Conflict, Alliances and Stability in the CIS Prof.

Ajay Patnaik Four distinct regional complexes have emerged around the former Soviet republics Slavic-European (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova); Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia); and Central Asia. These regions have been closely linked during Soviet times, especially in terms of economic infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), formed in the wake of Soviet collapse, has so far failed to integrate the old Soviet space, though some of the former republics have been moving closer to form a closely integrated strategic and economic space. The hope of enlarging this integration trend to include other CIS states, however, faded as Caspian energy attracted external attention and the geopolitics of the region came under intense pressure. As a result, the CIS got divided into multiple regional complexes, though most of the states in these regional complexes have been fluctuating between various external influences. US involvement in the Caspian region, which some consider as having introduced the “new great game”, have complicated the regional divide by exacerbating inter-state and intra-state contradictions in the CIS. For example, Russia's relations with Moldova, as well as the Caucasian states of Azerbaijan and Georgia are problematic. Within the Caucasian region, Armenia and Azerbaijan are states in conflict. Georgia faces the prospect of disintegration with two break away territories asserting de facto independence. Likewise there are numbers of boundary, water and ethnicity related disputes that can flare up in Central Asia. The competition of control over Caspian energy and the geopolitics surrounding it have increased instability in this region by creation of rival regional security groupings, external military presence, arms race etc. The control over regimes and changing them, if required, are methods being employed to further geopolitical ambitions of external powers. Some of the Caspian states like Russia and Iran view the US moves in the region as part of a strategy of containment. Expanding

the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) survived the initial tests and emerged as a forum for multilateral co-operation among former Soviet republics. Many CIS states have been moving closer on many fronts. Uzbekistan. that impact upon stability in the CIS. The Caucasian-Central Asian states are not just vulnerable to competition over energy alone. Tajikistan. as well as the CIS rapid-deployment force. dangers of international terrorism and regime change etc. such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). some common threats have brought them closer. The notable exceptions are Georgia and Azerbaijan. The CIS military integration has intensified in the last few years to augment collective security tasks. where the CIS Charter was adopted. Common Economic Space. The only Central Asian country that has stayed away from all these initiatives for CIS integration is Turkmenistan. Russia. sub-national identities. These include a joint CIS air-defense system. There have been joint military exercises like CIS Southern Shield (military exercises) and Team Spirit (involving air-defense units). incomplete nation-building (manifested in regional and clan identities) and deteriorating inter-ethnic relations. more integrative structures have been created in the political. regional groupings. etc. inter-ethnic relations. The CIS has survived the internal divisions because it succeeded in creating different options in a multi-structured integration process. These states are located in an arch that can come under the pressure of international terrorism. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have been part of the strong integrationist tendencies within the CIS. economic and security fields. Relation between CIS States Since its inception in December 1991 at Almaty in Kazakhstan. Belarus. Even those who are reluctant to move towards faster integration have not questioned the relevance and continuity of the Commonwealth. great-power rivalry. However.American influence can limit the political and economic role of Russia and Iran in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Armenia. 1 Since the Minsk Summit of January 1993. This paper focuses on relation between CIS states. which have come under increasing US influence. even this “neutral state” still depends on . Though different trends plague the organization. Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC).

