Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Faces Five Growing Obstacles to Integrating Post-Soviet Space, MGIMO Professor Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 18 – Both because the Russian empire has always been “an empire of a special type” and because ethnic Russians remain “the most divided people in Europe,” Moscow has every right to “struggle” to overcome what Vladimir Putin has described as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, according to an MGIMO professor.

            But in its pursuit of “Eurasian integration,” the Russian government must somehow overcome five “serious obstacles,” each of which is becoming larger with time, according to Sergey Monin, who teaches Russian and world history at the Russian foreign ministry’s training academy (rossiyanavsegda.ru/read/1753/).

            First of all, he says, the experience of 20 years of separation and independence have changed the economic and political links of the non-Russian countries. Immediately after the USSR disintegrated, there was great dislocation, but now these countries have turned away from Russia and toward the EU, the US, China and Turkey. Reversing that will be hard.

            Second, because of Russia’s own problems including a low standard of living and human rights problems, Moscow still does not have “sufficient attractive force” to overcome this disadvantage and genuinely commit to the kind of investments in the former Soviet republics that would be credible. Indeed, many in Russia aren’t interested in making that sacrifice.

            Third, “the national elites of the post-Soviet states are not particularly rushing to join ne joint integration projects apparently out of a concern for their own power and property and not desirous of facing competition from more powerful Russian business.” At the very least, they want to be courted by both to get more out of each.

            Fourth, “the older generations of residents of the new independent states, a significant part of which recall the times of the USSR with nostalgia are gradually leaving the scene.” The views of the following generations of Russia are being formed by media which “often” present Russia in not the best light.  That change is exacerbated, he says, by declining levels of Russian language knowledge.

            And fifth, Monin argues, “the West will do everything it can to block integration on the post-Soviet space.” It has no interest in giving up the “fruits of its victory in ‘the cold war,’” and China will contribute to this effort because it benefits from being able to deal with the post-Soviet states on a bilateral basis.

            Monin, who examined a variety of other issues in his article which is entitled “The Multi-National Population of Russia: A Source of Strength or of Weakness?” concludes that “the history of the multi-national Russian state like that of all [ethnic] Russian [or non-ethnic]Russian civilization testifies that there were the greatest advances and victories but also real catastrophes” as a result of multi-nationality.

            Today, he argues, the future depends on “the will and efforts of the current generation” who will determine whether “ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural multiplicity” will be a source of strength for the country and allow its “flourishing” and “the achievement of new victories” or not.

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