Tuesday, November 13, 2018

‘Post-Soviet Space’ No Longer Meaningful Concept, Diplomatic Academy Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 12 – The countries which emerged after the collapse of the USSR are moving in so many different directions that “the post-Soviet space” used by many since 1992 no longer is meaningful, according to Sergey Zhiltsov, a historian at the Moscow Diplomatic Academy which trains many of Moscow’s diplomats.

            In a commentary in yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Zhiltsov says that these countries have become ever less similar, sometimes because of their own desires and sometimes because of the efforts of outside powers who are seeking to create cordons sanitaires around the Russian Federation (ng.ru/dipkurer/2018-11-11/11_7349_frontier.html).

                “For Russia,” he continues, “the greatest threat” is presented by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia whose governments have adopted “an anti-Russian course” and who are “drifting toward the EU and NATO” and breaking “political, economic and cultural ties with Russia.”  Elections in all three do not give much hope for a radical change in their direction.

            But they are not the only former Soviet republics who have moving in different diections and undercutting the meaning “the post-Soviet space” once had, a region that is increasingly divided between those who have placed their bets on Moscow and those who increasingly are doing so on the West.

            Western sanctions against Moscow since 2014 have intensified this process and thus mark “the beginning of a new state of development in the relations of Russia with the independent states.” Western attention to and support for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia is creating “a principally new geopolitical situation” around Russia.

            That sets the stage for “the intensification of the confrontation between Russia and Western states,” Zhiltsov says.

            “Unlike during the Cold War, when the USSR established on its borders a belt of friendly states connected by a system of military-political and economic relations, Russia in the emerging situation is in a less favorable position. The cordon sanitaire the West has created out of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine exists in the immediate vicinity of Russian borders.”

            The West would like to add Belarus to this group, but up to now, Minsk has shown an unwillingness to go that route, linked as it is closely to Moscow.

            In short, Zhiltsov says, what has occurred is the reemergence of a conflict of two blocs, one led by the EU and NATO and another led by Moscow, but including different countries and some closer to Russia. Russia has sought to respond, but it lacks the financial resources to oppose the West everywhere.

            “Nonetheless,” the diplomatic historian argues, “in recent years, Russia has achieved definite successes in preserving its influence on the post-Soviet space. In particular, it has launched and developed the integrative project of the Eurasian Economic Union.” But that does not involve all the former Soviet republics.

            Consequently, confrontation is increasing, and “there is ever less basis for speaking about the geographic integrity of the post-Soviet space which represents a mosaic of individual countries some of whom have been drawn into the anti-Western policy of the West,” Zhiltsov says in conclusion.

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