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Mikhail Mukhametdinov

Department of Foreign Languages at the Samara College for the Humanities

The mere size of the Russian economy hardly reaches one fifth of the US, EU, or Chinese economies. Were the size of the market the main factor of the smaller post-Soviet countries’ orientation towards a regional hegemon, Russia would be the last choice for the Eurasian four. Russia itself is very dependent on the West in terms of export of gas and oil and access to capital and technology. Moreover, while the size of the Russian economy is at best 1/5 of the US economy, Russia’s military budget is only 1/10 of the US military budget, and 1/15 of the total military expenditure of the NATO countries. While the expenditure figures do not reflect military capabilities proportionately, they do suggest that Russia may not be a highly capable security provider for smaller states in a large-scale conflict with NATO.

Despite the obvious limitations of the Russian economy and defense capabilities, since 1991 Russia has switched from full submission to Western powers under Yeltsin to open resistance, as demonstrated by Russia’s involvement in the Syrian war in 2015. In Syria, Russia supports the regime of Bashar Assad, which the ‘civilized’ West wants to end like the regimes of Saddam Hussein of Iraq or Muamar Kaddafi of Libya. The transformation in Russia’s conduct is paradoxical, because it has occurred against the background of Russia’s economic, social and demographic decline, and economic vulnerability. The explanation for the change is simple. Russia is compelled to act defensively against unprecedented harassment from Western countries in a way that contradicts its power status. The harassment of Russia manifests in the dissemination of ‘fake news’, or more straightforwardly blatant lies, through the West’s monopoly of the media, exaggeration of Russia’s participation in international affairs, and economic and financial sanctions. The Eurasian integration cannot be considered outside of Russia’s dealings with the West. Not only do Russia-West relations condition the character and outcomes of the Eurasian process, but also its origins.

Attempts of integration of the post-Soviet space after 2000 are attributed to socio-economic concerns, disappointment about the results of the development path the post-Soviet states took in the 1990s, and disillusionment with the neoliberal rules offered by Western ‘partners.’ The start of the millennium became the period when disintegration of the post-Soviet territory was reversed, at least for some segments of the former USSR, with the institution of timid organizations such as the EAEC in 2000 and the CSTO in 2003. They were no measures to consolidate Russia as a center of power alternative to the USA and the EU, but were designed as temporary organizations for inclusion into Western hegemonic structures through absorption by NATO and the EU. In 2000, Putin asked for the US Department of State Secretary’s assistance in the acquisition of NATO membership for Russia. On the background of preparations for EU eastern enlargement that took place in 2004, Putin voiced the idea of a Greater Europe integrated market including Russia and stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Putin’s intentions to join NATO and the EU were logical continuation of Russia’s submissive policies of the 1990s in opening its market and in trying to meet all other expectations of the West both in foreign and domestic policy. The Greater Europe was a stage towards making the whole world one global FTA according to the great American vision, while the expanded NATO could be used as a prototype for a World Government seated in Washington or New York.

Russia lacks sufficient power to create a viable unifying project in the post-USSR, and has been unable to consolidate the post-Soviet territory under its control. Even though the disunity of the post-USSR and inadequate unity of the EAEU may be attributed to many internal problems, at the international scene this disunity represents the success of the West’s strategy to keep the post-Soviet space broken. Disregarding the cases of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, the mere membership of the EAEU was predetermined by the incidence of ethnic conflicts and the politics of the West to ensure cutting the GU(U)AM countries off integration with Russia.

Just south of the EAEU, during 16 years of occupation of Iraq, the USA has been stealing Iraqi national wealth without interruption. For days and nights, imposing tankers are being filled with Iraqi oil and transported to the USA with facilitation of the US Army and Navy. The US invasion cost at least a million of direct Iraqi deaths. Hundreds of thousands more have died as a result of the occupation because hospitals were destroyed and never rebuilt and doctors were never trained as the Iraqi wealth has been leaving the country. Other hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have not been born because of the shocks of the invasion (undertaken on a completely fraudulent pretext) and of the ongoing predatory occupation and insurgence. However, as such, the Iraqi occupation is not a matter of concern to the Russian public. Most Russians do not project a similar situation on their own country, even though the USA did express intentions to take Siberia and the Far East with their resources away from Russia through the mouth of US Secretary of State Albright shortly before the USA bombed Serbia: ‘Siberia is too large to be possessed just by one country.’

