Russia: Hoping for the "World of Equals" – Part 1
Here the historian and conflict researcher Kurt Gritsch will describe in three successive articles impressions from Moscow, which he recently gained while participating in the International Summer School (30.8.-6.9.2015) has gained. This was under the motto "The Russian Federation: Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow" (The Russian Foderation yesterday, today and tomorrow). The special thing about it was the possibility to get to know the point of view of Russian experts and to have a look behind the scenes. The main topics of discussion were the economic transformation from the USSR to the Eurasian Economic Union, the Russian political system and Russian foreign and security policy. An article is devoted to each of these three parts. The beginning is a look at the economic transformation of Russia.
Russia is a riddle within a mystery, surrounded by a mystery.
When my plane of the Russian airline Aeroflot arrived on 30. When the plane lands in Moscow Sheremetyevo in the afternoon of August, my week-long attempt to track down the Russian riddle begins.
It already starts with the airline, which has integrated the hammer and sickle into its emblem. In fact, the company dates back to the Soviet era. It was at that time with about 10.000 aircraft, it was the world’s largest airline, encompassing both civil and military aviation. Today Aeroflot is the largest Russian civil airline, a joint-stock company in which the state also holds shares. Aeroflot is a member of the Sky Team airline alliance, which includes several Chinese airlines as well as a number of other airlines.a. The airlines involved include Alitalia, Air France and Delta Airlines, the world’s largest airline in terms of passenger numbers. I quickly realize that the hammer and sickle are nothing more than a relic from bygone days that has degenerated into an accessory.
In the evening I move into my double room in the dormitory for students and lecturers of the Lomonosov University. The accommodation is clean and friendly, although the building, which was built in the 1950s, has seen better days and has a rather plain appearance overall.
Evgeny, the student who picks me up from the airport, indicates that the other dormitory of the university, which is exclusively for students, is in an even poorer condition. The reason for this is the Soviet past and the consequences of the Western sanctions. Others from my group later suggest that the money for the renovation of the building may have gone elsewhere. Whether our Western preconceptions of Russian cronyism reflect the real problems with corruption, I will not be able to assess until the end of my trip.
The International Summer School begins on Monday. About 40 participants from universities in China, Japan, Iran and Austria are coming to the Lomonosov Moscow State University, founded in 1755, to learn first-hand about Russia and to learn more about the Russian Federation "look behind the scenes", as the call for proposals has promised. "Russia in the past, present and future" is the motto, and the first focus is the country’s economic transformation after the end of the USSR in 1991.
On Monday Daria Ushkalova will make the beginning. She is the chairwoman of the Center for International Macroeconomic Studies of the Institute of Economics at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Actually, according to the program, we expected Professor Ruslan Grinberg, the director of the aforementioned institute. But his representatives were also able to convince: In their lecture on the topic of "Eurasian Economic Union: Opportunities and Risks" Daria Ushkalova first points out the difficulty that has accompanied the integration process from its beginning at the beginning of the 1990s until today – the question of supranational policy with a simultaneous minimum of supranational institutions.
After the end of the USSR, the former Soviet republics first of all sought to pursue the most independent policy possible. However, since the post-Soviet economic space continued to exist in practice and the previous trade routes lost their importance but were still used in principle, new regulations and structures were needed. After the August putsch against Gorbachev, the USSR was effectively at the end of its tether, and on the 31st of December, the USSR had to give up its independence. After the CIS formally ceased to exist on 1 December 1991, its members, with the exception of the Baltic states, agreed on a new structure in the Treaty of Minsk of 8 December 1991. The transformation into the CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States, took place on December 1991.
In the 2000s, the economic and security situation in Europe polarized
Already here it is clear that in the future the decisions will be made between Western integration towards the EU (Baltic states, later Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) and Eastern integration with Russia as the center (Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan). Corresponding economic and political conflicts escalated in Georgia in 2008 and drove to military clashes in eastern Ukraine from 2014 onwards.
After a long period in which the CIS was unable to offer a satisfactory economic solution, this shortcoming was remedied with the founding of the Eurasian Economic Community on 10 October 2004. October 2000 institutionally fixed. However, only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are economically united with the Russian Federation. Other ex-Soviet republics have already set the course for Western integration: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are joining both NATO and the EU in 2004.
This polarizes the economic and security situation in Europe in the 2000s. The Russian Federation is hopelessly inferior to the West in this game of forces: While the EU, through decades of integration, has now advanced to a political community, the Russian Federation must see to it that it gets an economic community with its closest neighbors off the ground at all.
Thus, in the east on 1.1.2015 only the transformation into the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). One problem was and is the unequal economic importance of the member countries. Russia brings more economic power to the Union than all the other member states together. While Western critics in particular interpret this as a sign of a geopolitical renaissance of the Kremlin, supporters of this development see the attractiveness of the Russian market for the smaller states (all of which have a GDP z.T. GDP than the Russian Federation) as the decisive factor.
On the other hand, Moscow is indeed interested in tying these former Soviet republics closer to it economically and politically for geostrategic reasons, which is why the Kremlin is prepared to make concessions. Russia, for example, has.B. Within the union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, despite its crudity, the Russian government agreed to reduce the voting weight to 57% (the other two states each hold 21.5% of the votes), while at the same time decisions must always be made by a two-thirds majority, which precludes Russia going it alone. Daria Ushkalova believes that the Eurasian Economic Union has already reached its limits. The Moscow political scientist does not see a further deepening of the political and monetary union.
Against this background of unequal economic power relations, it is also not surprising that the negotiations on the creation of a joint free trade zone, which began in the 2000s between Russia and the EU, have so far been unsuccessful. Even though Vladimir Putin in 20101 as well as Angela Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel in 2015 have again suggested the formation of such a market2 , we are currently far away from it – especially in view of the aggravated situation regarding Crimea, the sanctions policy and the escalation in Eastern Ukraine. Negotiations between the EU and Russia in the 2000s failed because both parties were not yet ready for this deeper cooperation.
The unsuccessful attempts of the two negotiating partners to form a common market had to be replaced by a pragmatic solution, a policy of small steps. Sergei Utkin, Head of the Strategic Planning Department at the Center for Situation Analysis of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. The EU, for example, has essentially insisted on the adoption of the standardized association agreements that have already been concluded with smaller Eastern European countries. Russia, on the other hand, which did not want to be compared with the small states, had insisted on negotiations at eye level. And this eye-high, diplomatic treatment as a coarse power, is a topos that I will not hear for the last time this week.
In the next article: How the Central Election Commission oversees elections in the world’s largest geographic country and why Vladimir Putin enjoys such broad support in Russia.