Multivectorness in the post-Soviet space is a thing of the past

Multivectorness in the post-Soviet space is a thing of the past

November 18, 2019 07:57

Interesting interview with Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs at „Eurasia. Expert“ . The EAEU failed in the economic perspective, No bridge states Belarussia and Ukraine, no multivectoral policy. NATO and the EU won´t expand anymore, we have won. Concentrate on the Russian speaking people of other nations. What about the Baltic gap? Michael O Hannon just wrote a book The Senkaku Paradox about it. Is it just for world peace or a Russification and the idea of a geopolitical system based on Russian speaking people as the core and „using their potential“. Russia first? Here the English translation:

In 2019, the Eurasian Economic Union will celebrate its 5th anniversary. During this period, the association entered into trade agreements with a number of Eastern partners. At the same time, the „integration of integrations“ with the European Union ended without starting, the pretext for which was the Ukrainian crisis. Against this background, the concept of a “bridge” between Russia and the West has gained popularity in the EAEU countries. Recently, Minsk has been particularly active in the role of mediator between Moscow and Brussels, as well as in the implementation of a “multi-vector” policy. In an interview with Eurasia.Expert, the editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, the chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Fedor Lukyanov, analyzed the strategic prospects of the Eurasian Union, assessed the possibility of its expansion, and explained how relevant the concepts of “bridge” and “multi-vector policy are” „For the allies of Russia.

– Fedor Alexandrovich, in 2019 marks 5 years since the creation of the Eurasian Union. How do you assess the intermediate results of the development of integration and its strategic prospects?

– Eurasian integration, it seems to me, doesn’t have what is called “benchmarking” in business. There are no tasks that must be completed by a certain date. More precisely, they certainly exist: there is an idea of ​​the long-term perspective and the desirable direction of development, but since everyone is a realist, everyone understands that the project is very unusual for this space. Well, let’s say, even the fact that many somehow ignore that for the first time Russia participates in the territory of the former Soviet Union, in Eurasia, in a project with countries that are objectively much smaller and less powerful, with less potential, but at the same time decisions are taken by consensus. That is, Russia cannot carry out any of its ideas without convincing the others of its correctness. This is a new phenomenon for us, we are not very used to it, and it is very good, because in the modern world we generally see that the dictatorship is no longer working.

Eurasian integration is hard. There are a lot of obstacles. Political, economic, cultural, in the sense that the culture of different countries works differently, and it turns out that often the clash of bureaucracies does not generate a synergy of efficiency, but vice versa. That is, you can sit down and criticize from and to. But this should not overshadow the main thing: the project lives on, which initially not everyone was sure of, because there have been many attempts to launch some kind of associations in the territory of the former Soviet Union since 1992, but none of this has advanced much, even with all respect for the CSTO. This union, of course, is free and clearly breaking up into different groups of relations between different countries. In this regard, the EAEU is distinguished by the fact that although it is slowly and with difficulties, it is moving towards the creation of a single institution, a single system that will live its own dynamics.

– 2019 set new contours for the expansion of the Eurasian Union. The study of the possible entry of Uzbekistan into the EAEU has begun. What new connection will Uzbekistan bring to the integration association?

– As you correctly formulated here, the work has begun. And the work will be quite complicated, because, firstly, Uzbekistan itself is just opening up to the world – under the previous president Karimov, the development of the country was based on the philosophy of closure and conservation of potential that was there. Under President Mirziyoyev, a completely different model was chosen, proceeding from the fact that the potential can be preserved for a long time, but at some point it needs to be built up. And Uzbekistan, as we see, has changed its style of behavior very sharply, is actively joining international relations. Since the EAEU is the most significant integration association in the region, interest is natural. Moreover, there is counter interest on both sides.

Uzbekistan is perhaps the only country in Central Asia today that has serious industrial potential: it needs to be developed, updated, but, nevertheless, it has been preserved.

Other countries in the region cannot boast of this. Plus, it is traditionally a country of serious state culture. Again, the age is much older than many neighboring countries. And Uzbekistan, if it joined the EAEU, could certainly take advantage of this single market and coordinate economic efforts, and so on.

The Eurasian Economic Union also has unconditional interest, because Uzbekistan is a large country. If I’m not mistaken, if I join, it will be the second largest country after Russia [the population of Russia is estimated at 144 million people, Uzbekistan – 32 million people, Kazakhstan – 18 million people, Belarus – 9 million people, Kyrgyzstan – 6 million people, Armenia – 3 million people. – approx. „EE“]. This is a large market, it is a powerful reservoir of labor, and it is different, including quite qualified. Of course, in this regard, the complementarity of the EAEU and Uzbekistan is obvious.

Naturally, these reasons stimulate interest in rapprochement, but they inevitably make rapprochement very difficult, because joining such associations is always a bargain for conditions. Each country, even relatively weak, nevertheless, must protect some of its industries, somewhere to make concessions, and somewhere not, and this is a long process.

Therefore, if it begins – and the chances of it are quite high, political signals say that the topic is being seriously considered – it will take a couple of years, because Uzbekistan will not enter anyway just to join.

The entry of Uzbekistan, if it happens, will be a very serious border for the EAEU, because it will mean the transition of a certain, so to speak, expected border. As it is customary to philistinely say, „Well, it’s clear that the satellites of Russia are joining it, because they have nowhere to go.“ Uzbekistan is not a satellite of Russia, and vice versa, it has always fundamentally raised the question that „we are separate.“ Therefore, if Uzbekistan is inclined to this, it will be a very serious achievement, which opens up opportunities for further expansion, which is also not problem-free, and, of course, lasting, but nonetheless. Tajikistan, say, left alone in this region, will probably think about it.