Even though some US sources insist that Albright never said this, the USA did take an active part in a similar campaign to internationalise, that is to Americanise, Brazilian Amazonia. According to Al Gore, former US Vice-President: ‘Contrary to what Brazilians think, the Amazon is not their property, it belongs to all of us.’ Nevertheless, the unhealthy Russian opposition, which is rising on the criticism of the government for corruption, unchangeability, and economic decline, blames all Russia’s domestic and international problems on the Kremlin alone and portrays the USA as a benevolent and sympathizing agent. This is not surprising as the opposition is funded by US NGOs operating thanks to the US government. Domestic corruption on the one hand, and the inadequate understanding of the dangers of Western imperialism on the other, represent a serious vulnerability of the Russian society, and frustrate efforts of the Eurasian integration.


The mere size of the Russian economy hardly reaches one fifth of the US, EU, or Chinese economies. Were the size of the market the main factor of the smaller post-Soviet countries’ orientation towards a regional hegemon, Russia would be the last choice for the Eurasian four. Russia itself is very dependent on the West in terms of export of gas and oil and access to capital and technology. Moreover, while the size of the Russian economy is at best 1/5 of the US economy, Russia’s military budget is only 1/10 of the US military budget, and 1/15 of the total military expenditure of the NATO countries. While the expenditure figures do not reflect military capabilities proportionately, they do suggest that Russia may not be a highly capable security provider for smaller states in a large-scale conflict with NATO.

Despite the obvious limitations of the Russian economy and defense capabilities, since 1991 Russia has switched from full submission to Western powers under Yeltsin to open resistance, as demonstrated by Russia’s involvement in the Syrian war in 2015. In Syria, Russia supports the regime of Bashar Assad, which the ‘civilized’ West wants to end like the regimes of Saddam Hussein of Iraq or Muamar Kaddafi of Libya. The transformation in Russia’s conduct is paradoxical, because it has occurred against the background of Russia’s economic, social and demographic decline, and economic vulnerability. The explanation for the change is simple. Russia is compelled to act defensively against unprecedented harassment from Western countries in a way that contradicts its power status. The harassment of Russia manifests in the dissemination of ‘fake news’, or more straightforwardly blatant lies, through the West’s monopoly of the media , exaggeration of Russia’s participation in international affairs, and economic and financial sanctions. The Eurasian integration cannot be considered outside of Russia’s dealings with the West. Not only do Russia-West relations condition the character and outcomes of the Eurasian process, but also its origins.

Attempts of integration of the post-Soviet space after 2000 are attributed to socio-economic concerns, disappointment about the results of the development path the post-Soviet states took in the 1990s, and disillusionment with the neoliberal rules offered by Western ‘partners.’ The start of the millennium became the period when disintegration of the post-Soviet territory was reversed, at least for some segments of the former USSR, with the institution of timid organizations such as the EAEC in 2000 and the CSTO in 2003. They were no measures to consolidate Russia as a center of power alternative to the USA and the EU, but were designed as temporary organizations for inclusion into Western hegemonic structures through absorption by NATO and the EU. In 2000, Putin asked for the US Department of State Secretary’s assistance in the acquisition of NATO membership for Russia. On the background of preparations for EU eastern enlargement that took place in 2004, Putin voiced the idea of a Greater Europe integrated market including Russia and stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Putin’s intentions to join NATO and the EU were logical continuation of Russia’s submissive policies of the 1990s in opening its market and in trying to meet all other expectations of the West both in foreign and domestic policy. The Greater Europe was a stage towards making the whole world one global FTA according to the great American vision, while the expanded NATO could be used as a prototype for a World Government seated in Washington or New York.

In 2003, the commitment to the Greater Europe was solemnly expressed in a Russia-EU summit, and multiple confirmations of adherence to this cause were made after that. The rhetoric about the Greater Europe survived until 2011 when the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan informed the public about the launch of the CES in the EAEC. According to Putin, ‘The Eurasian Union will be built on universal integration principles as an inseparable part of a Greater Europe, united by shared values of freedom, democracy and market economy… The Eurasian Union will become a party to the dialogue with the EU. Therefore, accession to the Eurasian Union, in addition to straightforward economic benefits, will help each of its members to integrate into Europe faster and on better terms.’ These words were sincere and did not mean to ally with Western suspicions about Russia’s real intention to rise up off its knees, because in the following year Russia joined the WTO. The visions of a subordinate Russia persisted inside the Russian government until the Ukrainian second revolution, as evidenced by the words of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (2014): ‘The Eurasian Union is a serious element of a bridge between Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region.’ Russia and its regional group are just an element of a bridge and not an alternative center of power.

