TheConcept of Near Abroad
Politicallyspeaking, the concept of Near Abroad is in reference to the newlyindependent nations that emerged following the dissolution of theso-called Soviet Union. In Russia, this term became popular in the1990s especially through the popularization by Andrey Kozyrev inreference to the Eastern and Central Europe. After the dissolution ofthe Soviet Union, 15 new republics emerged in the world of politics(Kaufman). However, Russia was recognized as the country that willlegally inherit the seat of the Soviet Union in the United Nations.On the other hand, the remaining states assumed their respectivesovereign status. All these states comprises of the territory thatwas formerly occupied by the Soviet Union’s former republics. As aresult, all these states are collectively referred to as the “NearAbroad.” The concept of Near Abroad emerged in the Russian politicsin reference to the manner in which the country relates with otherSoviet Union’s former republics and it therefore means that thereexisted an unequal and special relationship. Besides, Russiadominates all the other republics in the Near Abroad Region.Therefore, result of the Near Abroad and Russia’s regional politicsis of great importance to the international community. In fact, theterm became synonymous in English with assertions of Russia’s rightto have prevalent influences in the region as well bore a greatcomparison to Monroe Doctrine. In this regards, the discourse willtake a critical analysis on the concept of Near Abroad and theRussian foreign policy.
The concept ofNear Abroad and the Russian foreign policy
In 2013,Russia published its new Foreign Policy Concept through the Ministryof Foreign Affairs (Monaghan, 2). However, the West has paid littleattention to this new policy by terming it as a mere bureaucraticformulation. The concept contains empty bureaucratic and generic‘strategic’ language. According to (Monaghan, 2), the conceptprovides an important insight on the manner in which Perceives theinternational environment. While presenting the Foreign PolicyConcept, Putin noted that the concept takes into consideration theglobal economic and financial crisis as well as instability in NorthAfrica and the Middle East. Therefore, this new concept may help inovercoming the misunderstanding of the country’s activity inrelation to the republics in the Near Abroad region. Additionally, itis arguably true that the concept covers all the processes occurringthroughout the world as well as the country’s main regions. In thiscase, Russia’s main regions are the former republics of the SovietUnion. With this regard, it important to note that the concept ofNear Abroad is necessary in facilitating the understanding ofRussia’s foreign policy. This is because this foreign policy catersfor the other Soviet Union’s former republics.
In addition, theconcept of Near Abroad can enable the international community tounderstand the manner in which Russia treats the Baltic States. Forinstance, there has been a great concern among the Baltic governmentsafter the independence of the Baltic States that Russia mightmanipulate their non-titular populations (Cheskin, 4). In this case,then Russian-speaking populations perceived as a security threattowards the Baltic States’ sovereignty. This implies that Russiahas been making efforts to use the other republics of the formerSoviet Union for its own geopolitical gains. This concept of NearAbroad thus can assist in portraying Russia’s failures andsuccesses with regard to its foreign policy. The 1995 LatvianNational Security Concept clearly linked the internal threats to theexternal threats that faced Latvia (Cheskin, 4). Currently, theintelligence services in the Baltic States are still wary of Russia’sto interfere with their domestic affairs by cajoling and manipulatingRussian-speakers into social and political action. On the contrary,the Constitutional Protection Bureau (CPS) of Latvia “states that“support for a Diaspora does not necessarily contradict Latvianinterests” (Cheskin, 5). With this regard, threats to the BalticStates’ national security take place when the Real aim of Russia’soperations is to manipulate the Diaspora in order to interfere withthe socio-political processes in the Baltic States. For example,Cheskin (5) asserts that Russia has made various attempts aimed atinterfering with the Latvian affairs such as its attempt to renameone of the streets in Riga. The street was named after the Chechen’sformer leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev.
