The last couple of years I have experienced Russian soft power firsthand through various NGO-programs. Here is what I learned – and how I was influenced.
There are two kinds of people: The ones who are curious about the unknown and the ones who are afraid. The first category includes the ones who are open towards strangers and the second includes the ones who would rather stick to their own.
For centuries it has been a core component of democracy that we can openly exchange worldviews and discuss how our society should be organized. This makes us able to understand each other – also if we disagree – and it makes us able to find solutions to current problems.
The point of engaging in discussions is often either to learn from others or to convince the counterpart that your own argument is better. In other words, the point with having discussions is to be influenced or influence another. But the last couple of years along with the fast emergence of online and social media a lot of discussions have been disrupted by so-called ‘disinformation’ and there for ‘foreign influence’ has become a matter of national security – especially in countries where the government is elected by the people whom might be easily influenced or manipulated.
In the West, and in many other places in the world, fear of the foreign is increasing. The appearance of disinformation and so called ‘influence-campaigns’ means that if we are not careful, we will be manipulated by outsiders into abandoning our true beliefs and into turning against our own. What a lot of people fail to see is that if we are too careful, we will all find ourselves in the second category of the two types of people mentioned above. If that happens, all foreign information will likely be perceived as disinformation and we might as well go offline and isolate ourselves in small homogenous societies. A core component of dialogue-based democracy is at stake–on a global level.
From state to people
I allow myself to represent “the West” in this article even though I know this is academically questionable because there are many countries, divergent opinions, and different approaches within the West. Some of the influence we “in the West” seem to be most afraid of is ‘Russian influence’. But what we often see as malign Russian influence-attempts, Russia often sees as legitimate use of soft power. And since the West also possess and uses soft power, Russia sees our fear and our accusations as a double moral standard.
Soft power involves the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction rather than coercion (Nye 1990).It includes promoting your countries culture, political values, and foreign policyto become an attractive and reliable partner. Soft power has some advantages to hard power because it is cheaper and more legitimate to convince people to voluntarily work with you than to force them to do so by for example military power or economic extortion or bribery. Why invade people’s territory with military means if you can ‘invade’ people’s minds by being or at least appearing favorable?
Russian soft power strategy was launched during Vladimir Putin’s second presidency in 2004-2008. Kremlin launched an active policy towards countries in the post-Soviet space to improve the image of Russia among its perceived compatriots. At first the strategy was directed towards regimes. For example, Moscow established the customs union that later became The Eurasian Economic Union and the Nord Stream gas pipeline to promote itself as an attractive economic partner and a reliable energy supplier. After the Ukraine crisis and Viktor Yanukovych’s departure other regimes started to play an anti-Russian card to consolidate their power (Sergunin & Karabeshkin 2015: 349). Thus, the soft power strategy had to change.
Today Russia’s soft power strategy is more people-oriented and stretches further than the post-Soviet space. Within this strategy public diplomacy plays a huge role meaning any government-sponsored effort to communicate directly with foreign publics to promote a government’s strategic objectives – or said in another way: a governments effort to influence foreign public opinion (Osipova 2014).
Make no mistake though: Russia is not the only country engaged with public diplomacy. More and more countries are competing to win over public audiences for a variety of reasons ranging from attracting tourists, students, or foreign investment to promoting national image and influencing international affairs.
Here is where it gets tricky because public diplomacy is considered legitimate but conducting influence-campaigns in foreign countries is not – but theoretically the two concepts look a bit like each other. When a foreign country wants to influence domestic public opinion up to an election it isseen as an effort to undermine democracy. It seems logical though– and even legitimate – that foreign governments want people in other countries to choose leaders that favor them. It is the methods used to do so that vary in legitimacy.
From digital to physical
In my time as a student of political science in Copenhagen I heard and read a lot about Russia. Russia’s image in Denmark is not very favorable. Russia is often perceived as an enemy trying to undermine democracy and as a regime that does not live up to human rights obligations. Russia is also quickly impersonated as Vladimir Putin: strong but unfair. Russia is a country far away, difficult to understand, but easy to fear. Said in another way: Russia does not have a lot of soft power leverage in Denmark and I imagine it is the same in many other countries in the West. Whenever and whatever good we hear about Russia; we don’t really believe it.
A couple of years ago I decided to travel to Russia to test and question my perceptions about the country that have mainly emerged from what we hear and read in Western media.One of Russia’s soft power methods is to promote Russian culture and foreign policy through NGO’s targeting for example students and young professionals to promote educational programs and exchange (Simons 2018). I chose to cease this opportunity to get to know Russia better and thus I have participated in various NGO-programs in Russia. And boy; have I engaged in a lot of discussions, I have learned, and I have influenced.
Russian NGO’s are often viewed as illegitimate in the West because they receive economic support from the Russian government. Thus, they are not “non-governmental” people say. What we need to remember is that NGO’s can merely survive in Russia without government support because if they receive money from abroad, they risk being labeled ‘foreign agents’ (Svetova 2018). Surely if they receive government support, they might have some obligations towards their government, but it does not mean that they are deliberately trying to spread disinformation to manipulate people. At least this should not be our starting point.