Putin defined the union strictly in geo-economic and not geopolitical terms. He hoped that the development and enlargement of the EAEU would gradually convert it in a pole of economic influence. Its membership was open to new countries, and particularly to the CIS members. Thus, Russia had the vision of a bipolar Europe, where the EU constituted one pole, and Russia, together with the post-Soviet countries, constituted a smaller submissive pole. The Eurasian pole was supposed to increase Russi’s a and the regional country’s bargaining power vis-à-vis the EU. The idea was sensible as the countries together as one bloc could have achieved a better deal with the EU at the time when hopes for the Greater Europe were more sincere. There is a widespread argument that regional arrangements can protect weaker economies from the invasion of goods from industrialized countries and help them negotiate better terms of trade, compared to when they do so separately.

However, the West did not believe Putin’s elegant verbal wrapping concerning the EAEU. The grandchildren of European imperialism considered the EAEU ‘with suspicion as an artefact of Russia’s never-ending nostalgia for the USSR, a new neo-imperialist project to become part of President Putin’s historical legacy.’ ‘Even if Moscow is not trying to recreate the Soviet Union, schemes like the Eurasian Union are undermined by a post-imperial mind-set that makes it difficult for Russia to contemplate anything like truly voluntary, mutually beneficial integration – or allowing its neighbours to prioritize relations with the US, EU or China. Moscow promotes regional integration to keep its neighbours within Russia’s orbit, strengthening Russian influence over their politics and constraining their ability to develop relations with outside powers.’

The US Secretary of State clearly stated that the USA would oppose the project by active means: ‘There is a move to re-Sovietize the region. It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that, but let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.’

It was unnecessary for the West to disbelieve Putin. In 2010, the Russian Vice-Premier Dvorkovich proudly announced that he held a year-long Masters’ of Economics from a US university. He mentioned that a few years earlier he and Putin spent evenings in the Kremlin reading American college textbooks on economics trying to figure out how to rule the country. The Kremlin and most of Russia’s society were expecting guidance from the West. Had the West not chosen Moscow its enemy, Russia would continue being a regional power like Brazil, sometimes confrontational on regional affairs, but usually quiet on global ones. With the post-Soviet integration, Russia was acting in conformity with its power status and wanted to achieve exactly what Brazil wanted from MERCOSUR in the 1990s: entry to Washington-proposed FTAA on better terms for itself and its neighbours, the Greater Europ being Russia’s FTAA.

While Brazil’s manoeuvres in South America were reluctantly tolerated, in the Eurasian context, the USA and the EU did not want to see Russia even as a submissive center of power talking to them on behalf of a handful of small states. To enter Europe, each country had to pass the EU’s purgatory to comply with EU demands on EU terms. For this, the EU had a significant volume of requirements called acquis communautaire, which was applied discriminately from case to case. The EU wanted a unipolar Europe ringed with circles of ‘friends’ and ‘well-governed’ countries. Ideally, Russia had to be like the rest of them: weak, dependent and conformist. The EU’s euphoria after eastern enlargement of 2004 sustained the illusion that the spread of further influence on the smaller post-Soviet states was possible along with their inclusion into the European neocolonial orbit. A special program, Eastern Partnership, was designed in 2008 as an instrument to attract ex-Soviet countries into the EU order, to ‘Mexicanize’ them like NAFTA did Mexico, and to constrain any possible aspirations for Russian leadership. The program’s official mission was the development of strategic partnership in economics and politics to strengthen the ‘western’ vector in the national development of the targeted states.

Russia’s attempts of re-integration of the post-Soviet space even for ‘legitimate’ goals of global liberalization caused doubts about Russia’s desire to inflict a third-world-country subjugation on itself even at the time when the Russian government was willing to do so. Therefore, in contrast to other regionalisms in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the EU and the US never supported or encouraged the post-Soviet integration. ‘There would be something hypocritical in opposing regional integration in Eurasia while supporting it elsewhere.’

From a Russian perspective, cooperation with the EU was becoming increasingly difficult when the EU and the US tried to hinder Gazprom’s operations by all means. This was explained by a desire to diversify energy suppliers, but in reality, the EU tried to cut Russia off from its single largest source of revenue. Western hostility towards Gazprom and its product shaped Russia’s motivation to enter the Syrian conflict in 2015 to ensure that the Qatar-Turkey pipe-line through Syria proposed by Qatar be never constructed, as its operation could result in the EU’s full refusal to purchase any Russian gas. Disappointments about Russia’s reindustrialization as a result of economic liberalization were also growing, and protectionist measures started to be seen as important for the preservation of any remaining domestic industries and agriculture. From an EU perspective, Russia stood in favour of a dialogue between the EAEU and the EU to legitimize the EAEU rather than to generate economic liberalization. Therefore, little was done for the advancement of the Greater Europe. The fact that Russians are paying only half the price of Schengen visas for their excursions to Europe is the only rudiment of the once alive project. Against the background of this geo-economic unsuccess, more serious events were developing in geopolitics and regional security.

