European-Eurasian Integration Can Not Be Stopped, It Can Only Be Slowed Down


Expansion of the Customs Union of EurAsEC: Green – Customs Union; Red – canditates for CS; Yellow – potential candidates for CS

Rostislav Ishchenko for RIA Novosti

23 years after the liquidation of USSR and the establishment of CIS on December 8, 1991, we can conclude that the Commonwealth of Independent States – is now, in fact, a defunct project, says Rostislav Ishchenko.

Of course, politicians and diplomats will continue to talk about the huge potential of the Commonwealth, listing achievements, documents, agreements, treaties, summits and long-term plans. These are the rules. Rarely do the circumstances arrange in such a way that a much discussed, approved and adopted for implementation international project ends with the words: “This is it, the project is closed”.

Usually, it happens quietly. This is how the Nabucco gas pipeline quietly perished. Quietly died the GUAM organization. It seems that the same fate awaits the CIS. It was not necessary to announce the decision, but to simply stop gathering at the summits. But then you have to maintain and finance the staff of the Commonwealth, but for what?

The technique worked. Immediately after the announcement of the creation of Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the elimination of useless Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) was announced. A political Eurasian Union (EAU) will be created, and suddenly a Union state of Russia and Belarus becomes unnecessary (in any case, Alexander Lukashenko did not rule out such a possibility).

In fact, today the CIS looks like a memorial to post-Soviet integration, which most of the time was more like disintegration. If this structure was effective, it would not be necessary to develop the concept of multirate integration and a creation of the EurAsEC, Customs Union, EEU and even the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) on its basis.

The CIS at its creation was considered by optimists as a confederate state formation designed to consolidate the majority of former USSR republics under the new circumstances. Until August 1993 the United Armed Forces of the CIS still existed.

Theoretically, events could go in that direction, but only in theory. As practice and experience showed, disintegration capacity was not exhausted in 1991, and one cannot force his way against historical trends. Russia struggled with centrifugal tendencies for a decade. Only at the beginning of 2000’s the situation at the core state of CIS has stabilized.

From 2004-2005 centripetal tendencies in Russian politics began to accumulate, and since 2010 they absolutely dominate not only in domestic politics but also in foreign.

Its own separatist movement threatened Kazakhstan. In Central Asia interrepublic territorial disputes overlapping with domestic standoff of certain ethnic groups and regional economic interests, has created a zone of permanent instability which produced several civil conflicts and carried a threat of inter-state armed conflicts, which were miraculously avoided.

In the Caucasus military coups were followed by civil wars, and civil wars – by conflicts between countries. There were two full-scale wars with participation (on opposite sides) of CIS member states: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the war of 08.08.08.

Moldova broke apart after a civil war, practically losing Transnistria. In Ukraine the civil war is raging as we speak, Crimea has gone to Russia, Donbass is almost lost. Which other regions will be lost, and what will be left of Ukraine – no one knows.

This amorphous formation, members of which have various status (Ukraine is the co-founder of the CIS, but has not signed the Charter; the Charter hasn’t been signed by Turkmenistan, and Ukraine and Russia have not ratified the Protocol to the Agreement on creation of the CIS from December 21st, 1991) and have no consensus about each other’s boundaries – is the Commonwealth of Independent States.

After the war of 08.08.08. Georgia formally withdrew from the CIS, but have maintained its participation in almost all the agreements reached in its framework. It’s as if Belgium withdrew from the EU, but would remain a member of Schengen, the Euro zone, etc. In turn, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, and occasionally other countries partially ratified various CIS documents, considering some of their rules acceptable, and others – not.

It is clear that an international organization cannot exist under such conditions. And it does not. For example, Ukraine is in no hurry to leave the CIS, although, it shouts at every turn that it has been invaded by Russia, precisely because the formal fact of exit, besides short-term PR aimed at the domestic audience, will provide nothing, at the time when there may be problems with many agreements formally bound to CIS, favorable for Ukraine. And a lack of single procedure does not guarantee Kiev, that it will be able to pull off the trick that worked for Georgia – to withdraw from the CIS.

In general, the situation has changed so much that the integration projects of Russia ceased to focus on the post-Soviet space and are focused on the entire Eurasia (EEU and EAU) and even on the whole world (BRICS). It is clear that the Eurasian integration projects are much more clearly defined, although the obstructionist position of the EU against its own interests (including not even development, but survival), not willing to leave the custody of the US, calls for adjustments, forcing to shift priorities to Asia and the Middle East.

However, in 2014 BRICS have demonstrated the ability for unified political (refusal to participate in the American pressure on Russia and indirect support of Moscow) and financial-economical (the decision on the establishment of the BRICS Bank and the beginning of the transition to national currencies in international settlements) actions.

In fact, the task of reintegration of the post-Soviet space, not fulfilled by the CIS is now solved at a different level. This space is just a part of a much larger Eurasian integration project. The hand stretched out by Russia over the heads of ambitious post-Soviet formations to China, Iran, Turkey, India is moving these countries beyond the established brackets, turning from limitrophes playing between civilizational projects on their frontier positions into an inner Eurasian formation which cannot exist without the participation outside of the Eurasian integration project.

Meanwhile Russia (because of the mentioned EU position) only failed in overcoming the frontier position of Ukraine, which is one of the main causes of the ongoing civil war.

However, despite the increase in confrontational rhetoric the point of no return has not been passed in Russia’s and EU relationship, even though it is already very close.

However, neither the US can further support the financial and economic basis of the European Union nor the European economy is able to provide sufficient resource base to maintain unity.

The first would be preferable.

As for the CIS, since the moment when the face off between Moscow and Brussels for Ukraine has transformed into a face off between Washington and Moscow for the EU, the CIS as a political mechanism finally outlived its usefulness. Now it’s only a sinecure for the apparatus providing periodic summits of presidents and prime ministers to discuss a priori impossible, or already resolved in the framework of other integration projects, questions.

Today CIS – is only an image for the media, a manger for a small number of bureaucrats and a cause for “expert opinions”.

Translated by Kristina Rus for

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