˲    в         ˲    ˲    ˲ò            



[The Political Analysis of Postcommunism. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1995, pp. 239-263.]

Previous     Contents     Next





Chapter 4.

Geopolitics in the Postcommunist World

Oleksandr DERGACHOV.



If the universal and global phenomenon of communism and hence, of postcommunist changes might require evidence concerning the internal situation in a given society, it is self-evident in terms of geopolitics. The communist ideology in its Bolshevik version underwent political development and best expressed itself as a "creative doctrine," in international politics. The postwar period witnessed the USSR's inability to win the underlying economic competition or demonstrate its internal qualitative advantages; the USSR's attention was concentrated more often than not on specific issues of global rivalry, on provoking any revolutionary movements which might be conducive to its historic and, hence, final global victory. The socialist camp created by Moscow was a powerful factor affecting virtually the whole structure of world military and political relations.

Expansionism is not a communist invention. But as distinct from a once traditional Western strategy of ensuring by force economic activities based on market expansion (including territorial), the Kremlin endorsed the originally expansionist extra-economic and far-fetched idea of world revolution and used even the slightest opportunity to promote it artificially. There were undoubtedly two aspects to the Cold War, the arms race and the long, drawn-out international tension, and, hence, two actors. But, as the course of international events bears witness, the communist bloc most often took the initiative. Of identical origin is another massscale factor which aggravated tension in international rela-/242/tions from the late 1950s to the late 1970s Maoism.

By its very nature, the communist world also repeatedly displayed an "intraspecific" aggressiveness. The latter was profoundly experienced by Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia; it was expressed in clashes between the USSR and China and in the Chinese invasion of Vietnam. The export of communist ideology along with weapons and various forms of military presence resulted in sometimes different but always tragic and logically motivated events in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Yemen, Nicaragua, the Horn of Africa, and other regions. Moscow's global strategy exacerbated and ideologically colored the national-liberation and later internal political struggle in third world countries and, even to some extent, influenced political processes in Western states through its support of leftists. Profound qualitative differences, an obvious asymmetry of vectors, let alone methods, actions, and roles of the two poles of force, distorted the geopolitical landscape for decades. In modern conditions this governs the complex, multifaceted, and somewhat amorphous processes of the postcommunist transformation in the world system of international relations. It is not a question of the mere restructuring of relationships but of the internal evolution of dozens of countries, of essential changes on the political map of Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Transcausasus, and, on this basis, of fundamental change in the content and direction of the foreign policies pursued by countries of this vast area. A noticeable change has taken place in the qualitative characteristics and balance of the world's political and economic landscape, which necessitates geopolitical reorientation and forces the most stable and successful international entities to seek new goals and objectives.





The New Geopolitical Situation after the Fall of Communism




1. Restructuring Global Relationships


The main feature of a new geopolitical situation is its staid and amorphous quality. The postwar world community became accustomed to certain standards and comprehensibility in any given situation. The latter has now been complicated primarily by the tension and dynamic correlation of forces, and not by unpredictability in the intentions and actions of the chief protagonists in international relations. The old brutal determination exposed threats, simplified analysis, and in the long run precluded uncontrolled developments and full-scale clashes. Today, there is no longer any simple answer to the question of who is who in international politics.

It is symptomatic that most commentaries on geopolitical change and assessments of its further evolution contain attempts to find a "customary" version of the world structure and thus are reduced to building N-pole models. The staunchest traditionalists have N as equaling unity (pax americana); close to this are forecasts of reviving an arbitrary bipolarity/polarity (in case Russia reasserts itself as a great power and thereby offers an alternative global center of gravity). "Innovative" approaches to analyzing the geopolitical landscape and its inherent trends increase the number N to three, five, or eight, thus simultaneously attempting to illustrate both the real complexity of global situation and deliberately simplify and schematize the object of study. In /244/ the past this could be largely justified, for there were not only two powerful poles but also two systems cemented by global ideologies. The latter, often accompanied by intensive politico-diplomatic, economic-financial, and often military action, shaped the foreign-policy attitudes of dozens of states, checking expressions of alternative regional, ethnic,

or religious views.

The new horizons of the modern world are associated with the disappearance of bisystemity rather than of bipolarity, along with the disappearance in principle of systems as primary components in the structure of global relations and bearers of the latter's relative orderliness.

A system like this in the full sense may be represented only by the Eastern community of states where, under strict centralization, there was perhaps, here and there, internal discord and heresy but no plurality of geopolitical attitudes. It is the intensive strategy of this community that also imparted systemity to Western international relations, albeit with internal contradictions and claims for the establishment of separate power centers remaining intrinsic.