– This year, special attention is focused on the talks between Belarus and Russia on “deepening integration”. In what scenarios can Russian-Belarusian relations develop, and is there an alternative to the development of the Union State?

– The Union State is not going anywhere, because both sides are interested in it as a marker of special relations. Another question than this marker, this shell will be filled. Here the main debate is just going on, the main bargaining. But if you do not go into details, the scheme is as follows: Russia does not infringe in any way and does not pretend to political sovereignty and independence of Belarus. This, thank God, is the lesson that has been learned, it seems to me, that in the 21st century to conquer countries, forcing them to live by their own rules … nothing good comes of it.

Even the European Union, despite the fact that it is a very successful, competently and thoughtfully structured association, is facing growing problems, as many countries are starting to feel the disadvantages of integration no less than the pluses.

Moreover, when it comes to countries that are very sensitive to the issue of their own independence – these are, as a rule, young countries – you absolutely must not try to infringe on this in any way. Therefore, politically, all the talk that they are supposedly swallowed is, in my opinion, complete nonsense.

Economically – is another matter. The Belarusian economy is very strongly connected with the Russian one. She is very dependent on her, gets many benefits from this bunch. Something she has to give up, but this is a very old and natural conglomeration. And now, as I understand it, there is a very substantive bidding on what conditions it will be a single economic complex.

That is, the Union State as a brand for a long time primarily had a political flair. Now it is a matter of not just pedaling it politically, but economically – filling it with real content so that it is economically practically one space. It is clear that all this is going on rather painfully, but what you agree on will continue to live, and Belarus understands this very well.

– Belarus and other allies of Russia focus on the importance of a multi-vector policy and equilibrium in cooperation with both the EAEU and the EU. What hinders the dialogue between the two integration associations, and are Russia’s allies really capable of acting as a “bridge” between Moscow and Brussels?

– Moscow-Brussels bridges are not needed. This is a beautiful metaphor, but it does not mean anything. Moscow and Brussels have a long history of relations, it is different, but somehow they always managed to do without intermediaries, bridges and other things. Now, unlike the 20th century, when binding rigid alliances were considered the main form of unification, NATO was considered to be a model type of organization of allies, but now even with all its might, NATO is experiencing serious problems. Countries do not want to be tied hand and foot, focusing on only one group of partners. In today’s interdependent world, it is necessary to be able to build relationships that are multi-vector. This, of course, applies to all partners and neighbors of Russia.

There were different periods in Russia. There were periods when we were incredibly painfully perceived by any attempts by certain countries to establish ties with the EU, NATO, and so on. Now this still remains: this is a very strong inertia related to how the USSR disappeared and how the Cold War ended, but, in my opinion, now it is gradually leaving.

There comes an understanding that Russia does not need a monopoly in neighboring countries. Russia needs a guarantee that its interests will be taken into account. This is painful and takes a long time, but the trend, it seems to me, is obvious.

In this regard, neighboring countries seem to have more opportunities. At the same time, we must admit that they are not added, for another reason: the side that has always been a magnet and was interested in attracting those with Russia to its side … now this magnet, this attraction has greatly weakened – just by internal reasons. The EU, let’s say, is not at all up to the point; there is no question of expansion. Plus, the tragic situation around Ukraine led to a rather painful and difficult, but sobering, because the same Western alliances – both the EU and NATO – were ready to absorb new countries only if it cost them nothing, if all It went by itself. As soon as it turned out that under certain conditions it is necessary to pay a heavy price, up to the threat of war, [it turned out that] the question is being removed because it is not worth it in the eyes of the United States or the European Union.

Opportunities to maneuver, vary your politics and try to play on the contradictions of external patrons decreased, because the positions of the “big players” changed. Therefore, multi-vector as a desire to use all the possibilities will continue, but multi-vector as a life credo, which we have observed for many years in Ukraine, is leaving because there are no opportunities, there are no objects to which it can be directed.

– Along with the development of economic integration in the Eurasian space, new risks are forming. In a recent article, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev emphasized that „the West has consistently pursued a policy towards the destruction of a single humanitarian space with regard to the CIS and the CSTO.“ What exactly is this expressed in and how does Russia plan to respond to these threats?

– I think that the destruction of a single humanitarian space is, unfortunately, an objective process, because we lived in one state, and now there are many of these states and each of them is building its own national identity. To consider that all this is someone’s intrigues is a simplification. This, unfortunately, is an objective process. There is nothing joyful for us in this, but it happens.

Another thing is that Russian culture, the Russian language, Russia as a factor continue to be a very powerful element of attraction in these countries, even those that are not oriented to Russia, like Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan until recently. This is a very powerful groundwork, it must be maintained and developed – not in the sense that we should impose our culture, but in the fact that the Russian language should not be the language that we oblige them to speak. It should be a language that opens a window for them into the world – it is Russian, not English, Turkish or any other.

This is a very difficult task, but, I repeat, the backlog is very powerful – after all, centuries of joint history. The example of Ukraine showed: five years of the most aggressive anti-Russian policy – consistent and focused on cutting off all ties – and as a result of three-quarters of the votes, a completely different type of person, Russian-speaking by birth, wins. This potential must be used.

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