new ”Northern Stream” and  “Southern Stream” gas pipelines bypassing the Ukrainian territory (which are economically pointless), and is  modernizing the Belarusian gas transmission system in order to increase its carrying capacity.

At the same time a separate direction of Russia’s activity in economic tying up countries of the former Soviet Union is establishing control over their industries and objects of infrastructure ( in the first rate, of transport and communications) under the cover of investment activity, getting control packets of shares, creating joint holdings, etc. In particular, the main attention of the Russian side is being paid to the creation of the joint holdings with Ukraine business for governing the Ukrainian gas transmission system, as well as to involving aircraft and ship building industries in the profile corporations of Russia;

  • Second direction- eroding the base principles of the statehood of  the CIS countries, as well as undermining the national self-identity of their population. Regarding Ukraine, this is achieved by Moscow's pushing forward the ideas of our country's federalization, introduction of a second citizenship ( Russian one, of course), and of Ukraine’s joining various forms of integration units headed by Russia, up to creating a confederation or federation of former Soviet countries. In general, all these measures aim at weakening the Ukrainian state, creating preconditions for the territorial split of Ukraine and further entering of its parts into Russia, like it is happening to Abkhazia and Southern Osetia.

One of the forms of such integration is creation of so-called “Eurasian regions” at the territory of the CIS countries the initiated by Moscow through deepening economic relations with Russia and other promising members of the future Eurasian Union. In particular, the first such region is going to be created on the basis of Trans Dniester Moldavian Republic, which since its self proclaiming has actually always been under the protectorate of the Russian Federation. Besides, Russia is actively lobbying the ideas of creating Eurasian regions on the basis of Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine and of the Crimean Autonomous Republic.

Providing Russian citizenship to citizens of the former USSR (Ukraine included), Russia is creating “legal grounds" for interfering into domestic affairs of the countries at the excuse of protecting their "Russian compatriots" abroad.

  • The third direction is intensification of the political influence of Russia at the post Soviet territories by means of creation of powerful political parties  of pro-Russian orientation in the former Soviet countries.

In particular, the Russian side is making active efforts to create a so-called “Russian Party of Ukraine”, which has to consolidate pro-Russian organizations of Ukraine within the framework of one political force able to secure its presence both, in the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council), and in the bodies of local self-government. Besides, supported by Russia, pro-Russian parties, movements and blocks, such as “Russian Block", “Rosj”, “Slavic Party” , "Russian Community of Sevastopol", and other organizations already function in Ukraine. A special role is that of the so-called Kossacks’ organizations, which are the "striking detachments” of Russia in conducting anti-Ukrainian actions in Ukraine. The most well-known of such organizations are "The Unit of  the Kossacks of the Crimea" and "The Sevastopol Kossack Union "Rusj", which traditionally concentrate their activity on favouring Russia’s measures of “tearing off” the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

  • The fourth direction is the formation of the ideas of existing common threats to the CIS countries in the security sphere, on the ground of which there is drawn  a conclusion of the necessity of uniting into military-political structures with Russia at head and of purposefulness of preserving Russian military presence at the territories of former Soviet republics. In particular, the following “sources” of such “common threats” are mentioned: the USA and NATO — for Belarus and Russia, Turkey and the sources of Islamic extremism in the Black Sea region — for Ukraine and the RF, China and spreading instability from Afghanistan and Pakistan — for the countries of Central Asia and the Russian Federation, unsettled conflict around Nagornyi Karabakh — for Armenia and Russian interests in the Caucasus.

Having such “grounds”, Russia is trying to build a military political system under its control within the framework of CIS (on the base of strengthening and widening of the Organization of the Pact of collective security) which, on the one hand has to give Moscow more opportunities for confronting the USA/NATO and China, and on the other hand- to help strengthening and securing Russian positions in post-Soviet countries.

As we can see, the most important for Russia is to keep its military presence at the territory of the former USSR. Thus, the location of the Black Sea Navy of the RF in the Crimea is considered by Moscow the main guarantor of preserving its positions on the peninsula and preventing Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration even in the nearest future. At this, alongside with the demonstration of the military presence and military force of the Russian Federation in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, the command of the Black Sea Navy openly supports the pro-Russian forces of the ARC (despite all the Ukrainian-Russian agreements on the BS Navy of the RF’s  non-participation  in political processes of Ukraine).

Similarly, the location of Russian military bases in Abkhazia and Southern Osetia is an instrument of strengthening Russia’s positions in the Southern Caucasus and Black Sea region, a guarantee of maintaining the Russian control over the occupied  territories of Georgia, and preventing Georgia’s joining NATO.

In its turn, widening of Russia’s military presence in the Central Asian countries (Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan) allows to maintain Russian positions in the region and to confront the regional influence of the USA and CPR.

Russian military presence in CIS countries creates additional opportunities for force intervention of Russia into their domestic affairs at the excuse of securing safety of their “Russian compatriots”. This opportunity is opened by the Military Doctrine of Russia, which allows preventative usage of the RF”s Armed Forces out of the country for the above mentioned purposes. A good example of this has become the military aggression of Russia against Georgia in 2008.