Let us assume that the model of two mutually opposed systems played a, by no means, unambiguous and not altogether negative role in postwar history. It was at its most dangerous by far when the gap between the levels of scientific-technological and socio-political development, and hence, between the threat of catastrophe and the possibility of finding civilized solutions, was pushed to the limit. Bisystemity demonopolized in a peculiar way the influence and potential of ambitions to global domination, which were kept in check by mutual deterrence, and simplified the negotiated settlement of strategic issues in a period when there was no alternative to force as a factor in international politics and when the capabilities of that force increased dramatically. The competition of the two systems exposed the dangers of their irreconcilability, stressing the importance of common human values and the need to deideologize international relations. In the 1980s the erosion of the old model was adequately compensated for and in some cases stimulated by the strengthening of international law-and-order and /245/ by a qualitatively new, more natural, and more constructive pluralism.

The late 1980s when the Cold War was petering out and new conflicts still looked like fleeting episodes and problem-free exceptions gave birth to almost unanimous euphoria over the dawning of a new age of security, stability, and rapid progress in international cooperation. But the emerging transition period of international development could not, axiomatically, avoid various risks, complexities, and uncertainties. Soon, the Persian Gulf war, escalation of the Yugoslav conflict, dramatic events in many areas of the former USSR and, finally, Russia's controversial policies outlined a new tension-laden geopolitical situation.1

A lack of system and adequate structure characterize international relations today. The old artificial orderliness and rigid dualism of forces characteristic of the bipolar system has given way to polycentrism and multiplicity of criteria. The substance of the notion "world community" has changed in fact and in essence. And it is not only and not so much a question of the significant increase in the number of international entities as that of ever-expanding opportunities to select and pursue one's own strategy of being and foreign policy. Gone is the subordination propped up by global ideologies and forces, and so too is the uniform and externally governed quality of the postures and actions of states.

The old world structure was jointly created by a few great powers. It was their interests that until recently largely determined the rules of the game in the international arena. True, these interests have become harmonized with the interests of other members of the world community to a much greater extent than at the time of Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam, but it is only recently, after the collapse of the communist system that the overwhelming majority of "nonwestern" states have been given the chance to turn from passive objects into active subjects in modern international life.

For the first time in history states, which formerly had to adjust their foreign policy to "systemic" discipline, have at least the prerequisites for expressing themselves freely in the international arena. Moreover, this pluralization has /246/ been supplemented by the emergence of new and potentially rather distinct states in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, by a change of contours, and even by the initial formation of new sub-regions. New and more powerful impetus is being given to the life of Slavic states almost half of which have at last acquired a real chance for independent development. Slavic and Orthodox factors may become noticeable in the future on a sub-regional level (but only if the Russian factor is overcome and the problem of giving the relationship true parity, naturalness, and mutually beneficial quality of relations is solved). Concurrently, the eastern borders of Catholicism are being modified. The Baltic countries are expanding and diversifying the sub-region of Northern Europe. It is rather difficult to forecast what characteristics might be assumed by such new subjects of international relations as the formerly Soviet Central Asian and Caucasian republics. In any case, the world community is now distinguished by such essential general features as diversity, a considerable expansion of the circle of ideas, motions, and approaches, that can and should influence the creation of a common human political philosophy, of an effective system of international law, general world order, and the world community's search for a new dynamic balance.

Let us note that when it comes to nations, peoples, and countries, specificity is the norm and can be treated as an inherent and obligatory feature of sovereignty. However, this certainly does not require atomization and anarchy in world relations. The collapse of the bisystemic model eliminated the artificial and de facto authoritarian structure which had emerged from geopolitical confrontation, a structure which as early as the 1960s began rapidly to evolve into an anachronism, an obstacle to true harmony in global relations, and in no sense serving the interests of most states

and nations.

Of course, the problems of achieving order, stability, and predictability in the modern overly pluralistic world are growing ever more complex; they require significant improvement of the legal institutions and mechanisms of interaction along with an overhaul of existing international /247/ structures. These should be democratic and, hence, sophisticated mechanisms. It will not be easy for them to achieve efficiency. These problems are likely to be solved on two levels: further development of universal mechanisms of cooperation along with the restructuring, and change in the essence of bilateral and multilateral relations. Regarding the former, one can foresee a more active discussion of ways to democratize the UN, to expand the spheres of activity and functional powers of intergovernmental organizations, to develop vertical links and the institutions to supervise the observance of general principles and norms of the rights and duties of states. One can also expect a far deeper awareness of the values and interests common to all civilizations and the need to safeguard them. This gives the global system of international relations a real chance to achieve order and assume a qualitatively new structure.2 It is clear, however, that the liberation of international relationships from ideological shackles and the spread of general democratic principles has not yet freed the world community of the complications of uneven development, from the unequal objective capabilities of different states to perform duties as subjects of law or even to resolve their own problems. All this even now to some extent pervades world structures, exacerbating the questions of the place, role, and utility of "social motives" and the principles of liberalism in international relations. It would seem possible to resolve this global duality only within limits required for stability and security and not more. The differences remaining between the strategic interests of donor and recipient states mainly affect bilateral and group relations which have a much more active immunity to the virus of dependency and are directed at an original pragmatism.

