Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 12

Will the Soviet Union Revive by 2005?

by Volodymyr Zviglyanich

The Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy has recentlyreleased a draft document entitled "Will the [Soviet] UnionRevive by 2005?" This Council works under the direct supervisionof the President Yeltsin. It is headed by Sergei Karaganov, deputydirector of the Europe Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.Earlier Karaganov and his council published a document "TheStrategy for Russia" in the Russian newspaper Nezavisimayagazeta of May 27, 1994 which laid the groundwork for the documentof the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service released on September20, 1994 titled "Russia-CIS: Does the Position of the WestNeed to be Corrected?" In this document, the tendency ofthe CIS countries to "reintegration" was proclaimedinevitable and objective. The main practical results of thesetheoretical exercises have been recent signing of a treaty betweenRussia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan and the Treaty onCreating a Community of Sovereign Republics signed on April 2,1996 between Belarus and Russia. Having taken into considerationthe close contacts of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policywith Evgeny Primakov, the former head of the Russian Foreign IntelligenceService and now Russia’s Foreign Minister, one cannot but regardany document prepared by this Council seriously and of directconcern to Ukraine.

Main Focus of the "2005" Document

The document stresses that the word "Soviet" in connectionwith the "Union" is used in a non-political sense forthe designation of a historical successor to the FSU that couldemerge in the form of a confederation, Union, or Federation onthe territory of the FSU. The possibility of the creation of sucha state is the major focus of the Document.

Why 2005? According to the authors, it is intuitively clear thatthis year will be key to the development of the integration processesin the post-Soviet space. After this date the process of eitherintegration or disintegration will take final shape.

The Document stresses that despite the claims of some participantsin the recent CIS summit in Moscow as to the impossibility ofthe recreation of the USSR, integration is a possibility. Thesedeclarations were of a "purely political" nature. Moreover,these claims came from the states that are beginning to create"independent sovereign states from the remnants of the FSU."According to this logic, those states of the CIS which capitalizedon the impossibility of the recreation of the USSR (first of all,Ukraine) have practically no attributes of statehood on theirown. Therefore, they should search for reintegration with thatpolitical body which possesses a statehood, i.e., with Russia.

Factors Impeding the Revival of the USSR

These are as follows:

–the liquidation of the USSR was juridically sound and confirmedat national referendums; the former states of the USSR have becomemembers of the UN and other international organizations;

–the West has reached a "near consensus" concerningthe undesirability of restoration of the USSR as a "strong"neighbor. The Western countries are much more stable now thanthey were when the USSR emerged;

–the contemporary situation practically excludes the use of coercivemethods of restoration. Moreover, in Central Asia it is objectedto by the US, China, and Turkey;

–the economic and political development of the countries of theFSU is uneven and different. Russia proper lacks the politicalwill for the resolution of this problem and a foreign policy mechanismto pursue the goal of restoration;

–in the future Russia will deal with the problems of survivaland internal restructuring, and will be incapable of paying forthe restoration which for most of the population is associatedwith the return to power of the old Communist nomenklatura andthe abolition of private property.

–new national political elites will resist any encroachmentson their state sovereignty.

Factors Accelerating the Revival of the USSR

The Document purports that they are not as numerous as those impedingthe restoration of the USSR. However, they are more fundamentalby nature and each centrifugal factor has its opposite.

–the act of denunciation of the USSR is illegal as it was carriedout secretly from the parliaments of the republics of the FSUand the acting president;

–the stability of the Western states is volatile and the Atlanticmodel of democracy is withering away. The twenty first centurycould witness political instability in these countries;

–the population of the FSU suffers as a result of the rapid breakupof the USSR. The success of economic reforms in Russia could makeher again the center of gravity. The imperial consciousness ofcertain Russian political elites will gradually decrease and thetraditional Russian desire (though arrogant) to make the weakernations happier could increase;

–the Russian Diaspora is more technologically advanced and morerapidly acquiring market behavior. The role of the Russian languageas formerly the all-Union language could also facilitate restorationof the USSR;

–the US is getting weaker being the only superpower;

–the Slav (or historical) unity of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraineis a strong centripetal factor;

–the threat of disintegration of the new independent states (Ukraine,Kazakhstan, and Georgia ) as well as the problem of "unnaturalborders" and "disputed territories" could alsopush for the restoration;

–new local conflicts are almost unavoidable in Central Asia uponthe fall of the political regime in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) andthis will inevitably push Kazakhstan to Moscow;

–the expansion of NATO via Poland to the borders of the FSU wouldalmost immediately make Belarus a Russian protectorate. This heraldsthe restoration of the USSR. The pressure on Ukraine will inevitablyincrease.

–many of the problems unresolvable in current conditions (Crimea,Transdniestria, Eastern Ukraine, the Black Sea Fleet, Kaliningrad)could be resolved upon restoration of the Union;

–one has a feeling that some of the new independent states arenot very interested (or cannot objectively) become really sovereign.For their elites the following dilemma could emerge–either voluntarilyreturn to Russia or to be absorbed by other states.