1999 brought the first unease to the submissive Russia when the USA bombed Serbia and incorporated three Eastern European countries into NATO. After learning about the US decision to bomb Serbia, the Russian Prime-Minster Yevgeny Primakov cancelled his state visit while on board of the plane bound to Washington and ordered the pilots to return to Russia when flying over Newfoundland. The US war on Serbia caused shock in Russia for a number of reasons. First of all, because NATO, a defensive bloc, took an openly offensive action against the UN statute. The USA was arbitrary in determining the guilty party, and its action was disproportionate in the devastation inflicted just on one side of the complex Yugoslav conflict. Some saw US military action in Yugoslavia primarily as an attempt to redirect the attention of US media and public from Bill Clinton’s impeachment process over issues accompanying his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

More advanced statesmen understood that in line with prevalent and primitive Huntingtonian views, the US leadership viewed Serbs as a proxy for Russians. This is the case due to their kinship with Russians through a Slavic language, Orthodox religion, and their central position in the Yugoslav Federation, even though Serbia was not politically close to the Soviet Union and post-1991 Russia, the two languages Russian and Serbian were not mutually intelligible, religion was marginal to the lives of both countries, and there was not much contact and solidarity between them before the NATO war. Boris Yeltsin was considered an excellent Russian leader in the West, but following the expression of his disapproval of the US bombings of Serbia, Western media immediately started portraying him as an alcoholic.

As the Second Chechen War (1999-2009) was unfolding, Russia witnessed not only that the US was supporting Chechen separatism rhetorically, but that it was also providing operational, financial and technical support to terrorists. According to Putin, ‘We had a very confident opinion back then that our American partners in words were talking about support to Russia and the need to cooperate, including fighting terrorism, but in reality they were using those terrorists to destabilize the internal political situation in Russia.’ The US support of terrorism in Chechnya is in line with Donald Trump’s acknowledgement of President Obama’s administration founding and sponsoring terrorist groups of the Islamic State against Syria.

Since 2001 Western powers supported the regional organization of GU(U)AM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) with headquarters in Kiev. In the 1990s, three of these countries lost control over territories populated by minorities. The fourth country, Ukraine, was to experience losses in 2014. The loss of the territories was a result of Russia’s intervention into ethnic cleansing going on in these countries. Russia protected the minorities: Abkhazes and Ossetians in Georgia, Armenians in Azerbaijan, and Russian-speakers in Moldova and Ukraine. As a result of these interventions, the minorities received control over their territories through unrecognized and partially recognized states: Nagorny Karabakh, Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donetsk, and Lugansk. The fifth country, Uzbekistan, did not lose any territory, but it long remained disappointed with Russia’s support of the smaller and weaker Kyrgyzstan in the conflict between Kyrgyzes and Uzbeks in the Kyrgyzstani part of the Fergana Valley. Uzbekistan left the organization in 2005.

To ensure that the anti-Russia behaviour is sustained in GUAM, and particularly in Ukraine, the West offered numerous material stimuli to ruling bureaucracy, opinion formers and academics from these countries, including unprecedented development of low-quality reactionary scholarship through a chain of Ukrainian Institutes that falsified history and promoted antagonistic views of Russia. The gifts of the West were accepted with enthusiasm given the fertile soil of anti-Russian nationalisms that felt defeated by their minorities because of Russia’s interference. The memories of the violent conflicts with secessionist territories, which Russia was compelled to support, condition the policies of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. They are guided by the pursuit not of national interests, but of personal benefits for the rulers (often these are just excellent dinners and free flights and hotels for trips to their meetings with US and EU officials) and by the intention to freeze their own ears to upset grandma Russia, if we modify the respective Russian and Ukrainian sayings. As far as GUAM is concerned, in 2014 the organization replaced Russian as its working language with English. The reform promised severe organizational miscommunication and malfunction because of the poor knowledge of English in GUAM. Ironically, the measure was proposed by Ukraine where Russian had been the preferred language of communication for up to 80% of the population. Historically, on most territory of Ukraine Russian has been present as long as Ukrainian, and in some parts longer.

In 2002, the USA withdrew from the ABM Treaty, the major international agreement that set foundations for international nuclear security. The departure from the Treaty allowed the USA to locate missile defense installations in Poland and Romania. Russia perceives these systems as a threat because they are close to Russian borders and their capabilities can be easily converted from defensive to offensive. The American withdrawal from the INF Treaty in 2019 allows the USA to install systems launching nuclear missiles from even closer distances to Moscow, starting at 450 kilometers, from the territories of the Baltic States, Ukraine, and Georgia.