It is the sphere of direct contacts among states complemented by the actions of NGOs that has the main potential for solving specific problems. Qualitative global changes certainly influence this level of relations as well, thereby lowering the probability of some obtaining artificial advantages over others. However, there is no diminution in its to objective advantages. Differences are growing in the capability /248/ and viability of individual states. The conditions of internationalization, the increased importance of international factors of development, formulate relations of unequal mutual dependence. Dozens of countries, with due regard for their own limited potential, map out a long-term strategy of relying on certain powerful partners. It is this reliance that creates international poles or centers of gravity. It is essential that in modern conditions such poles should not constitute an alternative to world structures. Nor do the latter operate in a finite space or set special, entirely different rules of the game. They are only a component of the world system and are oriented toward cooperation to no lesser extent than towards rivalry.

An essential feature of the new geopolitical situation is the cohesion and growth of a highly-civilized core in the world community, i.e., the highly-developed Western countries, which thus unite the main poles of force. This may be illustrated by the stable activity of G7, a deep mutual interest in maintaining a dialogue between the latter and Russia, the dynamics of the general European process, and the strategic choices made by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Preconditions exist in this super-region for attaining high standards of international cooperation still inaccessible to other areas. Concurrently, the global influence of this core may gradually reduce the level of uncertainty in the geopolitical situations of other regions. However, this first of all requires general stabilization of the economic and political situation.

Today we witness an upsurge of crises and conflicts as another feature of the new geopolitical situation. The dawn of the new era in global relations was marked by basic changes in the structure and manifestations of threats to international peace and security. The danger of world conflict has receded to a purely hypothetical level and has in fact vanished. Orthodox aggressive strategics have been discarded by the states of not only the first but also, so to speak, second tier of viability. The problems of security have become deideologizcd and more tractable to logical and purely pragmatic approaches, as have international relations in gen-/249/eral. It has been possible to deepen and consolidate a process conceived back in the times of Gorbachev's "new thinking," that is, the process of settling those regional conflicts (or their components) where the effects of bisystemic rivalry were especially pronounced.

However, there were also negative consequences. First, numerous young and strident nationalisms in Asia and Africa began or intensified their "creative" activities. The emancipated endogenous political philosophy gave birth to local expansionism, formed unstable local balances of forces, new or renewed conflict situations, and areas of tension. Second, various factors reduced the influence and control exerted by states which had been involved in conflicts and now constitute the main threats to international peace and security: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Third, the dismantling of the Eastern bloc itself, beginning with the Soviet empire, gave rise to a series of new, acute, and highly unpredictable conflicts associated mainly with overcoming the results of past arbitrary decisions on borders, political system, varieties and qualitative features of national development. In this connection, the Final Communique of the joint session of the NATO Defense Planning Committee and Nuclear Planning Group in May 1994 stated in particular that "the threats to our security and European stability as a whole are today far more diverse and complex than those NATO faced in its first four decades" and that current security problems require a broader approach.3

The situation could be characterized, in general, by the end of conflicts between systems and termination of "classbased" confrontation as well as by the expansion and exacerbation of ethnically, religiously, socially, economically, and domestically based conflicts. And from a purely functional viewpoint, the global threat of a devastating confrontation of the two systems gave way to endless sub-regional and local conflicts, areas of tension, specific internal difficulties involving (not just potentially but in reality) dozens of countries. Therefore, global security has increased, while the national security of a great many countries in the former second and third worlds is now greatly endangered. This evi-/250/dently also does not completely by-pass the first world states, for they not only run the increasing risks associated with security indivisibility or with the destabilization of economic exchange, they also face immediate threats of mass migration, international crime, and terrorism.

These problems are rather specific. Almost all of them stem from similar historical and geopolitical sources and are connected with the fact that the conflicting parties were formerly objects of superpower expansion and victims of arbitrarily imposed geopolitical structures. The parties had limited opportunities for natural development, and they are now solving, in one way or another, problems of national revival. And this exerts special influence the local relations among neighbors.

