In the wake of the USSR's dissolution, Russia aimed to sustain its sway over the nine remaining Soviet republics through the concept of the Union of Sovereign States (USS), a confederation designed to share armed forces, foreign policy, and budget. However, this plan was thwarted when Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine inked the Belavezha Accords, acknowledging each other's independence and laying the groundwork for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Moscow's Dominance within the CIS
Initially, the CIS was seen as a partnership of equals, without any one nation dominating. Over time, however, Russia began to exert its influence more assertively. This shift in dynamics led to conflicts among members and challenges in retaining them, contrasting starkly with successful associations between former imperial powers and their ex-colonies, which are not only stable but also expanding.
Russia's Power Play: Soft Power vs Hard Power
The article delves into the concepts of 'soft power' and 'hard power' in international relations. Despite Russia's initial insistence on using cultural influence as a form of soft power within the CIS, it has been increasingly resorting to hard power tactics. Tactics such as fluctuating energy prices to signal favor or disagreement with neighboring states and the use of military force or threats have been evident, particularly in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine since 2014.
Controversial Concept of 'Russian World'
In addition to this, Russia promotes the controversial concept of the 'Russian world,' undermining the distinct identities of other East Slavic nations. This approach to soft power has proven to be ineffective and alienating for other countries, contributing to the declining popularity of Russia's integration projects in the region.