The process of NATO enlargement continued in 2004 and 2009, despite the many oral guarantees given to the Soviet and Russian leadership that NATO would not expand geographically with the demolition of the Warsaw Pact beyond the borders of the GDR. Gorbachyov’s level of trust to the West was so high that he never requested having these assurances in the form of written agreements. The naivety of the Russian leadership remained high as well, and until 2006 US observers were inside the Russian plants that produced nuclear military weaponry. The major Russian grievance with NATO enlargements is that NATO member states lose control over installations of NATO military infrastructure on their territories. These installations are to be used against Russia. Along with NATO, the EU enlarged in 2004 and 2007 with Cyprus, Malta and eight Eastern European countries. The EU further increased its influence in Eastern Europe and Transcaucasia through the mentioned Eastern Partnership (2009) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (since 2004). Through colour revolutions under calls for democracy and reforms in Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004 and 2014, Kyrgyzstan in 2005, and Armenia in 2018, Western powers changed governing regimes and inflicted social unrest. The new regimes took emphatically anti-Russian positions in order to receive the ongoing support from the West.

By 2007 it became clear for the Russian leadership that the USA and its allies would stop at nothing pursuing their benefit with no limits to the cost and damage this may incur to the post-Soviet countries. In that year Putin addressed Western leaders at the yearly Munich Security Conference clearly stating the problems faced by the international community arising from single-headedness of the USA. Putin also suggested the urgent need of pursuing more equitable international relations. As a result, he received a number of ad hominem insults. US Secretary of Defense concluded that Putin’s policies and words worked ‘against international stability.’

In the War of South Ossetia to follow next year, 2008, Georgia intervened in South Ossetia to reconquer this breakaway region. Every Western channel showed the video of the Georgian artillery bombardment of residential areas of Tskhinval reporting that these were Russian troops shooting at the Georgian city of Gori. The Georgian invasion occurred on the day when the Russian central military headquarters were relocating due to building renovation. The central communication unit was disassembled despite many warnings from intelligence services that the USA was arming and training Georgian troops to prepare a provocation. Unprotected mobile phone networks were used at times to coordinate the Russian military response. The international disinformation campaign against Russia was of an unprecedented scale and was never excused as a mistake. It fully upset Russia’s unrequited love for the West and provoked first obvious policies of open resistance. These were recognitions of the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia against the will of Washington and Brussels.

The imperialist circles began 2014 smearing the Russian Winter Olympics in Sochi for a start. Then Western powers supported and legitimised a neo-fascist coup in Ukraine to facilitate empowerment of pro-Western and anti-Russian politicians. The coup flared up a civil war among various kinds of Ukrainians, roughly between Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians, though the language was not the only factor that conditioned the division. The coup also caused secessions of Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea, and the reunification of Crimea and Russia as a result of popular vote in Crimea. The war imposed a direct threat to Russian national security, frustrated Eurasian integration, undermined the EAEU and imposed heavy economic sanctions on Russia. Any surviving traces of cooperation between Russia and the West came to an end. Therefore, the European vector of Eurasian integration was erased entirely. During the wartime, a shooting of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 over the Donetsk Republic in 2014, which killed 298 people, gave birth to another campaign of mobbing in Russia. Among the three actors that could have been responsible for the tragedy, Russia was picked up immediately, without investigation, even though the plane was shot down and fell on the de jure Ukrainian territory where the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian separatists were fighting, and where the Ukrainian government was supposed to assess and monitor safety for civil aviation. Any alternative versions and facts were bluntly dismissed as Russian fakes.

Had Russia possessed power capabilities comparable to those of the EU and USA, no Western involvement in Ukraine would have been possible in principle. Most of Russia’s actions around Ukraine reflected Russia’s inferior power status and were defensive. Russia opposed the Ukrainian Association Agreement with the EU in order to save then alive Ukrainian industries, which were linked to Russian industries. The incorporation of Crimea, was facilitated for security reasons to prevent the construction of a US naval base on the Peninsula and the prospects of expulsion of the Russian fleet from where it had always been stationed since its creation – Sevastopol. Assistance to Ukrainian separatists in Lugansk and Donetsk was a compelling measure after the blood was shed by Ukrainian radicals in Odessa and Mariupol, and after airstrikes in downtown Lugansk led by the Ukrainian force.

Because of the stubborn reluctance of the West to notice Ukrainian skirmishes of the civilian population of Donbass, Ukrainian army tanks destroying Ukrainian villages, mass murders in Odessa and Mariupol, disappearances, tortures and killings of opposition figures (particularly in Dnepropetrovsk), activity of neo-Nazi groups and glorification of Nazism in Ukraine and before that in Latvia and Estonia, Western politicians lost respect and credibility in Russia. Western media blames all the chaos and tragedy of Ukraine on Russia, while Western observers are never tired of quoting Brzezinski’s idea about Russia ceasing being a great power without an allied Ukraine. Their next favorite quotes are of Putin’s thinking that the disintegration of the USSR was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century, and of Hillary Clinton that the EAEU is an attempt to restore the Evil Empire. Hillary Clinton is also remembered for the equation of Putin with Hitler. Despite the active role of the West in the destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria, military assistance to Ukraine, and full control over the Ukrainian executive, the West continues to maintain that its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis is limited by ‘the promotion of democracy and support for civil society.’