The possibilities of maintaining peace and security in the former Eastern bloc territory depend on a complex combination of external and internal factors. In terms of classical peacekeeping through mechanisms of the world community (UN, CSCE), we witness, as with general problems of underdevelopment, a situation where available capabilities and will to act far are inadequate to the intensity of the problem. Russia, by means of its alternative peace-making proposals, attempts to fill the power vacuum in the region, outline a wide area of its own vital interests (the CIS), and seek an international mandate to keep peace throughout the CIS. This is obviously unacceptable, for it would have clearly breached the principle of the neutrality and disinterestedness of the peacekeeper.4 The newness of the situation lies in the West's very cool reaction to it. Very few things remind one of the former rivalry over influence in the Central and Eastern European region. It makes clear the current NATO strategy: gradual, cautious movement eastward and, hence, extension of the existing Western continental security zone into states enjoying a reputation of being the most reformed and stable, which have resolved their main foreign policy problems, and managed to shake off the burden of Russian tutelage. It vividly illustrates one of the chief current geopolitical uncertainties the uncertain Western policy towards Russia and the wide range of strategic options open to the latter. /251/

After all, in spite of Russia being a legal successor to all things Soviet, it is a new, different state which has not yet fully solved its own problems of national self-image and self-determination. Its search for solutions is ongoing and dramatically effects the domestic policy in this Eurasian colossus. The world exerts limited influence on giants and therefore must wait and see. At the moment one can only state that Russia has not abandoned its old great-power methods in foreign policy, does not care to establish relations of trust with its "near-abroad" neighbors, and is carefully surrounding itself with a field of force traditional for geopolitical entities in periods of confrontation. Russian politicians try almost openly to express their lack of desire to further maintain a beneficial and equal dialogue with the West as compensation for the "negative potential" of their own crisis- and conflict-ridden situation. All this creates additional major threats to peace and stability. As stated in a comprehensive report of the Institute of International Economic and Political Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, "the direction of Russia's foreign policy may deviate drastically from a normal course consonant with national interests, and the country could again be held hostage to the ruinous dynamics of imperial policy."5 It is clear that the West's undefined policy towards Russia provides for alternatives ranging from close security cooperation to a return to deterrence. All this, unfortunately, exerts a negative influence on other postcommunist states, first of all those in the CIS, restricts their room for maneuver, and makes it all the more difficult for them to overcome growing dangers of isolation.

The influence vectors of the West and Russia create a certain line of demarcation and from this flows the danger of breaking up the relative unity of the postcommunist region along the western border of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. In these conditions only Ukraine is potentially able, given her geopolitical efforts and aspirations for equilibrium, to maintain a sufficiently transparent continental space, change the configuration of strategic links, and enlarge the European community by joining it. But to do so, /252/ both pretentious Moscow and the neutral Kyiv would have to harmonize their positions and find a reliable scenario for their synchronized rapprochement with the West. Zbigniew Brzezinski notes in this context: "It is surely in Russia's interest to become more closely tied to Europe, notwithstanding the complications inherent in Russia's Eurasian geography and identity. It is surely in the long-range interest of Ukraine gradually to redefine itself as a Central European state. The proposed arrangement would provide the needed historical pause and the requisite sense of security for Russia and Ukraine to work out a stable balance between close economic cooperation and separate political coexistence while also moving closer to Europe as Europe moves toward them."6

The security structures being set up in the CIS are directed at consolidating the Russian military presence and serving Moscow's interests, not toward establishing real cooperation or creating multilateral mechanisms. The totally unbalanced relationship within the CIS and the complex role of Russia in maintaining security and stability in neighboring countries do not allow us to view what is now being built under the Tashkent Agreement as a collective security system compatible with modern international practice. Moveover, the situation is often governed by internal, especially intra-regional, factors.






2. The Internal Geopolitical Dynamics of the Postcommunist World


One can agree with Russian academician Aleksandr Yakovlev that the communist regimes in the USSR and East Central Europe did not fall because of nationalism. They were ruined by a multiplicity of historical circumstances, with nationalism merely filling the vacuum left by the lack of other serious ideological and political trends.7 It is only to a small extent that classical nationalism caused uncertainty, risk, and conflict during the first years of postcommunist national independence. The issue has been more one of complications and contradictions in a more general process of /253/ liberation from a painful legacy, of building a new society, and for most former Soviet and Yugoslav republics it is also a process of solving problems of identity and self-sufficiency. The inherited problems also determine the nature of relationships among the new states. An almost unanimous recognition of an "easy," less dramatic dismantling of the Eastern bloc and collapse of the Soviet empire is only a formality, while the fulfillment of a positive program, i.e., the formation of separate fully independent and self-sufficient societies and the respective relationships among is an entirely informal thing of virtually unprecedented complexity and scope. From the viewpoint of civilized standards of international relations, we face (at least in the former USSR and Yugoslavia) somewhat pre-international relations which lack openness and a truly official nature, where foreign and domestic policies are closely intertwined, and where responsibility to a partner is so devalued that it no longer counts as an international obligation.

