How the West Helps Putin Fulfill His CIS Strategy
Published: April 7, 2014 (Issue # 1804)
Western democracies fear Russia's power so much that the U.S. and the European Union are actively striving to prevent President Vladimir Putin from reintegrating the Commonwealth of Independent States countries into a Eurasian Union. Fully aware of the competitive nature of today's multipolar world, Washington and Brussels do not believe that Russia can be a reliable, significant and responsible contributor to international security and order. Russia, in turn, demands that Western powers behave as equal strategic partners in the global arena.
Indeed, the Russian factor plays a key role in the unfolding security situation in the CIS region. Despite outside strategic concerns like the ongoing crises in Ukraine, the North Caucasus and other parts of the former Soviet Union, Russia has so far taken a proactive stance in CIS affairs, trying to convince the West that the Kremlin has major potential in resolving security issues in their own backyard.
More recently, Moscow has succeeded in strengthening ties with Yerevan and Baku, with the West progressively losing ground to increasing Russian economic, military and political advancement in the South Caucasus, as evidenced by Russia's military agreement with Armenia and growing energy ties with Azerbaijan. Similar steps have been taken toward Central Asian states where incumbent regimes do not want the West to interfere in their internal affairs. Moscow is trying to create strong new content-based relations with CIS countries, and all the latest political steps by the Kremlin have been aimed at enhancing Russia's geopolitical position in the post-Soviet Eurasia.
Russia's successful foreign policy in the region also results from the failure of other international players in the area, or at least the systemized weakening of their stances. U.S. President Barack Obama's shortsighted policy has seriously weakened U.S. strategic objectives in the CIS. Washington's failure to craft any coherent vision as to how the post-Soviet territory fits into broader U.S. strategy has allowed its role to be increasingly defined through the prism of Russia. The lack of a meaningful U.S. response to the challenge presented by the protracted conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr not only highlights the low level of U.S. engagement in the conflict-torn regions but also casts doubt on the U.S.' ability to be an effective player in international organizations like the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
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