  • The fifth direction suggests obstructing the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of post Soviet countries, deepening their relations with other countries outside the borders of the Russian influence. Actually this way Russia is trying to make impossible the alternative ways of development of Ukraine and other CIS countries, which has to push them towards their integration into the Eurasian Union.

The realization of the plans of Russia mentioned above is accompanied by the purposeful direct and indirect pressure on the CIS countries.

Thus, lately the main instrument of such pressure on Ukraine there has been high gas prices. At this Russia agrees to lower the prices only if Ukraine agrees to join the Customs Union. Russia also actually ultimately threatens Ukraine with closing down the Russian market to Ukrainian goods in case of Ukraine’s refusal to participate in Russian integration processes. At the same time, positive achievements which Ukraine supposedly could get from its joining the CU, are being propagandized.

The Russian Federation’s measures of so-called “soft influence” on the countries of the former USSR through the humanitarian sphere, are also being activated. This concerns the promotion by Russia of the ideas of re-integration of the post Soviet territories within the framework of the common with CIS scientific, educational, cultural and other projects of appropriate orientation.

The above mentioned activity is organized and coordinated by Russia at the highest state level through the Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation on the CIS affairs and relations with compatriots, and through the “Rossotrudnichestvo”( Russian Cooperation) Federal Agency.

Apart from this, a wide circle of non-governmental organizations of Russia are involved in this work both, in Russia and Ukraine. The most important among them are the Institute of the CIS Countries with a notorious “ukrainophob”  K.Zatulin at the head,  the “Russian Mir”(Russian world) Fund and the Fund of Support and Defense of Compatriots Living Abroad”. The Russian structures mentioned above and their followers in Ukraine from pro-Russian parties and movements have recently held a number of demonstrative actions ( "Russian Marches") on the occasion of the so-called "Russian Unity Day" in Kyiv, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhya, Dnipropetrovsk, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Yalta, Donetsk and Luhansk, where traditional demands to Ukraine's government were put forward, concerning the referendum on federalization of Ukraine and its joining the Customs Union, as well as reunion  wiht Russia, Ukraine and Belarus for building a federative, and then a unified Slavic state.

Within the framework of the “soft influence” Russia is activating the conduct of the large scale information campaign, which on one hand is directed at the support and advancement of Russian ideas in Ukraine, and on the other  hand at discrediting the plans of European integration of Ukraine.

In these actions the Russian Orthodox Church is also involved, that focuses its activity on keeping Ukraine within the orbit of the Russian spiritual world.

Luckily for ex-Soviet countries and unfortunately for Moscow, the above mentioned Russian actions have diametrically opposite consequences - that is not the ones the Russian side expects.

For example, increasing economic pressure of Russia on Ukraine, and Moscow’s attempts to lower the Ukrainian nation cause a quite understandable irritation in the Ukrainian community, which helps to strengthen the statehood ideas and spreads anti-Russian moods. This is confirmed by the results of the latest Parliament elections in Ukraine, when the created by Moscow “Russian Block” got close to zero 0.03 % votes, while the most radical party of the national revival of Ukraine — “Svoboda”(Freedom) got above 10% of votes. At the same time, the “gas wars” of Russia against Ukraine actually help to create the unified Ukrainian national idea- that of giving up the Russian gas, which is being supported both, by the leaders of the country and by majority of the Ukrainian population in the West and in the East of Ukraine. So, despite its geopolitical efforts, Russia unintentionally creates the basis for uniting the people of Ukraine and strengthening the country's statehood.

Something similar is noticed in Russia’s relations with other CIS countries, its partners in the Customs and future Eurasian Unions included. Thus, despite all the union-like relations with Russia (within the framework of the Customs Union and OAKB included), the main direction of the efforts of Kazakhstan's authorities is getting rid of transit dependence on Russia in the plan of export of Kazakhstan’s oil and gas to the world markets.

In their turn, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan do not want to have anything in common with the Eurasian initiatives of the Russian Federation at all.

All the above mentioned processes have an objective character and are not controlled by Russia in any way. In the course of the natural change of generations of the population of the former USSR, the bearers of the Communist, Soviet and Russian ideologies inevitably go into the past and onto the life’s arena come out bearers of national and statehood ideas. This is confirmed by the results of sociological surveys held in Ukraine, according to which at the present moment 63 % of Ukrainians are firm supporters of Ukraine’s independence. And this category grows by 3% per year. This means that in 5 to 10 years Ukraine's independence as the basis of the Ukrainian population's mentality will be a completed fact.

It should also be mentioned that the leading business circles of most of the CIS countries are not interested in the integration with Russia as it threatens their own business both, from the point of view of possibility of going under the control of Russian oligarchs and in the aspect of growing competition on the part of the similar branches of the Russian economy. Thus, despite all the national-cultural problems, there has been formed its national business elite in Ukraine, responsible for the economic basis of the Ukrainian statehood.

Most of the representatives of the government agencies are also not interested in their countries’ losing their independence. It is clear that this would mean their losing their status in the society, privileges and power.

All this will bring to an end the geopolitical plans of Moscow concerning the restoration of its control over the post Soviet territories and Ukraine included.