Official opinions are often also reflected in people’s opinion and by denying those opinions we distance ourselves not only from the Russian government but from the Russian people. Say I disagree; then only by understanding official opinions, I can put forward a counter argument in an understandable way to those who share that opinion. This is what ‘mutual understanding’ is about– which is exactly what is missing in the relationship between Russia and the West.
Blurred lines: false or biased, fact or opinion?
Dialogue fosters mutual understanding, which fosters predictability and credibility, which fosters trust and furthers possibilities to cooperate (Head 2016: 360). But in the digital age credibility is a scarce resource and fear of being manipulated keeps us from cooperating. A Russian acquaintance once said to me: Whatever you say about Russia, the opposite is also true. In other words: Truth can be inflected.
A prominent discussion in philosophy of science is whether and when something can be viewed as knowledge and be defined as true. Positivists argue that when weknow something is true, it is also real. “Influence campaigns in this new digital reality do not try to convince us and win an honest argument. Instead, they question reality itself,” said the Danish Foreign Minister, Jeppe Kofoed at a conference on how democracies can be protected against foreign influence. But it is questionable whether one reality exists.
In constructivist theory, reality is socially constructed within social contexts which means that different people in different contexts see reality differently. In other words, when people believe something is true, it is also real. Thus, it is difficult to define the line between disinformation and biased opinion. This is for example the case with the ‘annexation’ of Crimea as it is called in the west and the ‘reunification’ of Crimea as it is called in Russia. Those who agree with one or the other see true information, those who see an unfair framing see biased information and those who strongly disagree see false information. Information is interpreted within the framework of preexisting beliefs (Vuorelma2017: 120). Therefor it is questionable whether people are easily influenced by information that they strongly disagree upon, but it is quite possible that they would refer to the information as false.
Good image can be threatening
Things have happened recently that from a Russian perspective could give Russia more soft power leverage in the West. Russia sent medical aid to Italy and to other countries which could be a sign of goodwill. It has alsodeveloped a potential corona-vaccine, which could improve Russia’s image within biomedicine and broader academia – and could potentially put Russia in a position to help the whole planet. But in the West people are not exactly thrilled. In a Western perspective these are things that Russia can use for propaganda purposes meaning the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions and manipulate cognitions to achieve the goals of the propagandist (Jowet & O’Donell 2019: 6).
In the digital age aggressive behavior is not only expansionist behavior it is also a state’s intent to impose a good imageand thus, a signal of good intent can be interpreted as aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, I did not learn the solution to this dilemma. On the one hand, we should not be blind towards that states or even NGO’s might have an interest in lying about its intentions in order to change or control other people’s opinions. But on the other hand, we should primarily put it upon ourselves to explore the reasons behind divergent perceptions. Though, I suggest this should not take place through online media where misunderstanding rule and disinformation disrupt. What we need is good old-fashioned face-to-face meetings whether between students, teachers, NGO’s or government officials. Because the more we disagree the more dialogue is needed.
Framing foreign influence as pure malign manipulation will keep us both from learning and from arguing our own case abroad. So, let us prevent soft power from turning too ugly. After all the use of soft power is preferable to the use of hard power. And let us hope the covid-19-crisis is over soon so that we can visit each other and engage in dialogue where influence is not always a bad thing.
Head, Naomi (2016). ‘Transforming Conflict: Trust, Empathy, and Dialogue’, in Yohan Ariffin, Jean-Marc Coicaud & Vesselin Popovski (eds.), Emotions in International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jervis, Robert (2017). ‘Signaling and Perception. Projecting Images and Drawing Inferences’, in: How statesmen think: The psychology of international politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jowet, Garth S. & Victoria O’Donnell (2019). ‘Propaganda and Persuasion’ (ed. 7). California: SAGE Publications.
Osipova, Yelena (2014). ‘Russification‟ of „Soft Power‟: Transformation of a Concept’.The Journal of Public Diplomacy, Vol. 5, 56-77
Sergunin, Alexander &Karabeshkin, Leonid (2015. ‘Understanding Russia’s Soft Power Strategy’, Political Studies Association, POLITICS vol. 35(3-4), 347–363
Simons, Greg (2018).‘The Role of Russian NGOs in New Public Diplomacy’, Journal of Political Marketing, 17:2, 137-160
Svetova, Zoya (2018).‘NGOs in Russia: Do They Still Stand a Chance? The Kremlin is steadily ramping up its control over civil society’. Moscow Times. Located on: https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2018/02/12/ngos-do-they-still-stand-a-chance-russia-svetova-a60471
XV Congress of the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language
The XV Congress of the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature “Russian Language and Literature in a Changing World” began on September 13 in St. Petersburg. Outstanding Russian philologists from all over the world took part in the world congress. The objectives of the event and its significance for promoting the Russian language abroad were discussed at a press conference in TASS by the chairman of the congress program committee, adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, president of MAPRYAL and ROPRYAL, chairman of the supervisory board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vladimir Tolstoy, co-chairman of the congress program committee, rector St. Petersburg State University, member of the presidium of the Russian Language Council under the President of the Russian Federation, co-chairman of the Russian Language Council under the Government of the Russian Federation, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolai Kropachev and president of the Leo Tolstoy Institute in Colombia Ruben Dario Flores Arcila.