The postcommunist region remains largely unstable internally and even rather unpredictable (in the Balkans and some areas of the former USSR). It is undergoing a dramatic process of identifying internal and common problems, of defusing destabilizing factors which have accumulated for decades and now show themselves because the administrative command system, which kept them in check, has collapsed. Their scope, acuteness, and hence ways by which some of them might be settled are not yet fully understood. The degree to which they are catalyzed by economic crisis and the latter's depth also defy reliable estimate. It is only natural that one of the risks monitored by, say, NATO is international, territorial, and border disputes and possibility of mass westward migration. And here the postcommunist states rival the developing ones.

The specific characteristics of the postcommunist world, essential as they are, display themselves to different degrees in different countries. Equally heterogeneous is the level of various states preparedness for reforms and independent development. The gap between the Bolshevik model and a self-governing democratic sonety proved to be far /254/ wider than that between their levels of material development. In these conditions the transitional nature of societies, their internal uncertainty, is natural, even normal. At the same time, if one accepts the notion that the communist system's collapse was an inevitable result of internal processes, then one should expect those processes to continue under the specific conditions of social transformation, that a qualitatively new society is in the process of being created, and this is precisely what is meant by transitional society.

This transformation must also be supported by external factors which may be viewed as a geopolitical factor, earlier virtually non-existent but now influential under the new circumstances. An essential feature of the new modern geopolitical situation is the "discovery" of a vast region consisting, until recently, of closed and semi-isolated societies. These societies, once in a qualitatively new situation, began to experience and even actively attract certain external influences. This partly intentional and partly spontaneous process interacts in various ways with internal factors to define the parameters of development. What is now self-evident, that the postcommunist societies of, say, the Czech Republic and Tadzhikistan differ radically from each other, underscores the fact that the former communist world also was not internally homogeneous, it was only brutally made monotonous by the system and transformed by Moscow into an integral geopolitical area. The collapse of the system and then of the USSR exposed the real non-uniformity of the Eurasian macroregion, and this is also reflected in the different speeds and directions of internal transformations in individual countries and regions.

The authoritarian administrative command mechanisms which kept the communist model functioning and the very model of which has been completely discarded only by Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia (the Czech Republic acting much more quickly and decisively than Slovakia, which accelerated their divorce), by the Baltic states as well as by Slovenia and Croatia, the most developed republics in the former Yugoslavia. These countries may be said to have identified quite definite tendencies of transformations which /255/ clearly bring them closer to the West and create a new geopolitical situation in Central Europe. The same tendencies are far less pronounced in the Balkan sub-region.

Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia were internally capable of using the Gorbachev reform of relationships, bringing about goal-oriented fundamental internal transformations, and even pushing the Kremlin forward, thus causing the Eastern bloc to fall apart. Other "people's democracies" first achieved true independence and only then made the transition to internally governed transformations. This group of countries naturally constitutes only the second echelon in their rapprochement with the West.8 A similar situation burdened with lasting foreign-policy implications arose in former Yugoslavia, where more advanced Slovenia and Croatia initiated the federation's dismantling and sprinted toward the West, not only to solve ethnic issues but also to accelerate internally their socio-economic reforms. Likewise, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were the only former Soviet republics with a truly national and massively supported democratic movement, where the struggle for independence rested on a relatively well-thought-out strategy of independent existence.

A more complex and uncertain situation arose in the CIS, where anticommunism gained momentum only due to the contradictory perestroika, which triggered the disintegration of the Soviet empire and brought about a situation where the forces of democratic renewal were partially disorganized and partially let themselves be seduced by the process of gaining sovereignty in nationalist garb. Having as their goal the universal task of creating a democratic lawgoverned state, these forces in each former republic found themselves in situations with a different correlation of sociopolitical blocs and thus had to solve different urgent problems. Here the Soviet geopolitical zone was preserved at different stages of modification with unidentified tendencies of internal evolution and the deepest possible multifaceted crises. The elite's amorphous values and ideologies, absence of a civil society, along with internal political confrontations accompanied by criminalization and massive corruption /256/ set the stage for a new time of troubles and render it difficult to state with any certainty what kind of social system will replace communism in the countries of this region in the foreseeable future. In addition, the CIS countries have not yet solved the problem of self-sustained sovereign existence and self-determination in the current system of international relations. Many countries (to be more exact, their rulers) faced these problems quite unexpectedly, without due reference to the inherent logic of internal processes. This is most true of the former Soviet Central Asian republics which were not prepared for independence in either an official, political, or socioeconomic sense. They also lack traditions of statehood adapted to modern conditions.