Therefore, according to the Document, the coming decade will bedecisive for answering the question "Will the (Soviet) UnionRevive in the Near Future." If the answer is not found by2005, it will never be found at all. Within this decade the nextfive years are crucial for resolving two main questions –willeconomic expansion occur in Russia, and will the West commit somemajor mistake causing the revival of the USSR.

The Document purports that by 2000 a new Federation will emergewith the chances for participation of the FSU states as follows– Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia (very likely); Ukraine(wholly or in part), Georgia, Kyrgyzstan,(with great but not decisivelikelihood); Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan (with a smallerlikelihood); Azerbaijan, Moldova (the destiny of these stateswill depend on the fate of Ukraine) whereas Azerbaijan will dependon the situation in Caucasus; Latvia (less likely but possible);Estonia and Lithuania (unlikely). Having recognized that a singleanswer to the question on restoration does not exist, the authorspropose a long term strategy aimed at a revival of the USSR beneficialto Russia. They propose the whole range of steps.

–to create inside the Foreign Ministry a special "ministry"in charge of the CIS and FSU (i.e., of the Balts);

–to elaborate a set of directives on Russia’s policy to eachcountry of the CIS as well as the FSU;

–to shift the focus of activities within the CIS from signingtreaties to elaboration of projects and contacts in economic,social and economic shares, such as the creation of the financial-industrialgroups; debts-property exchanges; the creation of common banks;customs and credit unions aimed at opening correspondent marketsto Russia’s penetration. A special role in this regard is givento the Russian language and its use on the terrain of the FSU.The Document stresses the reinforcement of the position of Russiain relation to the rest of the countries of the CIS and the necessityof the creation of a wide network of both formal and informalcontacts with the political, economic and cultural elites of theCIS.

Strategy for Ukraine

The Document "2005" continues the line on reintegrationof the CIS countries which since October 1993 (the forceful dissolutionof the Russian parliament) has become a dominant line of boththe Kremlin and the opposition. However, the preceding documentsdid not raise the possibility of the restoration of the USSR.They spoke more about integration. The new document having paida lip service to the possibility of preserving independent statusfor the CIS countries, nevertheless proclaims the task of restorationopenly by the year 2005. It stresses that economic and culturalmeans will play the crucial role in Moscow’s forthcoming effortsto "gather lands."

Ukraine is regarded as being in the second tier of the countriesconstituting the new Confederation (a prologue to the Union) bythe year 2000–the likelihood of its joining the Confederationis evaluated by the authors as very high. They do not excludethe scenario of Ukraine’s disintegration under which one part(probably the Eastern Ukraine) would join the Confederation. Russiais very interested in this scenario as it would give it the opportunity(as stated in the Document) to resolve the problem of the BlackSea Fleet (i.e., to put Sevastopol under its jurisdiction) andthat of Crimea. Eastern Ukraine where the major part of the Ukrainianeconomic potential is concentrated is a juicy prize for the rapidlyexpanding Russian companies and financial-industrial groups. Asa preliminary step to the eventual annexation of Eastern Ukraine,the development of debt-property agreements (the Russian monopolyGazprom acquired parts of Belarus gas processing facilities forits debts) is foreseen as well as the establishment of a commoncustoms union and attaining the greatest possible openness ofUkrainian markets to penetration of Russian goods that are unableto compete internationally.

The loss of economic sovereignty by Ukraine is considered nowby the Russian strategists as a key prerequisite of the "Belarus"scenario. All efforts will be concentrated on increasing Ukraine’seconomic dependence on Russia as well as on promoting the correspondingRussian linguistic and cultural domination. Ukraine faces nowthe choice–either to follow the path of the countries of EasternEurope which managed to reduce their dependence on Russia, reorienttheir trade to the West and are looking now for integration intothe EU and NATO, or to follow the path of Belarus–this quasicomic/quasitragicalexample of colonization at the end of the twentieth century.

To withstand the last tendency fraught with the loss of its politicalindependence, Ukraine is compelled to study and practically implementthe experience on decolonization acquired by such countries asPoland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and even Albania.All these countries have a level of foreign direct investmentsper capita exceeding the Ukrainian one dozens of times. The placeof Western economic advisers in Ukraine who do not understandthe mentality of post Homo Soveticus should be taken byexperts on decolonization from the Eastern European countries,capable of elaborating the gradual transition of Ukraine firstto the level of the most advanced Eastern European countries andthen –within 10-15 years–to the level of Greece and Spain. Anyattempt to repeat the model of the Russian economic reforms wouldinevitably bring the Ukrainian Communists to power with all theconsequences that follow. The intensity of the efforts of theRussian strategic planners to restore the (Soviet) Union by theyear 2005 or a Confederation by 2000, place Ukraine before thenecessity of a reevaluation of its major strategic prioritiesin economic and foreign policy.