when Washington under Clinton created a Caspian task force headed by then Deputy Secretary of State. US involvement in the region has further served to maintain this divide by creating the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline that would take Azerbaijan oil and gas away from Russian pipelines. for example. which came to have US military presence. trade liberalisation and Western investments. Georgia under a pro-US regime has also become the rallying point for building an anti-Russian alliance along with Moldova.3 The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent US campaign in Afghanistan in October of the same year changed the entire scenario in the Central Asian region. promoting regimes and policies that are US-friendly and encourage free market. Strobe Talbott. Two break away Georgian regions (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) want to merge with the Russian Federation. that made it comparable to Saudi reserves. US Involvement in the CIS There was a dramatic shift in US strategic interests in the Caspian and Central Asian region since late 1994. Prospects of fulfilling Washington's strategic goals in CIS brightened. Another major divide pits Russia against Georgia. Kyrgyzstan followed suit. soon after the US Department of Energy produced a report estimating the potential of Caspian Sea oil reserves to be around 200 billion barrels. From the beginning. .2 US policy subsequently veered round to integrate the Caucasian/Central Asian states into the Euro-Atlantic orbit by increasing US involvement including military engagement. (with representatives from Energy and Commerce Departments. has created a gulf between Russia and Azerbaijan. Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. the National Security Council and the CIA) the aim was to marginalise Russia in the region.Russia for its border security and recently committed its gas to external markets through Russian pipelines for next twenty years. which also influence relations outside the region. Azerbaijan and Ukraine. United States and Turkey seriously looked at the possibility of finding a route that is politically most stable and reliable route and came with the option of an expensive and long-distance Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route that would bypass Russia and Iran. Following Uzbekistan’s lead to allow its southern air base in Khanabad to US troops. The fault lines are mainly in the Caucasian region.

“Notwithstanding its rhetoric about win-win outcomes. its security critically depended on a “strategic depth” that could be .American-led coalition forces are stationed in Ganci airbase near Kyrgyz capital Bishkek’s Manas international airport. US National Security Strategy has made the integration of the former Soviet republics into Western economic. According to Stephen Blank.4 Threat to Russia's Interests US push into the region in the mid-1990s threatened the long-term economic. political and military institutions and practices a fundamental policy objective. The joint NATO-PfP (NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme for former Soviet republics) programme has been holding military exercises since 1997 in the region. Since the days of the Clinton administration. Central Asia represents a new frontier policy of the United States. security and geo-strategic interests of Russia and prompted the latter to strengthen its engagement in Central Asia. superior economic potential and military prowess. under NATO auspices and US CENTCOM (Central Command) support with a mandate in peace-keeping and conflict-management. and a commitment to integrating the area more fully into the West in terms of both defence and economics”. which now deploys all its instruments of power to establish itself as a major player in Central Asia and across the entire CIS. Ukraine. he states. Significant in this process was the formation in December 1995 of the Central Asian Battalion. The US has also promoted a regional grouping GUAM (Georgia. American moves in Central Asia and the Caucasus regions include an all out effort to find alternative oil routes as well as explore the possibility of future NATO enlargement to these regions. Blank further underlines that despite the rhetoric of geoeconomic rivalry. Since NATO expansion had already made Russia’s western borders vulnerable. Chinese and Iranian interests. All the Central Asian republics have also joined NATO’s North American Cooperation Council (NACC). It combines all the traditional instruments of power. set up with the participation of troops from the above two (PfP and NACC) and Uzbekistan. Such moves are in direct contradiction to Russian. Azerbaijan and Moldova) that was formed in 1999. in practice the growing involvement in the Caspian region is in the highest degree strategic or even geopolitical and aims to enhance US and no other state's influence. the intensifying struggle over Caspian energy sources also reveals a much more bare-knuckled and traditional rivalry.

