Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Russia's Neo-Imperial Dependence Model: Experiences of Former Soviet Republics

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Russia's Neo-Imperial Dependence Model: Experiences of Former Soviet Republics

Article excerpt

Introduction

The current study focuses on the political and economic dilemmas and challenges faced by Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine as potential target countries of Russia's intensive neo-imperial initiatives. Based on the assumption that a common pattern exists in Russia's behaviour in the recent conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine, both the ethnic and economic pre-conditions for a successful "hybrid warfare" from Russia's perspective and the potential consequences of the economic reorientation of the former post-Soviet republics under examination will be analysed.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union (SU), the former Soviet republics decided to choose different paths: the Baltic countries have, immediately after the restoration of their independence, chosen the combination of Euro-Atlantic security cooperation and European economic integration. In the other former SU republics, the path towards democratisation and market economy was more complicated, since countries remained in Russia's sphere of influence and maintained political and economic contacts with Russia, as the local semi-authoritarian regimes consolidated and the former Soviet bureaucracy practices in state administration continued.

Although the European Union initiated, after the 2004 enlargement, the Eastern Partnership initiative in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy with an aim to support the democratization and modernization of countries in transition and to enhance EU cooperation with former Soviet republics, the results have been rather modest in reducing dependence of those countries on Russia (Rickli 2008; Ciobanu 2004). On the contrary--in 2008, Russia successfully blocked Georgia's efforts to move closer to the EU and NATO, and in 2013 they interfered in Eastern Ukraine to stop the country's deeper integration with the EU. These actions have indicated Russia's geopolitical ambitions in the former SU space and forced some former Soviet republics to face a difficult dilemma between growing partnership with the EU or further cooperation with Russia and the Eurasian Union.

The current study also discusses possible scenarios both for the target countries to elude Russia's influence and for the European Union to create socially and politically acceptable alternatives for the countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy. Thus, the article seeks to assess potential security risks and threats, which may result from Russia's imperialistic ambitions towards four post-Soviet republics (Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine). The choice of these countries offers a good basis for diversified analysis: a) two of these countries are already in conflict with Russia and therefore under high pressure, the remaining two countries are economically highly dependent on Russia as well as having developed military partnerships with Russia which makes them very vulnerable to Russia's behaviour; b) two of them are Slavic countries with a significant Russian population speaking similar languages and sharing a historical background, and two are Caucasus orthodox states with a strong identity and historical heritage different from Russia's historical legacy; c) two of these countries are mid-size economies while the others are rather small in economic terms. However, as the recent political events in Moldova and Bulgaria have shown, Russia's imperial ambitions concern also those countries, which do not share a direct borde with it. Thus, some conclusions in the current study also concern countries like Moldova, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Also, the developments in Kazakhstan should not be underestimated in this light.

The study is structured as follows. First, the methodological aspects of the research are introduced, followed by an overview of the academic literature covering the models of imperial dependence and supranational interdependence, the problems of asymmetric integration in international relations and the linkages between dependence, stability and security as sources of security. …

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