Economic Transition in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

By Bartlomiej Kaminski | Go to book overview

The countries of East-Central Europe, which formerly belonged to the CMEA, are now not only moving toward the West economically, they are also striving to join NATO as soon as possible. The three Baltic states have followed a similar policy. Although Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova belong to the CIS, Russian-Ukrainian relations are unregulated at present, and the estrangement of Ukraine from Russia and its rapprochement with countries in East-Central Europe cannot be ruled out in the long run. These shifts will result in a very unfavorable redistribution of forces in favor of the West in terms of Russia's economic and political interests.

The situation unfolding in Transcaucasia and Central Asia depends to a large extent on the balance of forces among CIS countries in these regions, on the one hand, and between these countries and Iran and Turkey, on the other. Meanwhile, the aggregate GDP of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan is roughly ten to twelve times less than the economic might of Turkey or Iran. However, since relations between the Transcaucasian states leave much to be desired and since their economic and/or political positions are unstable, they have become increasingly dependent on their stronger neighbors and supporters, be they Russia, Turkey, Iran, or Western countries.

Since the breakup of the USSR, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly active in the economic, political, and diplomatic spheres of Central Asian affairs. In light of these trends, it is quite significant that the aggregate GDP of the five Central Asian states is 250 percent smaller than that of Iran or Turkey. Moreover, the obvious disparity in the economic might of the Central Asian states (the two regional leaders, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, have GDPs five to seven times larger than those of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, or Tajikistan) should be considered.16 It should be pointed out that there are significant differences in their attitudes concerning the prospects for the CIS and, especially, the evolution of their relationships with Russia. The necessity of the reconstruction of dismantled economic ties and the constant danger of political instability, engendered to some extent by the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism into this region, has stimulated Central Asian leaders to seek rapprochement with Russia. The danger of a revival of the imperial tradition of Russian foreign policy, however, continues to hinder the development of economic and political relations with Russia.


Notes
1.
In the 1950s, all of these states formed a single bloc. These countries acted as a counterweight to the West, even after complications appeared in relations between the USSR and Yugoslavia and later between the USSR, China, and Albania.
2.
China's potential in the mid-1960s was the result of its millennialong development and the fruit of the efforts of its innumerable generations of people. Its GDP has increased by 600 or 900 percent in just the past three decades. It appears to be something unique in the history of humanity. On the other hand, the country's ecological and other restrictions make its further development within the framework of the industrial system of productive forces questionable.

-250-

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