is a testimony to the significance Russia attaches to former Soviet Republics. The new organisation is also to work towards the establishment of common customs. These exercises are intended to prepare for anti-terrorist campaigns in the mountainous terrain. Security co-operation among the members include a permanent Russian military base in Tajikistan. to promote elimination of the existing and prevent the emergence of potential hotbeds of tension and conflict in regions adjacent to the Russian Federation. Concept of National Security of the Russian Federation .5 A major aim of the exercise seems to be creation of a stronger economic bloc. the CIS partners are expected to form a good-neighbourly belt along the perimeter of Russia’s border. create a unified foreign economic policy and collectively regulate export-import tariffs and prices. Under Putin Russia's economic policy in the “near abroad” today is more active.6 . fiscal. Kazakh. The members of the Eurasian Economic Community pledged to form a common foreign-trade border. and employment policies. and CSTO's airbase at Kant and Anti-terrorist Centre in Bishkek. Kazakhstan and Tajikistan) was upgraded to Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC) in October 2000. The two economic and security structures and their goals seem closely intertwined. Russia wrote off energy debts of Kyrgyzstan. monetary. The Customs Union of Russia. Annual military exercises. The presence of US troops and bases after September 11 were creating huge gaps for Russia in the Eurasian security complex. Russia under Putin is attempting to strongly focus on the CIS. Kyrgyz. Referred to as ‘Near Abroad’. Uzbek and Tajik troops in the mountains of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. adopted on 10 January 2000. when these countries signed an agreement setting up the Eurasian Economic Community in Kazakhstan's capital Astana. that began 1999 has continued on a very large scale and involve thousands of Russian.provided mainly by the ‘near abroad’ in its south. Belarus and three other Central Asian states (Kyrgyzstan. One day later in Bishkek the same five along with Armenia took part in a Collective Security Treaty Summit. named Commonwealth Southern Shield. The first one is a replacement for the loosely-knit Customs Union that was in existence since 1996.

7 However. the US is making efforts to bring these states into its sphere of influence by a more subtle method. Russia. has been moving along with Russia. is also a member of EURASEC. Ukraine. president of the New York-based Eurasia group and. despite the US presence Russia remains a major factor in Central Asia. Belarus and Kazakhstan to form a “Common Economic Space”. Russia still offers the best export routes to markets in the West for Central Asia’s riches. Russia also acted as the region’s ultimate protector against outside aggressors and domestic extremists. the Black Sea Fleet. for example. had been upgraded as a security organisation with an anti-terrorist centre in Tashkent. which also includes China. It hosts CSTO Anti-terrorist Centre and Kant Air base. underlined Vatanka. Regime changes could reverse Russia's attempts to closely integrate countries like Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in a single economic and security space. the editor of Jane’s Sentinel: Russia and the CIS. is stationed in Ukrainian territorial space. as Russia picks up more stakes in the region in terms of security and economic advantages. Vatanka. Russia's main naval fleet in warm waters. thus. . The region is still dependent on trade with Russia. still remains in both economic and security terms the strongest player in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan. Sixty per cent of Tajikistan’s trade in 2002 was with Russia. such as natural gas and oil. According to Ian Bremmer. apart from being a member of CSTO and SCO. Ukraine. were to a large extent the results of external manoeuvrings. Russia has a reason to feel that this trend of regime change by orchestrated protests following elections affects negatively its interests in the post-Soviet space. and in Kyrgyzstan. It may also genuinely feel encircled by states whose present regimes are close to the West and aspire for NATO membership. creating non-governmental networks to effect regime change. The successful regime changes in Georgia. A large segment of Kazakhstan’s population is Russian and Turkmenistan still remains dependent on Russian pipelines to export the most of its natural gas. thousands of whose troops guard Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. a London-based security assessment publication.Another regional grouping Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO).

Putin said. Forced regime change can deepen these fissures. Georgia has been actively working against Russian presence in the Caucasus region and has been demanding the early withdrawal of remaining two Russian bases from its territory. The planned Common Economic Space received a set back with Ukraine showing reluctance to sign along with others the basic statutory documents. Certain regions in these countries have strong pro-Russian sentiments. which can create internal problems if the new regimes are part of US policy of containment of Russia. Ukraine and Georgia have set an organisation of their own called the Commonwealth of Democratic Choice. During a meeting with Western academics and journalists in the Kremlin on 5 September 2005.8 The fissures visible within the CIS prompted Vladimir Zharikhin. which. We are afraid only that those changes will be chaotic. Use of force by both the government and the opposition sides in certain cases may exacerbate these social fissures and diminish democratic space in real terms.The geopolitical advantages accruing to the US due to regime change is already visible. according to Russian scholar Tatiana Shaumian. deputy director of the CIS Institute to suggest that any member state wishing to join NATO and the European Union should do so without expecting to benefit from preferred trade status with Russia. In the case of Georgia. regime hostility to Russia is likely to delay Russian troop withdrawal and solution to the problem of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. the eastern part of the country nearly revolted . appears dedicated to fomenting more anti-Russian "orange revolutions" around the former Soviet Union. Otherwise there will be banana republics where he who shouts loudest wins". There are strong regional divisions within each of these states where "coloured revolutions" took place. Ukraine has been moving away from Russia and the CIS meet in Kazan on 26 August 2005 was witness to this process.9 Russian President also has reacted very sharply to the chaos that has resulted from "forcing democratic reforms in post-Soviet states". "We are not against any changes in the former Soviet Union. During the stand off in Ukraine between two presidential candidates in the last presidential election.10 Dangers of Geopolitical Rivalry Export of democracy and regime change can have adverse impacts on the stability among and within the CIS states. In fact. both of which want to join with Russia.