On Russian borders, countless incidents have occurred between Russian and US military planes and vessels. Each time, the USA expressed indignation over the mere fact that Russia displayed no enthusiasm about the presence of US military planes and vessels on its national borders. Together with the Ukrainian civil war, this was the context of a joint declaration of NATO and the EU that formally subscribed the EU to NATO’s policy of deterrence of Russia in 2016. Earlier that year, the Chairman of the EU Council came to the conclusion that ‘Russia’s strategy is to weaken the EU.’ The EU’s Global Strategy of 2016 declared a new approach towards international relations called ‘principled pragmatism’, which vindicates economic and political interests within the containment paradigm. Finally, this approach implicitly stated the goals of political, economic and military expansion of the EU in post-Soviet territories.

Orazio Maria Gnerre:
Geopolitical Theory of Water

In 2016 and 2017, circles of the US establishment accused the Russian government in cyber-interventions into US presidential election that allegedly helped the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President. The dubious accusations became possible because one year earlier, in 2015, the USA rejected the proposal of the Russian government to develop bi-national and international norms of conduct in cyber-security, in the same manner as the USA rejected Russia’s proposals of developing USA-Russia-EU anti-missile systems in the past. After 2016 all EU and US initiatives with the post-Soviet states should be viewed exclusively as measures that aim to damage Russia. The most obvious measures are financial and economic sanctions. The sanctions were motivated by Russia’s reunification with Crimea in 2014, but also by some murky events like the death of Sergei Magnitsky in custody in 2009. S. Magnitsky was a Russian auditor, who allegedly facilitated astronomical tax-evasion for a US company in Russia but was also said to have been investigating astronomical thefts of money from the Russian treasury. Another obscure pretext for sanctions was staged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.

As it turned out, allies of the USA are using embassies for the torture, murder and dismembering of journalists. No sanctions against Saudi Arabia followed Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in late 2018 in contrast to the Skripals situation that did inflict sanctions on Russia. At the same time, the fact that Robert Mueller dropped charges against Donald Trump did not relieve any sanctions on Russia that were placed because of insinuations about Trump’s collusion with Moscow. Saudi Arabia has provoked a major humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen with millions of human deaths due to warfare and starvation, but this ongoing tragedy hardly receives any attention from the international public and media.

In the first quarter of 2019, with the help of his US mentors in pressuring and bribing the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, President Poroshenko of Ukraine finally achieved the Patriarch’s decision on the institution of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent from the Patriarchy of Moscow, despite Constantinople having no whatsoever jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Some segments of the Ukrainian and Russian society felt devastated as they saw the separation of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian Church as an event cutting spiritual ties between the two peoples. However, despite violent take-overs of several temples of the Ukrainian Church in Ukraine by armed Ukrainian nationalists for the Patriarchy of Constantinople, the overwhelming majority of the clergy and adherents of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchy refused to join the newly instituted structure. In addition, none of the thirteen canonical Orthodox Churches recognized the initiative of Bartholomew, to a significant reputational damage of the Patriarchy of Constantinople, President Poroshenko and the USA in the Orthodox world.

Before the church news settled down in Ukraine, threats of the US Ambassador to German companies collaborating with Gazprom were widely publicized in Germany, which was followed by the intensification of Venezuelan crisis . The USA and Britain are facilitating a coup against the legitimate leadership of Venezuela. They have appropriated all Venezuelan property in currencies, gold and real estate, and are preparing a military invasion further increasing international apprehension about their interventionism. In March, a US diplomat was caught in a Moscow airport trying to bring a mortar bomb on board of a commercial carrier. Following this event, the USA recognized incorporation of a significant chunk of Syrian territory into Israel, and Julian Assange was arrested inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London with the purpose of his extradition to the USA -- State Secretary Clinton intended to kill him with drones without a trial. The USA continues to lose integrity along with any moral and legal constraints for its behaviour.