Furthermore, theintelligent services of Russia have made various efforts to influencethe general election of Latvia in 2010 (Cheskin, 6). Despite the factthat Russia failed to influence this general election, it issignificant that the concept of Near Abroad is necessary towards theunderstanding of the Russian foreign policy. On the other hand,immediately after the Soviet Union had collapsed, Russia had retainedits military troops in the republics in the Near Abroad region formany years. This was after the presidential decree by PresidentEl’tsin that placed these states under the Russian Command duringthe year 1992 (Cheskin, 6). This means that the Russian troops werein operation in these newly independent republics of the formerSoviet Union. The main reason behind this move by the Russiangovernment was that it was concerned over the welfare and rights ofthe Russian-speakers in such republics. In fact, the then Russianpresident that he was “deeply concerned over the infringement ofthe Russian-speakers’ rights (Cheskin, 6) in the Near Abroadregion. From this, it is arguably true that Russia’s foreign policywas to serve the interests of its ‘compatriots’ at the expense ofthe interests of the countries in the Near Abroad region. This isbecause there was no major ethnic violence that was reported amongthese republics. Thus, this lack of major ethnic violence in suchrepublics implies that Russia had no legitimate ground to interferemilitarily with the affairs of these republics.
Nevertheless,Russia had a problem of accepting the reality of the republics in theNear Abroad region. The Soviet Union’s collapse posed a greatchallenge for the Russian government in various aspects. In thiscase, Kakhishvili (1) contends that the main challenge that Russiafaced immediately after the Soviet Union collapsed was that ofdefining its own identity. In addition, another problem that facedthe country was on how to define the Russians. With this regard,Kakhishvili (1) provides the three major competing definitions of theRussians that emerged after once the Soviet Union collapsed. Theredefinitions were the linguistic definition, the civic definition, andthe ethnic definition. The civic definition referred to those peoplewho were living in Russia. The linguistic definition referred to theRussian-speakers in the Near Abroad region. According to Kakhishvili(1), the Russian’s identity is greatly dependent on the “Russia’sgeographical concept.” It has also been challenging to defineRussia as a spatial space. This is an historical problem because thecountry emerged like a union of various “eastern Slavic princedomsin the tenth century” (Kakhishvili, 1). After various countries,the rulers of Russia developed an empire pushing boundaries andannexing borderlands to include Finland, Caucasus, Siberia, CentralAsia, and Poland among others. As a result, it is difficult to defineRussia n Geographic concept. This identity crisis significantlyrelates to the country’s foreign policy in relation to the NearAbroad. For instance, it is challenging to understand the borders ofRussia. Additionally, it is difficult to identify the people withwhich Russia is responsible for and who to protect. With this regard,Andrei Kozyrev (Russia’s Foreign Minister) declared in 1993 thatRussia had a right to intervene with the affairs of the SovietUnion’s former republics in order to protect the human rights(Kaufman).
Indeed,the concept of Near Abroad can help us in understanding the Russianforeign policy in various aspects. Despite the fact that the countryhas recently published new Foreign Policy Concept, it has been termedas a mare bureaucratic formulation. For instance, Russia has beeninterfering with socio-political affairs of the Baltic countries.Most importantly, the problem with Russia and its foreign policy liesin its identity crisis. This is because the country cannot be definedon a geographical concept neither can it define its populations. As aresult, Russia’s perception is that it can interfere with thesocio-political affairs of the republics in the Near Abroad region.As asserted in the discourse, the concept of “Near Abroad”reveals the controlling foreign policy that Russia has developedregarding countries under its command in the former USSR.
Cheskin, Ammon. The Successes and Failures of Russian ForeignPolicy Towards the “Russian Diaspora”: Soft Power and the BalticStates, 2010. [Online] Available fromhttp://www.academia.edu/4095150/The_successes_and_failures_of_Russian_foreign_policy_towards_the_Russian_diaspora_Soft_power_and_the_Baltic_states
Kakhishvili, Levan. Assessing Russia’s Policy towards its NearAbroad. E-International Relations Students, 2013. [Online]Available fromhttp://www.e-ir.info/2013/06/17/assessing-russias-policy-toward-its-near-abroad/
Kaufman Stuart. The Russian Problem. The Journal of ConflictStudies, 16(2006)2. Print
Monaghan Andrew. The New Russian Foreign Policy Concept: EvolvingContinuity, 2013. [Online] Available fromhttp://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/public/Research/Russia%20and%20Eurasia/0413pp_monaghan.pdf