5 2.1 3..7 Georgia [2. SIPRI Year Book..0) (3.3) [1. when the economies are yet to fully recover from the post-Soviet economic decline.2] .9 [0.0 2.7) (1. Similarly.0) (4.3 2.5 [3. Spending on defense and acquisition of weapons has grown. leading to greater social and economic instability.3 2.2 2.4] . Iran 2. as available ( ) uncertain figures [] SIPRI estimate (Source: Compiled from SIPRI military expenditure database. It can only complicate inter-state relations in the CIS.2 2.1) (3.3) (2.3 3.7] .3] . Russia has already tightened the energy screw on Ukraine by increasing prices of gas supplies. 1995-2000 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Armenia 4.1 1.4] [1. London. Regime change is a risky short cut to spread US strategic and economic sway over Eurasia at the cost of Russia. Note: Figures represent budget data and actual expenditure.1) (1.11 The soured relations and the possibility of Ukraine increasing the transit fee has prompted Russia go for a second gas pipeline to Europe through a northern route and under the sea to bypass countries like Ukraine and Poland and the Baltic states.3] Azerbaijan 2.1 favour of the pro-Russian candidate. the northern leadership is known for its pro-Russia attitude..6 2.1 3.1 [1.3) (1.1 2.1 1.7 [1.1) (1.9] Uzbekistan (1. in Kyrgyzstan.3 1.12 The involvement of external powers has complicated the inter-state as well as internal disputes making their resolution even more difficult. Table 1: Military Expenditure as a Percentage of GDP.8 3. different years) . Foreign military bases and alliances have sprung up.. Kazakhstan 1.4 1.8 3.6 1.6] Tajikistan (1.2) [1.4) [3.1 0.3] 2. [1..6 1.6] [4.8] Kyrgyzstan 1. There is greater militarisation of the post-Soviet space.7 . Oxford University Press. Turkmenistan (2.

646 . at constant 1998 prices and exchange rates) 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 Armenia 255 220 272 273 [293] Azerbaijan 329 338 378 406 513 Georgia [212] [211] [246] [173] [143] Kazakhstan 753 814 760 752 629 Kyrgyzstan 136 130 161 149 180 Tajikistan (61. which was visible in the initial years following the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan.2) [83/1] Turkmenistan 377 363 550 466 504 Uzbekistan (414) (553) [642] .Table 2: Military Expenditure in the Caspian Sea Region. different years) Conclusion The co-operative Russia-US framework.3) (84. [982] Iran 4580 5189 5821 5737 5432 Note: Figures represent budget data and actual expenditure.8) (66. as available ( ) uncertain figures [] SIPRI estimate (Source: Compiled from SIPRI military expenditure database.. SIPRI Year Book. London. Oxford University Press.. has been in tatters as Caucasus and its 2000 [370] 569 [108] [608] [185] .5) (95. 7144 . 1995-2000 (Figures are US $m. in US Dollars..

