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Soviet Integration : CIS

If the “Belovejskoe” agreement resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its main object was not to achieve the pure and simple end of the Union but rather to organize its replacement by a new international organization: the Commonwealth of Independent States. This Community is very different from the USSR and even more so from Gorbachev's projects because it aims at best to maintain some common policies and economic links. It is no longer a highly integrated organization but clearly an intergovernmental organization in which the Member States are kings. The idea was to maintain joint actions but no longer be linked together.

For example, to avoid harmful effects on the citizens of other Soviet Republics on their territory, the States undertook to respect the rights of these citizens and to give them guarantees. But if these guarantees were subscribed, the fact remains that the citizenship of the Union was abolished and that it was necessary to create a special citizenship regime until 1992, when nationality was given not not according to cultural origin but according to place of residence. This state of affairs is also a source of conflict to this day: one can for example think of the Russians of Crimea living with a Ukrainian passport because of the practice of uti posseditis (which therefore naturally attributed Crimea to Ukraine).

Article 4 provides for areas in which member states must continue to cooperate. These include the environment, the economy and even health. But without the goodwill of states and without effective integration mechanisms (such as those of the EU or were those of the USSR), these intentions remained a dead letter during the decades that followed the establishment of the Community.

We can also underline article 5 of the agreement which provides for a guarantee of respect for borders. This intention can be understood because all national conflicts were frozen during the Soviet period, with authority coming from above. But once the sovereignties were again respected, the many frozen conflicts were revived, including during the 1980s, such as the Abkhaz questions or the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. So this article shows more goodwill than real commitment. Russia continues to put pressure on its neighbors today by exploiting these frozen conflicts and actually overstepped with today’s War in Ukraine.

The most remarkable aspect of this agreement remains article 6, which provides for the total nuclear disarmament of the CIS States as well as the pooling of the nuclear arsenal resulting from the dissolution of the USSR. Indeed, when this agreement was signed, international concern centered on the security of the immense Soviet nuclear arsenal. To ensure fairness in nuclear decisions, the “Belovejkoe” agreement therefore provided for joint control. However, this situation changed rapidly as agreements were reached between Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan on the repatriation of Soviet nuclear arsenals to the Russian Federation. In exchange, Russia undertook to honor alone all the financial obligations inherited from the USSR and to respect and defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine in particular (showing how despicable it is now for it to threaten Ukraine with those same nuclear weapons and waging a war of conquest while illegally annexing territories). Once again this element is strange because we are faced with States liquidating the common Soviet past, but Russia is playing on the historical continuity of the dissolved whole.

Finally, the “Belovejskoe” agreement provides for areas in which the States must cooperate in common activities such as foreign policy or transport. This article only calls for cooperation without specifying either the nature or the organizational form. One could comment by saying that the “Belovejskoe” agreement conceives that there must be continuity between the USSR and the CIS but does not want to make any formal commitment to leave the States free to dispose of their regained sovereignty.

The biggest setback of the agreement compared to Gorbachev's projects is found in article 9, which provides for the use of diplomacy to settle disputes between member states. No court or formal institution is provided to enforce the agreement or potential derivative rights resulting from the application of this agreement. Suffice to say that the organization had no binding force from its inception. The IEC is therefore a genuine international intergovernmental organization in the classic sense of the term. In this, it proves the absolute sovereignty and independence of these Member States but at the same time it shows a considerable weakening of integration at the regional level.

In practice, we notice that the CIS has become ineffective. It failed to guarantee any continuity between Soviet integration and the post-Soviet world because it could not prevent conflicts from exploding. Nor has it prevented the signing of bilateral treaties between member states and third-party states that are harmful to the development of the organization itself. Some states left the CIS, such as Ukraine and Georgia, because of the Russian expansionist policy. Russia, on the other hand, preferred to play the protectionism of its national economy, considering that it had finally got rid of the burden of the Republics which siphoned off its budget during the Soviet era. This dynamic has ultimately favored Russia which, instead of playing the game of treaties, has rather played its individual strength in bilateral relations where it always has (had) a strong hand. Only the entry into play of external powers such as the United States or the European Union can temporize Russian influence in these regions.

We can therefore conclude this part by saying that if the USSR sought to maintain an integration at the level of the Union of States which became independent in 1917, and even if it tried to change form to become more liberal and respectful of national identities, the failure of its too cynical and authoritarian integration led to its collapse, presided over by personal ambitions using the national argument to favor their projects. But if Soviet integration is now ancient history, it is now necessary to study post-Soviet integration through the study of this new international organization that is the Eurasian Economic Union.


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