After the Bolshevik attempt to create a new civilization failed, ethno-religious and historico-cultural factors caused the renewal and deepening of civilization boundaries between individual countries, groups of countries, and even within them (Russia, Kazakhstan). Resulting large-scale migrations raised the prospect of a substantial reduction of the Slavic presence in southern regions, diminution of diasporas, and the scale of mixing bearers of different cultures. Given the lack of prerequisites for the rapid formation of a civil society, the complex forms of multiethnicity in most new states constitute not only a problem of internal integration but also an essential element of geopolitical uncertainty in the region as a whole and in the strategic perspectives of individual states. The generally accepted principle of inviolability of borders, of a territorial status quo in local conditions, gives fixed status to borders drawn arbitrarily by Stalin. A picture familiar since the decolonization of sub-Saharan Africa is here far more complex because of greater interdependence and distorted ties which have to be reformed, no matter how difficult. For this reason, factors of geopolitical pluralism and relatively non-harmonious geopolitical integrity act simultaneously in the CIS, causing considerable internal tension. The actions of these factors along with external influences determine to various extents the situation in individual countries and determine their attitude toward ideas of reintegration. /257/

Of paramount importance in outlining the new shape of the geopolitical theater is Russian policy. With neighboring states inadequately prepared for independence, forced to concentrate on internal troubles and having limited capabilities to pursue an activist foreign policy, Russia is the only agent capable of undertaking system-creating action and of deliberately influencing the international relations being renewed. Russia's size, resources, and military potential are complemented by a psychological orientation that can only be described as a great-power syndrome of complete legal succession to the USSR and its traditional messianism. Hence, its unconditional claims for a special role and positions in the whole region east of Germany, its return to a more natural purely Russian nationalism, various popular scenarios of gathering and strategically subjugating satellites, and constant displays of its special relationship with the West.9 But in this case Russia, too, experiences a large-scale and painful effect of newness and uncertainty. It again faces, as before, the question of historico-cultural self-awareness and geopolitical self-determination. In prerevolutionary times the needle of the strategic compass always swung from one pole to the other. The mind was drawn to the West, while wealth came from Siberia. The tug-of-war of Eurasianism and the unending debate between Slavophiles and Westernizers illustrate, confirm, and define the status of a choice never made.

Only yesterday the problems of Russia governed the fates of dozens of peoples. Now this has formally and for the time being changed. After the disintegration of the USSR Russia supposedly became less "eastern." But its "West" also shrank (one need only recall the past civilizing influence of the former Baltic states), and the old balance of contradictions was maintained. Moscow's conceptual indefiniteness also has a flip side which provokes heated debates in European and world politics where Western leadership is a fact. For there is also rather wide-spread xenophobia, "antiWesternism," and a search for external enemies which lay claim to becoming part of official ideology. Such sentiments are nourished by both internal cataclysms and national tra-/258/ditions. As was aptly noted by "official" Russian political scientist Emil Pain, "Russian nationalism in its mass manifestations is nothing but degenerating Soviet consciousness."10

With the death of the USSR, problems of self-identification and strategic choice were inherited by all the newly independent states. Under the new conditions the East-West alternative underwent mutation, lost its old algorithm, and assumed the role of a pragmatic issue of contemporary politics: upon whom could they rely for support against threats to their new statehood, from whom could one obtain security guarantees, resources, and such. For today, under conditions of almost insurmountable isolation, the geographical borders of the CIS seem to embrace a zone where the choice in practical terms has been made and simultaneously undermine the very phenomenon of the CIS.

Specific circumstances in this early postcommunist entity illustrate a semantic dilemma: either a civilized divorce (which is the talk of the town in, say, Ukraine) or a veneer legitimizing a system of Russian domination. A third scenario, transforming the CIS into a civilized integrated grouping which could actually accomplish the voluntary unification of independent states based on a harmony of interests is impossible, at least in a medium term, for there are no truly independent states or opportunities for choosing a partner.

The CIS emerged as an unexpected result of processes in the Soviet Union during its final period of existence. It is first of all the intensification of a power struggle and related worsening of relations between center and periphery, i.e., the former Union and certain of Russia's autonomous republics, territories, and regions. In this case, Party and state elites exploited, in one way or another, the idea of national liberation and democratization, thus neutralizing or utilizing local national and broadly democratic movements. The latter assumed a mass character and won respect very slowly in most republics, and only in some of them (Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, partly Azerbaizhan, and Moldova) did they approach a level where they could constitute a real op-/259/position to the ruling nomenklatura. The power struggle and shared interest in bringing down the central governing structures determined the sovereignization of the Union republics outside the logic of internal processes which elsewhere by and large have been precursors to independence. The events of late 1991 did not yet signify transformation of the empire into independent states; they merely witnessed the disintegration of the strictly centralized, partially reformed Bolshevik monarchy into separate fiefdoms, most of which still have considerable hardships to overcome on the road to self-sufficiency and true independence. This process was directed by the top Soviet bureaucracy and served their ambitions, which had reached the level of statehood. These only more or less coincided with real-life social interests. Sovereignty was not won but obtained by a redistribution of essentially the same power. The only exception is the Baltic states, for they steered, quite naturally, clear of CIS processes.

