DEBATING RUSSIA’S DISCORPORATION
“The one thing I would change is that Russia’s disintegration does not have to be against our interest. So far it has been very positive.Since at least the early 1980s Moscow has been trading geopolitical power for working capital. Every step of this journey has freed nations from Moscow’s grip and increased liberalization and connectivity with the “global” econony.From Eastern European countries having to raise international capital, to the fall of the Soviet Outer Empire in 1989, to the fall of the Soviet Inner Empire in 1991, to Georgia’s, Moldvoa’s. and Ukraine’s recent realignments, we are winning. Even now, a free Ukraine is better than a Moscow-dominated Ukraine. As Russia falls the concern should be to connect the succssor states to us, not to save their connection with Moscow. “
CKR, addressed Dan’s point as follows ( more on CKR ‘s other point later):
“The problem is, Dan, that there is one gigantic lump of state that isn’t going away. Let Chechnya and a few others of what the Soviet Union called autonomous republics go, and you’ll still have an enormous state with enormous natural resources and strategic placement. And some of those will never be let go, because they’re surrounded by…Russia.Whether Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will turn out “free” is still open. But I suspect that you don’t care, as long as they are aligned with “the West.” And geography is destiny there, too. That “West” is more likely to be Europe than the US. They can’t pick up and move to Kansas.”
Dan’s connectivity observations regarding what we might call the first great centrifugal wave of nationalism that rocked the Soviet empire concerned true nation-states, all of which had previous experience with political independence, however briefly and long cultural histories. Georgian and Armenian historical memory stretch back to antiquity, the Ukranians to Kievan Rus, St. Cyril and Byzantine tutelage in Chritianity and civilization. A few of the original memnbers of the Commonwealth of Independent States like Belarus, Moldova and Tadjikstan have somewhat shakier national pedigrees but all of them outshine the potential aspirants of the second centrifugal wave battering Russia, of which the Chechens are but the cutting edge.
Currently Becker and Posner are debating the viability of small states, arguing in the main that the current world economic and political climate is more receptive to the survival of small polities. I agree provided the polities come with good governance – something I have grave doubts can be achieved by numerically tiny peoples like the Ossetians, Kalmyks, Mingrelians, Abkhazians who are little more than tribes yearning for flags, dominated politically by mafiya oligarchs and ex-Communist thugs.
Perhaps a free Tartarstan can make the grade, being larger and having oil but I don’t forsee a Yakut, Daghestani or Ingush state anytime soon petitioning for admittance to the WTO. They simply aren’t yet playing in the same civil society league that the Lithuanians were in in 1990 and at present the retreat of Russian power from these territories today is apt to spawn a constellation of failed states – a subsaharan Africa on the Caspian.
It isn’t that these peoples are not entitled to democracy and connectivity, it’s that the prospects of connecting them to the West are likely to be higher in reasonably-sized economic and political units that are not awash in complete anarchy.
I will deal with CKR’s identification of the failure to implement a Russian Marshall Plan in the 1990’s as one cause of today’s problems in another post.