The ongoing Ukrainian crisis has not changed any pre-existing geopolitical divisions within the post-Soviet space. Its ugliness caused post-Soviet population outside of Russia to be generally pro-Russian, but a favourable view of Russia among populations is unable to remove obstacles to the Eurasian integration. Governing elites and nationalists do worry. On the one hand, they are afraid that Russia may decide to support separatism in their countries. On the other hand, they are much more afraid of the colour revolutions exported by the West. Not only are such revolutions capable of removing them from power, but also of creating chaos and destroying their statehood as exemplified by Ukraine. In contrast to the West, Russia has not initiated conflicts on the post-Soviet space and has not intervened in the absence of conflicts. Thus, Kazakhstan may be worried about the Crimean precedent for chunks of its territories populated by Russians, which became part of Kazakhstan only during the Soviet years. However, Russia is unlikely to intervene unless ethnic cleansing begins. Only if a struggle for power inside Kazakhstan flares up among its three sub-ethnoses, which hypothetically causes fragmentation of Kazakhstan and ungovernability, then some of its territories may be lost to Russia.

For the time being, Russia is unable to consolidate the post-Soviet space and create a viable unifying project even with its four EAEU partners. Despite their links to Russia through economics, language, and human interactions, none is willing to side with Russia in geopolitical resistance to the West, because it is a lot safer for them to stay quiet or to oppose Russia than to oppose the West. None of them has recognized the accession of Crimea and sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. None has expressed support for the Russian position on Ukraine. In contrast to Russia, they recognized Petro Poroshenko as President of Ukraine without delay. Lukashenko even travelled to his inauguration ceremony and sang along with the new nationalist Ukrainian establishment referring to separatists in the east of Ukraine as terrorists. Belarus is supplying kinds of POL to Ukraine that the latter uses in heavy weaponry against Donetsk and Lugansk.

Earlier, Kazakhstan and Belarus refused to join Russia in introducing trade restrictions on behalf of the EAEU on Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia after these entered association agreements with the EU. The same happened to Russian counter-sanctions against imports from Western countries after the West introduced sanctions motivated by the accession of Crimea. Kazakhstan and particularly Belarus took advantage of the situation to smuggle Western goods to the Russian market. This produced numerous scandals, particularly after Belarus labelled salmon, parmesan cheese, lemons, bananas, cuttlefish, Moldovan wine and Georgian mineral waters as goods of its own. Consequently, customs between Russia and Belarus were restored. As a result, the situation for economic operators deteriorated even compared to the time when there was no customs union. Before the EAEU, goods entering Russia through Belarus were only checked once on the Russian border. Nowadays they are checked both in Belarus on the EAEU external border, and on the Russian-Belarusian border when they enter Russia. Thus, many Polish exporters prefer to avoid the direct route for goods via Belarus, but bring their goods to Russia through Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia to reduce customs inspections. Further, 2017 Belarusian President’s decree to allow visa-free entry to Belarus for citizens of 80 countries brought the necessity to restore border control between Russia and Belarus because Russia did not want travelers to Belarus to have a chance to enter Russia illegally through the open border. Restoration of customs and border controls are clearly disintegration tendencies.

Not only do the EAEU countries disregard Russia’s foreign policy objectives, but also firmly resist any political integration of the union. According to Nazarbayev, ‘the politicization of the union is unacceptable. Such matters as border control, migration, security and defence, as well as healthcare, education, culture, legal aid to citizens on matters of civil, administrative and criminal law, are not related to economic integration and cannot be brought into the framework of the economic union.’Deputy Economy Minister Timur Zhaqsylyqov stated in 2015 that ‘Kazakhstan ha[d] a clear and consistent position on excluding the possibility of introducing a single currency within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union.’ According to Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan will withdraw from the union without thinking twice if the union ‘threatens Kazakhstan’s independence.’ Likewise, Lukashenko threatened Russia with withdrawal from the EAEU on many occasions. He obviously shares no warm brotherhood feeling towards the union: ‘Belarus’ position on the future of the EAEU will depend on what it can derive; if it is nothing, then what is the point to this alliance?’ Lukashenko is famous for engaging in rough bargaining with Russia over subsidies and gas prices. He is not afraid of making sharp public stances against the Kremlin and personally against Putin, and mocking the Russian ruling strata. On one occasion he mocked the United Russia party meetings saying that Russia had been pushed back to Soviet times ‘when everyone stood up and shouted ‘Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union!’

