Injecting Realism into Russia’s CIS Policy

by Nathan Hamm on 8/23/2005 · 1 comment

MosNews has a must-read article on attempts to inject realism into Russia’s CIS policy.

The problem? A disconnect between self-image and reality.

It becomes a strange picture indeed when Russia tries to play the role of a superpower without the resources and capabilities to be one.

The gap between ambition and ammunition leads to deep vulnerabilities that are all the more hurtful when they happen precisely in those places where Russia has long believed itself to have the most control — the CIS territories.

This was glaringly obvious last year in Russia’s attempts to back its man in Ukraine. And the failures there prompted policy reevaluation from influential quarters (related post).

The column says that an anonymous Kremlin source told RIA that a new CIS policy is on the horizon but that it will focus more on the US and EU than on the states in the near abroad.

The essence of the new political direction is not to reestablish the Russian influence that was perceivably lost during the “orange revolution.” It was never there, there were only funds wasted and Russian gas stolen. The aim is to make relations between Russia and Washington and with European structures civilized. We have the patience, even if it takes years, to explain to our partners that Moscow is not planning on reestablishing the Soviet empire. But Russia is not satisfied with the situation where it practically subsidizes the economies of a whole series of countries, supplying them with energy resources for unprofitable prices. It’s situations like these that create the environment for “orange revolutions” after which little changes for the populations, while the leaders get a covert payment from the Americans.“

I find the last part there to be a load of b.s.–covert payments aside, it’s too soon to pass final judgment on Ukraine’s or Georgia’s revolutions. But, the recognition that Russia’s propping-up of neigboring regimes requires paying a very high price for almost nothing in return is important. In fact, the author of the column claims that this statement also acknowledges that Russian policies helped create the conditions for popular revolutions.

Of course, there is quite a bit of intertia behind Russia’s current course and there are many who have a strong stake in stalling any changes. And while a change in Russia’s relationship to its near abroad would by no means cause disagreements with the West to disappear, the changes described above would be a welcome change.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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