Staunton, July 2 – Moscow should consider the problems that overly ambitious expansion has brought to both the European Union and NATO and not seek fall victim to the notion that it must expand the Eurasian Union as quickly and as far as possible, according to Aleksandr Krylov, a leading Russian specialist on the Caucasus.
In the course of a discussion of the Karabakh problem, Krylov was asked for his reaction to Russian efforts to broaden its sphere of influence by integrating various countries into the Eurasian Union, a process that involves more than just countering the further eastward expansion of NATO.
Most Russian commentators and officials are pushing for the expansion of the Eurasian Union as far and a fast as possible to block the growth of Western influence and to set the stage for political integration of the post-Soviet states, but Krylov argues that Moscow should proceed slowly and cautiously in this regard.
NATO’s eastern expansion does “contradict the security interests of Russia,” he acknowledges. “This influences Russian policy but in this case, the main issue is not that.” Policy makers should keep in mind that the re-ordering of the post-Soviet space and the processes this involves are “far from over.”
“Unfortunately, a united Europe did not emerge after the disintegration of the USSR. Instead, there are two integration projects” in the post-Soviet space just as there are numerous other integration processes in other parts of the world which are giving rise to “the formation of a new multi-polar” system.
Which of these will prove successful and which will fail are things which “only the future will show,” Krylov says. And that concerns both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union as well, both of which face challenges some of their own making and some because of the activities of others.
Russia is interested in securing “stable and successful development on the post-Soviet space jointly with other states. But this contradicts the interests of those forces which continue to live with the illusions of a unipolar world and seek to block cooperation both at the all-European level and in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union project.”
“The experience of the European Union shows,” Krylov says, “that its expansion has given risen to many problems. It would be useful for Russia to take this experience into account and to act on the basis of the principle ‘better less but better’ and not to pursue the maximum broadening” of the new organization.
Moscow and its neighbors will only benefit from this, the Moscow analyst continues. “If the founding member states of the Eurasian Economic Union obtain real benefits from the project, if it becomes a success and guarantees stable development and the resolution of social-economic problems, then the organization will hardly be likely to face a shortage of applicants.”
On the one hand, Krylov’s words may be nothing more than making a virtue out of a necessity: relatively few of the post-Soviet states have shown much interest in joining Moscow’s latest venture. But on the other, his suggestion that Moscow should beware of the problems of overly ambitious expansion suggests some in the Russian capital want to slow things down.