Consequences of Trade Liberalization in Integration Groups Created by the Russian Federation

Article excerpt

1. Introduction.

The main processes shaping the scope and character of contemporary international relations are those related to regional integration and globalization. Due to the growing internationalization of economic processes and the constantly increasing interdependence on the world scale the events occurring in one part of the world have their consequences in many other places, and the stronger the country which makes economic decisions the more their consequences are felt all over the world.

The essence of economic integration is the process of deep transformations and adjustments in the economic structures of integrating entities, e.g. a group of countries, which occurs both inside each of these countries and between them. The consequence of such a process is a new economic structure of a transformed quality. The integration process is inseparably linked to the liquidation of barriers in the international flow of goods, labour, capital and services aiming at creating the conditions in which the mechanism of free market could operate (1). In the light of the integration theory, we can differentiate a range of forms or integration models such as the free trade zone, customs union, common market, currency union or political union (2).

Contemporary integration groups, despite their main objective, which is the liberalization of mutual economic relations, go far beyond the economic aspects emphasizing the sustainable development, whose important element is to respect and protect human rights. The post-soviet zone is very controversial in this respect due to the numerous ethnic and national conflicts in the region of Central Asia and South Caucasus as well as undemocratic systems in some countries such as Belarus or Uzbekistan.

The picture of present relations and directions of foreign economic and integration policies conducted by particular Eurasian countries depends on a great number of factors. Territorial neighbourhood is of basic significance. Another important factor affecting the shape of the current situation in the region is the historical context resulting from the USSR membership and its subsequent collapse. On the territory of the former USSR two contradicting tendencies clash: integrative, with the domination of Russia and centrifugal, driving towards a maximum independence from the Kremlin's informal jurisdiction. Policies of many Central and Western Asian countries concentrate on an attempt to maintain a relative balance in the relations with such powers as Russia, China, the USA and the European Union attempting at gaining the largest influences in the region. (3) It is Moscow's interest to maintain the former Soviet republics within an integrated political, military and economic space.

The USSR, as an element of international law, ceased to exist on 25th December 1991. (4) The moment the communist colossus collapsed, the Soviet republics transformed into sovereign countries. The new countries faced numerous challenges resulting from the necessity to define their roles and places in the world economy, to restructure economies and choose strategic economic alliances. In the Baltic countries strong independence movements were felt. Another tendency occurred in the case of satellite countries in Central Asia. Their preservative policy stemmed mainly from the lack of preparation for exercising independent power and from a significant degree of dependence on other Soviet republics, especially Russia. The Soviet Union maintained a policy of subordinating particular republics, and therefore their separation, from the perspective of the poorest areas, seemed undesirable at the moment. Even the sparse opposition in this region demanded reforms rather than the collapse of the USSR.

Once the USSR collapsed, beside Russia, there appeared 14 new countries of different cultures, traditions and mentalities, different aspirations and status. Besides, what remained was the common armed forces, the common economic area, the common monetary system, the common property and foreign debts as well as a great number of lesser problems to cope with. …