Even the poorest EAEU country Kyrgyzstan joined the bloc openly displaying its discontent as a quote from President Atambayev illustrates: ‘Ukraine has a choice, but unfortunately we don’t have much of an alternative.’ This statement was not true as Kyrgyzstan could have stayed out with the EAEU as Tajikistan did, or could have looked for privileged relations with its other neighbour, China. Kyrgyzstan posed several conditions for accession to the EAEU, which included financial support for the creation of labour-intensive industries (to compensate the people who lost part of their income as a result of the reduction of re-export opportunities from China), preservation of privileges in its trade with China, concessions in the field of migration, and exemptions from the CET for the import of equipment and machinery from third countries. Such bargaining is common, but it is unusual that a small country like Kyrgyzstan put these conditions forward and had them easily satisfied. Atambayev claimed that Kyrgyzstan would only join the EAEU if the union fulfilled his conditions. This makes stark contrast to the EU accession practice where they are the accessing states that fulfil conditions of the union, not vice versa. Such behaviour of smaller states and their leaders is indicative of Russia’s weakness. It is impossible to imagine similar conduct coming from the top leadership of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in relation to their patrons in Washington.

The difference in political culture and power levels between the EU and EAEU is illustrated by the kind of EU’s interference into affairs of the post-Soviet and EAEU countries that the EU would not tolerate in relation to its own members. In 2017, the EU offered Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement to Armenia, which was received in the EAEU without enthusiasm. However, the EAEU did not resist this agreement because it understood its own limitations and the difficult situation of the Armenian leadership who were desperately looking for any benefits wherever these could come from. Earlier in 2015, similar Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was done with Kazakhstan. Clearly, such kind of agreements between the EAEU and any individual EU member state would never be tolerated by the EU. Every time Prime-Minister of Hungary engages with Russia on issues lying out with EU competences, EU functionaries and media initiate babbles condemning Hungary for the betrayal of the EU and European values.

The geopolitical environment has been calling Russia for Eurasian integration, but it has also constrained this process. Since the time of Putin’s address to the public about the relaunch of Eurasian integration in 2011, the EAEU has been unable to admit any other CIS country except Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, both of which are very small and poor to make the union stronger and more influential. No further enlargement seems possible in the future due to the choice of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to enhance their partnership with the EU. Considering the current situation in these three countries, it should not be a matter of disappointment to the EAEU, because none of the three new friends of the EU is ‘well-governed’ and ‘stable.’ Moreover, they satisfy criteria of failed states, even though the letters of the EU Global Strategy maintain that Georgia and Tunisia’s ‘success as prosperous, peaceful and stable democracies would reverberate across their respective regions.’ The remaining post-Soviet countries Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan show no interest in the Eurasian integration, and the position of Tajikistan is ambiguous. Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan belong to ‘European circles’ who the EU would like to exercise greater influence on. However, Belarus refuses being simply a peripheral ‘policy-taker’ of the declining EU in detriment of its arrangements within the EAEU.

Thus, Russia lacks sufficient power to create a viable unifying project in the post-USSR, and has been unable to consolidate the post-Soviet territory under its control. Even though the disunity of the post-USSR and inadequate unity of the EAEU may be attributed to many internal problems, at the international scene this disunity represents the success of the West’s strategy to keep the post-Soviet space broken. Disregarding the cases of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, the mere membership of the EAEU was predetermined by the incidence of ethnic conflicts and the politics of the West to ensure cutting the GU(U)AM countries off integration with Russia.

Just south of the EAEU, during 16 years of occupation of Iraq, the USA has been stealing Iraqi national wealth without interruption. For days and nights, imposing tankers are being filled with Iraqi oil and transported to the USA with facilitation of the US Army and Navy. The US invasion cost at least a million of direct Iraqi deaths. Hundreds of thousands more have died as a result of the occupation because hospitals were destroyed and never rebuilt and doctors were never trained as the Iraqi wealth has been leaving the country. Other hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have not been born because of the shocks of the invasion (undertaken on a completely fraudulent pretext) and of the ongoing predatory occupation and insurgence. However, as such, the Iraqi occupation is not a matter of concern to the Russian public. Most Russians do not project a similar situation on their own country, even though the USA did express intentions to take Siberia and the Far East with their resources away from Russia through the mouth of US Secretary of State Albright shortly before the USA bombed Serbia: ‘Siberia is too large to be possessed just by one country.’

Even though some US sources insist that Albright never said this, the USA did take an active part in a similar campaign to internationalise, that is to Americanise, Brazilian Amazonia. According to Al Gore, former US Vice-President: ‘Contrary to what Brazilians think, the Amazon is not their property, it belongs to all of us.’ Nevertheless, the unhealthy Russian opposition, which is rising on the criticism of the government for corruption, unchangeability, and economic decline, blames all Russia’s domestic and international problems on the Kremlin alone and portrays the USA as a benevolent and sympathizing agent. This is not surprising as the opposition is funded by US NGOs operating thanks to the US government. Domestic corruption on the one hand, and the inadequate understanding of the dangers of Western imperialism on the other, represent a serious vulnerability of the Russian society, and frustrate efforts of the Eurasian integration.

Sub-Chapter 5.2 of book “The Eurasian Economic Union and Integration Theory


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