It is the redistribution and restructuring of power "from above" that brought about the surprisingly easy and virtually conflict-free disintegration of the USSR, so puzzling to foreign observers. If there were any complications on the road to sovereignization, they were of a rather peculiar nature, e.g., the inadequate readiness for governmental responsibility of the leaders of some republics thrown into independence almost by force. On the eve of the August 1991 coup Ukraine was the only obstacle to signing a new Union Treaty. In October of that year when federal structures were in fact paralyzed, the leaders of most republics again intended to sacrifice national independence and support the re-edited treaty which actually would have given local "parties of power" the right to uncontrolled freedom of action along with certain guarantees. As soon as December the aspiration to have something of the kind prompted the Central Asian leaders to run after the CIS created by Russia, whose leadership ruled out any parallel existence for Union authorities, by Ukraine where the dominant conservative neo-communist forces did not require any outside support and even hastened to dissociate themselves from the /260/ waves of democratization coming from Moscow, and by Belarus which let things drift. Kazakhstan's internal disunity explains Nursultan Nazarbayev's especially active role in attempts at reintegration. In general, the Central Asian states, where the ruling elite relies both on Soviet nomenklatura-led mechanisms of domination and local semi-feudal traditions, are very far from Western standards of civilization and are orienting themselves toward maneuvers between the Muslim world and Russia, using the latter as a guarantor against fundamentalism and all-out islamization. Moscow, in its turn, is interested in restricting the northern penetration of the Middle-Eastern states. This region as well as, say, Mongolia will apparently remain a periphery isolated from broad international links in the short and probably medium term. One can also foresee a gradual weakening of Moscow's influence and the establishment of a new geopolitical balance in this subregion coupled with growing differences in the political will of individual countries.

The new Central Asian states and Azerbaizhan are certain to get closer to the Muslim world, but they are also likely to occupy a special place in it. They are almost sure to retain the signs of "Europeanness" acquired in the past few decades, i.e., a certain immunity against fundamentalism, and they will thus not only expand the Muslim region but also diversify it. Azerbaizhan has chances to "embrace Europe" following the example of and aided by Turkey. Moreover, given the solution of internal problems, Christian Armenia and Georgia gain quite similar prospects, especially with the aid of their diasporas.

After the collapse of the USSR these states, along with Moldova (relatively more organic and consolidated), acquired clear perspectives and pursued a much more independent policy aimed at changing their own geostratcgic paradigm. The essence of postimperial relations in the USSR, in particular Russia's interests and role, stands out more prominently against events in the above countries. The attempts of the newly independent states to overcome their isolation and one-sided dependence ran up against hidden but easily-guessed at and sometimes even overt counteraction by Mos-/261/cow. It is not only the lagging of general democratic transformations behind the dramatic course of emancipated inter-ethnic relations that can explain the dimensions and impasse of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaidzhan over Karabakh, the defeat of the Georgian central government in Abkhazia, and the phenomenon of Transdnistria. Quite revealing are evolutionary changes, full of forced pragmatism, in Kishinev's and Yerevan's attitude to the CIS as well as Baku's and Tbilisi's "radical" reorientation toward it after a not-quite-legitimate comeback to power of the Kremlin old guard in the persons of Aliyev and Shevardnadze.

By far the most intricate problem of the CIS is that it has become an arena for Russia's own self-determination, i.e., of a state which traditionally doubts the boundaries of its possessions and even of its interests." But this is a separate topic. Russia continues to confidently neutralize centrifugal tendencies in the CIS. The first years of independence did not reduce the new states' dependence on Russia, nor did they give any real alternatives to their geopolitical attitude. A well-known strategy of safeguarding Russian vital interests in the former USSR seems to have been pursued.12 This also holds good, with minor reservations, for Ukraine, given its considerable material resources, policy of neutrality, and chances that the West will develop an interest in it. Ineffective socioeconomic policy and the nomenklatura-tinged patriotism of the ruling elite made the country so weak that it has to make all kinds of new and dangerous concessions in its bilateral relations with Moscow, bringing it closer to the Belarus status of a model "younger brother."

