Russia And The Cis When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, due to many pressures both internal and external, the ex-soviet satellites were given their independence, much to Russia’s dismay. A new trend towards sovereignty made it difficult for the largest country in the world to deny it’s former members the right to separate. However, even with the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Russia is still heavily involved with the matters of its former soviet members. This then leaves the question, are those former states truly sovereign? In the following pages we will examine the many reasons as to why this question is currently being posed. Firstly, we will look at Russia’s history on the international scene and how they have not really changed their agenda throughout the last century, up into the present.
Along with the brief history, we shall elaborate on the reasons why the CIS was founded. Furthermore, modern day Russia seems to feel the need to impose itself upon these new sovereign states for various reasons that we will elaborate upon. Lastly, the members of the CIS see Russia as both a friend and foe to the organisation, which will be shown by looking at their interests and why they have divided views. However, to fully understand the complexities that are the Russian Empire, let us take a step back in time to when Peter the Great was building a country of grandeur. In the early 18th century, Peter the Great continued the expansion set forth by his predecessors, and fought a long war against the seasoned Swedish army. With the final defeat of their army, Peter gained control of several small countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Ingria and Estonia.
Upon his return from the war the Russian senate voted that he bear the title of the Great and Emperor, his acceptance of the last title marked the official inauguration of the Russian Empire. Peter the Great continued to fight wars in hopes of expanding Russia’s borders and its economy, regardless of cost, which eventually led to mistrust within the empire. Russia was indeed a world power, influencing and controlling its neighbours. Having built such a vast empire was only part of Peter’s public appeal, he was a very ruthless but enlightened leader, the kind that appealed to the Russian people. In one of the bloodier cases, he had 1000 members of a coup d’tat assassinated, a punishment that he himself helped administer.
Upon his death, many school children were then raised to see Peter as a hero, and a model leader. Perhaps then it is not so surprising that in the decades to follow, his accepted ruthlessness would be passed down into the next generations of leaders, this time having stricter doctrines within the regimes. As Karl Marx’s ideas of socialism spread across a desperate nation several men stepped forward to end the oppression and starvation of their beloved country. The Russian revolution in 1917 seemed to be a refreshing change compared to the imperialism of the old regime and so countries such as Ukraine, Poland and Belarus joined willingly, hoping to find guidance for their country. Regardless of the many positive changes in the late 1920’s, Joseph Stalin gained sole control of the Soviet Union and was more or less as ruthless as Peter the great himself. He began expanding and militarising the union, putting the state above each and every man.
In the Ukraine, profitable farms were condensed into collective farms hoping to support industrialisation, and as a result there was a great famine and an estimated 5 to 7 million Ukrainians died. Even in Ukraine’s darker period, because of their many natural resources, they were still considered very important to the Soviet Empire, almost its backbone. The Ukraine was not the only country to be used by the Soviets. Since the USSR spanned eight time zones, the land occupied was enormous; in fact it was the largest in the world. With such diverse landscapes there came many different natural resources which were used to feed and house the population of the Soviet Union as well as push the economy forward with its exports.
The trees blanketing one-third of the Soviet Union constituted more than one-quarter of the earth’s forest cover, subsequently making it one of the main exports, coming second only to the mining industry. The mineral deposits and precious metals in the Ukrainian and Siberian areas brought in the most revenue for the Soviets. Now it is quite evident that one of the reasons that the USSR prospered was that upon its vast amount of land were several different resources which they had every right to exploit, allowing access to the whole of the union, rather than one single area within. As the Soviet Union weakened, its last secretary general, Mikhail Gorbachev, decided that it was time to end the socialist era in 1991.Many countries, who had relied upon the omnipresent Soviet government for so long, were lost. New governments were appointed in each new state, and so, the roller coaster began.
At first it seemed as if a great weight had been lifted from the minds of the people in Eastern Europe, but it was soon apparent that a new accord would have to be signed to protect the minorities within the neighbouring states and distribute the Soviet armed forces, among other things. The newly elected Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, the Ukrainian president, Leonid Kravchuk and the Supreme Soviet Chairman, Stanislav Shushkevich, met in the secluded Minsk forest in December of 1991 to discuss the terms for the new accord. However, as time would later prove, there was a wide gulf in the understanding between the fathers of the commonwealth. Boris Yeltsin would manoeuvre for Russian supremacy over the organisation. Leonid Kravchuk would insist on an amicable separation between equal and sovereign independent states.
Stanislav Shushkevich would argue for Belarusian neutrality and a multinational, rule-of-international-law organisation that would enable Belarus to sow the first seeds of a separate national identity. Since these countries had been linked so closely together for such a long time, they shared many common bonds, some of which Russia was not ready to let go. When the accord was created and the parties had all agreed to the terms, things appeared to be fine. However, it took little time to realise that Russia was unsatisfied with the direction in which things were heading and proceeded to place itself at the head of the arena. Moscow was sick and tired of complying with the opinions of its partners and decided to exercise the right of Big Brother to the CIS.
They continued on to forbid CIS members to pursue independent external policies. Yeltsin called it committing to their first priority, the CIS, and to refrain from participation in unions or blocs against any or all of the states. There is an actual clause stating that if any member of the CIS forms an alliance outside the given states then they will be forced to withdraw from the commonwealth, however, it is no surprise that clause does not apply, nor will ever apply, to Russia. As stated in president Kravchuk’s electoral slogan, Russia does not intend to develop its relations with CIS countries on the basis of international law. () the further integration with the Commonwealth is leading to the watering down of CIS countries sovereignty, subordination of the interests to those of Russia, and the recreation of a centralised superpower.
We have seen that Russia has always had interests in her neighbouring countries, sometimes turning violent, sometimes not, but always causing tension. The many borders surrounding the largest country in the world preoccupy its government for safety reasons. During the Soviet reign, and most importantly during the cold war, the Soviet states surrounding Russia were a security barrier, a guarantee the west wouldn’t creep up to the Kremlin unnoticed. However, there have been offers by NATO to several of the countries of the CIS for membership, consequently enraging Russia, who does not want the western organisation sitting on its doorstep. NATO argues that it is not expanding to spite Russia and has even offered them a seat, which, was evidently refused.
Even though there is tension with the occident, North America is not what preoccupies Yeltsin the most. With the bombings in Kosovo this past year, we can see that Moscow’s concerns fall mostly in Europe. Because of the Kosovo bombings there have been threats by Moscow to form negative alliances with Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Iran and China if there were to be a NATO enlargement L’expansion de l’OTAN qui montre sa dtermination dominer la plante pour les prochaines cinquante et une annes obligera la Russie recrer son propre potentiel militaire , crit Vladimir Kouznetchevski, qui ajoute : On ne peut arrter cette expansion que par la force. However, an alliance of that kind would alienate them from the west, as well as financial aid. Albeit Russia’s current preoccupation with the eastern European NATO expansion and the bombings in Kosovo, it has never had the intention to join the neither European Union nor NATO. Moscow has been offered, at several occasions, a place at the EU to calm tense nerves, but like with NATO, it refused. To join itself to either would mean subjecting Russia to the discipline and will of its fo …