Staunton, February 13 – Arkady Moshes, an expert at the Finnish Institute of International Relations, says that the Moscow expert community today very much dissents from the official position that Moscow should focus on the re-integration of the former Soviet space and has good prospect for doing so.
In a comment published on the Ekho Moskvy portal, Moshes says that Russian officials continue to be “full of hopes and plans relative to the process of the reintegration” of that space “with the center in Russia” but that the expert community has doubts about more than developing bilateral ties with these states (echo.msk.ru/blog/ponarseurasia/2146786-echo/).
A joint report by the Russian Council on International Relations and the Moscow Center for Strategic Planning (russiancouncil.ru/papers/Russian-Foreign-Policy-2017-2024-Report-Ru.pdf) openly called for “leaving in the past the closed post-Soviet paradigm” and focus instead on gaining traction with cooperation with partners beyond that region.
This proposal to “’open up’ the post-Soviet space” in this way, Moshes says, “could become a new element in Russian foreign policy thinking, although above all it would mark a simple recognition of existing realities – all the post-Soviet countries for a long time already have been seeking balance and protection from Russian domination.”
But to the extent that the expert community feels compelled to dissent from the Kremlin’s position, this suggests that a constituency is developing in the Russian capital for challenging the regime’s “views about exclusive influence or spheres of privileged interests,” the Finnish analyst continues.
“Summing up,” he writes, “the experts identify three main things. First – and here Ukraine willy-nilly occupied a central position is a clear understanding that in the foreseeable future Russia will not have partnership-like relations with Ukraine.” And without Ukraine, integration projects for the post-Soviet space “don’t have the critical mass” they need.
Second, it is clear that the experts now understand that the Eurasian Economic Community “cannot become an instrument of political re-integration,” partially as a result of Moscow’s actions against Ukraine but also partially about the desire of the former Soviet republics to go their own ways.
And third, the Moscow experts clearly recognize that Moscow must “go beyond the framework of exclusive post-Soviet formats” if it hopes to “harmonize its regional policy with China” because Russia “simply is not in a position to resist or even slow Chinese penetration into Central Asia.”