The CIS member-states note unanimously that the organization is far from effective. It does not seem to be performing its official functions, and in this respect, as three years of experience indicate, it is past repair. The sphere of its actions and jurisdiction is gradually expanding, but no system of balanced relations is being formed, and most problems are being addressed by bilateral agreements. Decisions "for all" accumulate but only those which suit Moscow are fulfilled. Moreover, the necessity to look over one's shoulder /262/ at Moscow complicates the development of bilateral ties outside CIS channels. These ties, as yet of narrow margin, are so far being developed by the Central Asian countries alone. As of today, the commonwealth primarily serves Russian interests, legitimizing Russia's strategy to unilaterally control virtually the entire former USSR. This can be seen only too clearly in the military field: Russian military bases being established, special functions to the Russian army and border security forces being delegated: weapons supply, personnel training, etc.13 It is also essential that Russia, as a leader in economic reforms, is acquiring additional geopolitical advantages thus complicating, rather than encouraging, reforms in neighboring states. For the other states, if their aspiration for independence is any indication, the CIS personifies the lack of real alternatives in the transition period, the latter consisting in overcoming one's inner weakness, unbalanced quality, i.e., the many handicaps inherited from Soviet totalitarianism. The CIS has no more real chance than the perestroika-period USSR to eliminate at least many of these problems. The economy, a sphere more prone to inertia than politics and incapable of instantaneous change, once stimulated not only reforms but the empire's dismantling; today it lags behind the new political conditions and, moreover, suffers from them. The CIS is cemented by the dependence of the "eleven" on Russia. It must be understood that what keeps them together is artificial and far from perfect.

The CIS has no chance of becoming a mechanism to harmonize the interests of member-states because, first of all, this is not in Russia's interest, and secondly, the interests of certain groups of new states are sometimes essentially different and have quite distinct, even opposite, vectors. From this postimperial entity one can observe the complexities of an evolutionary restructuring of local geopolitical landscapes without resorting to strong-arm tactics. The West is identifying its interests in the CIS area very cautiously and gradually; it is in no hurry to be an alternative to Russia. The latter is the only entity pursuing a strong and structure-creating policy in the region. Establishing a new, indirect mechanism of domination, Moscow will by no /263/ means be interested in the eventual dissolution of the "near abroad" in the system of world-wide cooperation caused by a gradual rapprochement of the postcommunist world with the West. Therefore, the CIS countries face the danger of preserving "special" relationships with Moscow in relative isolation from other regions except through Russian mediation. But this does not mean that the CIS has no future. Given the lack of rear alternatives and limited viability of most new states, these states are very likely to dissolve and adjust to "Eurasian" realities rather than pursue their own national interests. The limited mobility of geopolitical entities in the CIS area is maintained by a rusty but not dismantled inner skeleton. A qualitative renewal of circumstances is possible only if Russian policies change their paradigm or if the new states speed up decisively their reforms and thus pass on to a new stage of geopolitical change which would lead to the final destruction of the vestiges of archaic structures.




1. See: "The Art of Conflict Prevention," Brassey's Atlantic Commentaries, 1994, No. 7, pp. 1-2; James Brusstar, "Russian Vital Interests and Western Security," Orbis, XXXVIII:4, 1994, pp. 611-613.

2. See: V. I. Yevintov, Mizhnarodne spivtovarystvo i pravoporiadok (teoretychno-pravovyi analiz) (Kyiv, 1993), pp. 11-13, 1928 (in Ukrainian).

3. NATO Review, June 1994, Supplement in Russian, p. 20.

4. "The Russian Approach to Peacekeeping Operations," UNDIR Research Papers, 1994, No. 28, pp. 17-18.

5. Rossiya: drama peremen (Moscow, IMEPI RAN 1994), p. 160 (in Russian).

6. Zbigniew Brzezinski, "A Plan for Europe," Foreign Affairs, January-February 1995, LXXV:1, p. 39.

7. See: Izvestiya, August 6, 1994.

8. See: Transition Events and Issues in the Former Soviet Union and East, Central and SouthEastern Europe, 1994, part 1.

9. A detailed study is: Dimitry Simes, "The Return of Russian History," Foreign Affairs, January-February 1994, LXXV:1, pp. 67-82.

10. Izvestiya, January 13, 1995.

11. See in particular: Paul Gobble, "Russian Break-Up," NEFTE Compass, January 15, 1993, 11:2; Jessica Eve Stern, "Moscow Meltdown: Can Russia Survive?" International Security, Spring 1994, XVIII:4, pp. 40-65.

12. James Shenn, "Russia: Geopolitics and Crime," The World Today, February 1995, LI:2, p. 33.

13. P. Baev, "Russian Military Thinking and the 'Near Abroad'," Jane's Intelligence Review, December 1994, VI:12., pp. 531-533; S. Clark, "The Russian Military in the Former Soviet Union: Actions and Motivations," ibid., p. 541-542.





Previous     Contents     Next


:

:   , . -- . , , , , , , . . . . )




i ii, ii Ctrl+Enter.

I.   IX-XVIII .