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Yulia Nikitina

PhD in Political Science, associate professor at the School of World Political Processes, research associate at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies, MGIMO University

On December 21, 2015, Moscow hosted summit sessions of the CSTO Collective Security Council and the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. Such meetings tend to attract much attention from the mass media due to important statements of the leaders and signed political declarations; however, this time it is hard to define the results of the sessions as far-reaching. The fundamental political context of the meetings was arguably based on the issue of Russian allies’ loyalty to Moscow.

On December 21, 2015, Moscow hosted summit sessions of the CSTO Collective Security Council and the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. Such meetings tend to attract much attention from the mass media due to important statements of the leaders and signed political declarations; however, this time it is hard to define the results of the sessions as far-reaching. The fundamental political context of the meetings was arguably based on the issue of Russian allies’ loyalty to Moscow. According to the mass media, this time the CSTO member countries’ stance on the Russian Su-24 shootdown by Turkey, as well as the stance within the EEU on EU and Ukraine setting a Free Trade Area (FTA) and the suspension of the FTA agreement with Ukraine by Russia starting from January 1, 2016, could be considered as the indicator of loyalty. How important is the issue of loyalty within regional organizations of the former Soviet Union? Perhaps, playing this issue up is just the mass media’s attempt to at least somehow comment on these sessions that otherwise wouldn’t be of any interest to the public?

The reluctance of Russia’s CSTO and EEU allies to support Moscow on such issues as the Su-24 incident and FTA with Ukraine not only at the level of these organizations’ collective declarations, but also at the level of the member countries’ individual statements undoubtedly triggers certain questions concerning further interpretation of the situation at hand. However, the issue of supporting Moscow’s foreign policy steps is not new: similar disputes emerged earlier in connection with the recognition of South Abkhazia and the integration of the Crimea. Two contrary conclusions could be drawn from these disputes: 1) even the allies do not support Russia, and it cannot rely on them in time of need; 2) Russia does not try to pressurize its allies and make them give up their multi-vector foreign policy by choosing loyalty. The first conclusion describes Russia as a lonely state without regional support forced to oppose various superior powers (the West; international terrorism; etc.). The second approach makes it possible to look at Russia as a country that soberly evaluates the consequences of the decisions taken by it, understanding that its allies are not bound to bear responsibility for the decisions that Russia took on its own.

The fundamental political context of the meetings was arguably based on the issue of Russian allies’ loyalty to Moscow.

Another recent trend that could be mentioned in relation to regional cooperation in the former Soviet Union is the ambition to link cooperation in various regional formats. For instance, when CSTO and SCO were still in the process of formation, and EEU was not yet fully established, each of these organizations was to a greater extent focused on internal development processes; but lately the appeals to join the potential of several organizations to solve specific tasks are increasingly frequent due to the regional organizations’ intersecting memberships. Thus the following organization combinations take shape:

1) The CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO, and CSTO as a whole could fight against international terrorism in Afghanistan. At the same time, according to Maria Zakharova’s statement, Russia’s opinion is that Afghanistan’s authorities should be supported through SCO where Afghanistan is an observer.



The issue of supporting Moscow’s foreign policy steps is not new: similar disputes emerged earlier in connection with the recognition of South Abkhazia and the integration of the Crimea.

2) At a meeting with Russian entrepreneurs, Vladimir Putin suggested developing proposals concerning possible economic partnership between SCO and ASEAN.

3) EEU has completed the process of approving a FTA agreement with Vietnam. It should be recalled that Vietnam is a member of Trans-Pacific Partnership established on October 5, 2015.

4) In Dmitry Medvedev’s opinion, SCO’s financial mechanism should be created with consideration for already existing structures with similar functions: the Eurasian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the SCO Interbank Consortium, the Silk Road Fund, and the BRICS Development Bank.

5) At the suggestion of China, the development of a roadmap for a FTA creation has been launched within SCO. Apart from the fact that the memberships of SCO and EEU intercept partly, Iran, SCO’s future member, and EEU have also started the preparation for FTA creation. Besides, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Almazbek Atambayev thinks that not only should SCO and EEU cooperate, but they also might unite in the future.

6) As early as May 2015 a decision was taken to link EEU with the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Joining formats is, on the contrary, an opportunity to avoid the matter of loyalty, to neutralize it.

With so many regional cooperation formats and a frequently intercepting agenda a question emerges whether the issue of small and medium-sized states’ loyalty to regional centres is relevant in the context of such pluralism. Joining formats is, on the contrary, an opportunity to avoid the matter of loyalty, to neutralize it. For instance, Russia provides gratuitous aid to the Kyrgyz Republic in the amount of 200 million dollars under an inter-governmental agreement. In fact, this money is allocated for the adaptation to entering the EEU. A Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund is in place. However, in 2015 the Kyrgyz Republic has repeatedly proposed to establish a Chinese-Kyrgyz Development Fund. In order to avoid potential disputes concerning economic influence, the Kyrgyz Republic would be interested in EEU and SCO amalgamation, while the decision on linking the EEU and the Economic Belt of the Silk Road does inherently provide small and medium-sized states with an opportunity to practice multi-vector and open economic cooperation in both projects.

Ukraine’s example as a failed effort to link competing cooperation projects increases the probability that the members of regional associations with the participation of Russia and China will make relevant conclusions and will take all the necessary measures to avoid disastrous consequences of the loyalty issues and to link various formats so that the countries in the region could enforce their multi-vector policy.

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Poll conducted

  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
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     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
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