Russia has been an empire for centuries. After the fall of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, many countries saw a chance to build a new world order and a new international and European security system. But for Moscow, the last 15 years were simply an aberration to be rectified rather than the new reality. Currently, we are witnessing the Russian Federation attempt to rebuild its sphere of influence and restore its borders to what they were during the time of the Cold War. The first sign of Russia testing this plan was the Russo-Georgian war in August 2008. After a poor reaction from the West, Moscow decided to pursue another confrontation, this time going much further, challenging the limits of the possible – the annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, ongoing from April 2014. With the lack of a strong response from the Western countries, one can assume that Russia is on its way to rebuilding its imperial position and will continue to grasp for control of other territories.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 00:00

Russia and the Caucasus

Russian influence in the South Caucasus region has a long history. Czar Ivan IV initiated construction of the Tarki fortress on the Caspian Sea as early as 1559. In the subsequent centuries Russia gradually extended control over the surrounding area, culminating with the 1829 Treaty of Turkmenchay that established the Aras River as the expanding empire’s boundary with Persia. Russian policy toward the region has been dominated by the goal of maintaining a position of influence ever since.
The period from September 2013 until October 2014 is distinguished by a series of events that drastically changed the trajectory of developments in the post-Soviet area, including those in the South Caucasus.
In this case, a crucial role is played by Russia’s relationship to the West, which is shaping the security environment in Europe and Eurasia. On the one hand, both sides blame each other for violating core principles of international law, including those related to the sovereignty of states and, on the other hand, each side introduces its own decisions and approaches as “pragmatic.”
 
This article addresses the following question: “How pragmatic are these approaches?” It focuses on developments in the South Caucasus, viewed through the prism of decision making by the main regional and non-regional actors. Mainly owing to the allegedly pragmatic decisions of the stakeholders involved in processes in this region, the South Caucasus states have become even more divided and insecure. Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia have found themselves facing more difficulties both in dealing with each other and with all the external actors concerned.
Oddly enough, much of what is happening in the South Caucasus today resembles the turmoil of the pre-Soviet era and the inter-war period of the early twentieth century. As was the case then, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are again facing the daunting task of safeguarding their state sovereignty and protecting national security. The region’s unique geostrategic position is now of crucial significance for the evolution of the twenty-first century world order. While competition for energy resources is a highly
geopolitical issue, the rivalry over control and influence in the South Caucasus has become an ideological factor and acquired greater strategic importance for Russia and the EU.
 
The South Caucasus nations face the momentous choice between repeating the events of the early 1920s, when the Soviet Union was created, or those of the late 1940s, when the Marshall Plan was proposed. The return to past geopolitical models has raised interesting, yet sensitive questions. Will the current and future circumstances of competition be like those of 1917–1920 or 1947–1949, merely with new content? Are
Russia, the EU and the South Caucasus going to cooperate internationally in ventures that unite them in the reconstruction of a larger Europe, or will they fail that test?
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 00:00

Russia vs. EU/US through Georgia and Ukraine

This paper aims to analyze the construction and transformation of the post-Soviet security perspectives of Georgia and Ukraine in the context of the post-Soviet Russian foreign policy in the “near abroad,” quite often termed the “legitimate sphere” of Russian influence by high-ranking Russian officials. This inquiry covers the panorama of the foreign policy in post-Soviet Russia across the FSU, from the early 1990s through to the present, where Georgia and Ukraine’s independent and pro-Western orientation are the
main issues securitized for the Russian Federation. Accordingly, the maintenance of territorial integrity has become a security priority for Georgia since the early 1990s and will most likely be Ukraine’s top concern after the Crimean occupation by the Russian Federation in March 2014 and the subsequent developments in Eastern Ukraine. Therefore, it could be claimed that post-Soviet Russian and Georgian/Ukrainian security strategy (following peaceful revolutions) represent a zero-sum game.

A continuing transformation of the post-Soviet space is presently underway as it sheds the last elements of its common Soviet past. New geopolitical and spatial configurations and integration associations are being created, with a new set of players and develop-ment priorities appropriate to today’s international situation and the new challenges.
The ideological dogma of “fraternal allied republics” is being replaced by the prag-matism of national interests and a desire to take a rightful place in the system of world economic ties. The topic of integration and choosing an integration vector is a central theme in the foreign policy of each new independent state.
The project to establish the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is one of the most im-portant Russian integration initiatives since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The objec-tives and tasks of a new integration group, as well as the makeup of the integration core and potential participants, have now been determined.

The first few months of 2014 brought an unprecedented collapse of the Russian Federa-tion’s image on the world stage, the worst since the end of the Cold War. The events in Ukraine and the reaction to them by a significant number of countries in the interna-tional community, quickly demoted Russia to that group of countries whose foreign policy provokes harsh condemnation. For the first time in decades, international sanc-tions have been put in place against Russia, adopted by a large number of the world’s largest countries, de facto downgrading Russia to the rank of a rogue state; these sanc-tions are intended to exert pressure on the elite, who are responsible for implementing certain foreign policy decisions. For many experts, the events are associated with a new and sudden sea-change in Russia’s foreign policy. However, it appears to us that the cur-rent stage of cooling relations with the West is a logical consequence of the way in which the Russian state was constructed in recent years; in fact, a different scenario could hardly have been anticipated. This article presents the author’s view of the mecha-nisms and logic that shaped Russia’s foreign policy course, which has evolved through several iterations in the last three years. The below analysis could facilitate a fuller un-derstanding of Russian motives in international relations, and help find opportunities and mechanisms for dialogue between Russia and the West.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the impact of political developments in Georgia since the 2012 parliamentary elections on Russo-Georgian relations. First, the authors examine the effect of changes in Georgia’s politics towards the Caucasus, Russia and the Euro-Atlantic region. Second, the authors analyze the opportunities for improving Russo-Georgian relations through studying the three following aspects of this bilateral relationship: creation of common economic space between Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia; transformation of the Georgian North Caucasus Policy and its shift to-wards cooperation with Moscow; and implications of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration for the regional security. The article suggests that Russo-Georgian relations are not doomed to be strained and have the potential for improvement.

The “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet space were initially understood to mean the Rose Revolution in Georgia (2003), the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004) and Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (2005). The one feature these events share is considered to be the non-violent nature of the regime change resulting from mass protests. The 2010 revolution in Kyrgyzstan may also be relegated to this group of cases: although the revolution was not entirely peaceful it nonetheless led to a change in the country’s lead-ership. Somewhat less clear are regime change attempts or mass protests, for example the situation in Andijan (Uzbekistan) in 2005 or the mass protests and riots in Moldova in 2009. It is still unclear whether the power shift in Ukraine in February 2014 should be considered a “color revolution;” there is also no precise definition of the concept of the “Arab spring,” which is usually thought to include the mass upheaval and protests, more often not peaceful, that led (or did not lead) to regime change in a number of countries of the Arab world starting in late 2010. Despite the lack of consensus among political leaders and experts regarding terminology, on the whole the terms “color revolutions” and “Arab spring” have caught on and as a rule are used without further explanation in Russian official discourse in the expert community and in the media.

Page 1 of 2