This has given rise to regional groupings which are seeking military alliances outside the CIS structure. the situation in Caucasus is more volatile. . While Central Asia remains relatively stable despite the presence of foreign troops and bases. the CIS would be under pressure to either disintegrate or remain ineffective. So long as Caspian energy remains one of the main focuses of US geopolitical objective. The CIS which could have provided a multilateral framework for economic and security co-operation among the member states is being ruptured by the emergence of anti-integration tendencies. This would have a strong bearing on stability in the former Soviet space. Such a scenario increases the possibility of instability among and within states.neighbourhood is pulled closer to the US geopolitical orbit. The antagonisms among states and some of them with Russia are becoming intractable.


Journal of International Affairs. Strobe Talbott's address. and.000 religious extremists of IMU crossed into the mountains. took hostages and held off the Kyrgyz army for two months. seized villages. Mcguinn and Mohiaddin Mesbahi. 134. whose script resembled what happened in southern Kyrgyzstan in 1999 when as many as 1. “American drive to the Caspian” in Hoosang Amirahmadi (ed. Kyrgyzstan joined the group the same year and in 1996 a Customs Union and a Treaty on Integration was signed in 1996.B. delivered at Central Asia and Caucasus Institute. “Central Asia: Joint military exercise practices common defense”. Simonian.56. EURASEC. I. Troubled Waters: The Geopolitics of the Caspian meeting in Moscow in November 2001 and the Almaty gathering on 1 March 2002. involved seven nations and thousands of troops. Under Secretary of State for European Affairs. No.450 3 For example. Tauris. Sestanovich. No. London. Vol.3. Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 22 July 1997 by Stuart Eizenstat. S.html. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. p.). Testimony to the Congress on 17 March 1999 by Adviser on the CIS to the US Secretary of State.189 4 Stephen Blank. Macmillan. formed in October 2000 at a CIS summit in Kazakhstan and ratified in Minsk in May Spring 2003.80. 2000. John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on 21 July 1997. May 2004. 29 March 2000 .gov/www/regions/nis/970721talbott. 2001. p. has its origin in a series of free-trade and custom agreements concluded within the CIS and is structured on the framework of a 1996 Customs Union (Russia. p. 2 Region. Belarus and Kazakhstan first signed a tripartite customs agreement in1995. http://www.2. International Affairs. “The United States and regionalism in Central Asia”. Hrair Dekmejian and Hovan H. “The United States and Central Asia”. “A farewell to Flashman: American Policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia”. Six CST members and Uzbekistan (which withdrew from the Treaty in 1999) were involved in this exercise. Niyazov was present at the 10-year anniversary R. The other two have 10 per cent each. Tajikistan joined in 1998). London. a joint military exercise started in 1999. cited in Bradfort R. The Caspian Region at a Cross Road. 6 The Southern Shield 2000. Russia has 40 per cent of the voting rights and is supposed to cover 40 per cent of the budget. the largest of its kind held in Central Asia (NATO exercises were held in 1997 in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and in 1998 in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan).1 After missing nearly all the previous CIS summits. p. Vol. Neil Macfarlane. Bruce Pannier.136 5 2001. Kazakhstan and Belarus contribute 20 per cent of the budget and has a similar vote share.state. The nature of the incursion and the type of exercise undertaken by Southern Shield in 2000 found a favourable response in Central Asia.

9 September 2005 . No. Ibid. with the controlling share of 51 percent being controlled by Gazprom. “Central Asia: Six months after – Alliances shift with west..200 km under the Baltic Sea. 9. Part I. “Russia's CIS woes”.7 Bruce Pannier and Antonia Blua.Vol. The Pioneer. 12 March 2002 8 9 10 11 12 Gazprom and German firms EON and BASF. Scheduled to be completed by 2010 and stretching 1. 8 September 2005 RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 9. 26 August 2005. Vol. Russia Tatiana Shaumian. 9. 160. No. Part I. 168. 24 August 2005 An agreement to build a $5 billion North European Gas Pipeline was signed between Russia's (Part 1). The Hindu. which is estimated to rise to 55 billion cubic meters later.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year initially. 6 September 2005 Ibid. the other two having equal shares. Ibid. 162. Part I. the pipeline will supply 27. No.

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