Staunton, October 17 – Many in Moscow think that Russia’s position in the CIS is “weak,” but the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis shows that even in “relatively recalcitrant” countries like Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, it is “much firmer than it might appear at first glance,” according to Viktor Yadukha.
The reasons for that include “memories about the USSR, the popularity of Russian television, and the fear of the authorities of color revolutions,” the Moscow commentator says, but they also include the fact that Moscow has “its own people” in each of these countries on whom it can rely when it needs to (rosbalt.ru/exussr/2014/10/15/1327445.html).
Some of Moscow’s “people” are among the populations of these countries which do not share the positions of their governments, others are in the governments and have long been supportive of Moscow, and still others are people who have been convinced by events in Ukraine that they need to ally themselves with Moscow or risk being on the wrong side of history.
Uzbekistan is a clear indication of all three of these sources of support for the Russian government, Yadukha says. Many Uzbeks are refusing to buy Ukrainian products even though Tashkent has not imposed an embargo on them. Some Uzbek officials are distancing themselves from Islam Karimov, and Karimov himself is ever less willing to oppose Moscow.
The same pattern, the Rosbalt commentator says, can be observed in Kazakhstan where the population and the government are not on the same page, where many officials are pushing for a more pro-Moscow line, and where Nursultan Nazarbayev has backed away from his push for the Latin script out of fear of creating condition for a Ukraine-style crisis in Kazakhstan.
And it can be found in Azerbaijan as well where the population remains heavily influenced by the Soviet past and Russian television, where officials are increasingly deferential to Moscow, and where Ilham Aliyev is concerned about the risk of a color revolution which he believes the US could orchestrate but that Moscow opposes.
Some Moscow analysts like Fedor Lukyanov argue that “the Ukrainian crisis has forever closed down the possibility of post-Soviet re-integration” and that “it is time to completely and forever forget about the USSR.”
That is “possible,” Yadukha says, but Russia still has a lot of supporters in the societies and governments of “the republics of the CIS, and Moscow would be stupid not to make use of it” now and in the future.