The XV Congress of MAPRYAL is the largest event in the life of world Russian studies, in which about 600 delegates from 63 countries of the world take part: specialists in the field of scientific description and teaching of the Russian language, literature, theory and practice of translation, lexicography and other aspects. During the congress, 418 reports will be presented, which will present a whole range of international studies of Russian studies – from teaching methods to translations of literary texts and analysis of phraseological units.
As the President of MAPRYAL and the Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vladimir Tolstoy noted, today MAPRYAL has 130 collective and 65 individual participants, and interest in the study of the Russian language and Russian literature is only growing around the world.
“This year, new colleagues from Argentina, Venezuela, Qatar, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Peru, Senegal, Tanzania, Ecuador, as well as our old friends from the CIS countries, Asia, the Balkan region, countries of Eastern and Western Europe joined the work of the congress . We are grateful to St. Petersburg State University for its active participation in organizing the congress,” said Vladimir Tolstoy during a press conference.
The XV Congress is being held in Russia for the first time in 20 years, and St. Petersburg is becoming its capital for the second time in the history of the event. In 2003, it was held in St. Petersburg on the initiative of the outstanding Russian scholar, rector and president of St. Petersburg State University Lyudmila Alekseevna Verbitskaya, who is the author of more than 300 scientific and educational works in the field of Russian and general linguistics, phonetics, phonology and methods of teaching the Russian language , as well as the significant project “Let’s speak correctly!” As part of the “zero” day of the congress, a sculptural portrait of Lyudmila Alekseevna Verbitskaya was unveiled at St. Petersburg State University, which will greet philologists and linguists every day.
Today, St. Petersburg University pays great attention to the study of the Russian language and its promotion abroad. The University has 112 Russian language centers, represented in 50 countries. In 2023, St Petersburg University opened Russian language centers in Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Kenya, Algeria and Paraguay.
“SPbU has traditionally become the most popular university in Russia among foreign applicants. Citizens from 105 countries come to study at the University; the competition among foreign students is 21 people per place. Young people come to St. Petersburg University to learn Russian and study in Russian. St Petersburg University also teaches more than 100 world languages, including rare ones spoken in two or three countries. We teach our students not just foreign languages, but culture, history, economics, and law in these languages, because language does not exist separately from other areas of human life. I believe that today the Russian language is so popular and strong, partly because our country is open to all languages of the world. And it will always be like this,” said Nikolai Kropachev.
As the participants of the press conference noted, the rules for using the Russian language as the state language of the Russian Federation require special attention today. Rector of St. Petersburg State University, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolai Kropachev noted that the changes made on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Law on the State Language established new requirements for consolidating the norms of the Russian language, which must be observed in areas of compulsory use of the state language. Such norms must now be enshrined in normative dictionaries, reference books and grammars, the list of which will be approved by the Government. The normative dictionary must also define those foreign words that have no analogues in the Russian language and therefore can be used in the areas of use of the state language.
Associate Professor at the National University of Bogota, President of the Leo Tolstoy Institute Ruben Dario Flores Arcila spoke about the motivation for foreign students to learn Russian. In Colombia, Russian has been taught since 1944, when the Institute of Friendship with the USSR was founded. According to him, the first foreign articles devoted to the study of the work of the Russian writer Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy were written in Colombia, Cuba.
“I am confident that Russian literature and the Russian language are special cultural codes that help foreigners understand the identity of Russia and better recognize the culture of this unique country,” said Ruben Dario Flores Arcila.
As part of the events of the XV MAPRYAL Congress, experts will pay attention to the methods of teaching Russian as a foreign language, various aspects of translating the works of Russian writers and poets into different languages of the world, discuss issues of reflecting cultural changes in language, and much more.
According to the director of the MAPRYAL secretariat, Alexander Korotyshev, the list of participants and topics of reports indicate that in order to competently teach and study the Russian language, you need to know a lot about both the culture and history of the country. “Modern methods of teaching the Russian language strive for accuracy in conveying linguistic facts and are literally “tuned” to the cultural and linguistic characteristics of different national audiences. The number of congress delegates suggests that interest in the Russian language in almost all parts of the world continues to grow,” added Alexander Korotyshev.
It should be noted that from September 1, 2023, on the basis of St. Petersburg University, with the support of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, the online school of St. Petersburg State University began its work. A unique educational project allows schoolchildren from different countries to undergo training in Russian according to an approved educational program for grades 5–11 and receive a standard certificate. As the rector of St. Petersburg State University Nikolay Kropachev noted, the project already in the first year of its existence showed that studying in Russian is important in different parts of the world: the University received applications from schoolchildren from 44 countries.
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The XV Congress of MAPRYAL was organized by the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature together with St. Petersburg State University with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation and the Russkiy Mir Foundation.
The first MAPRYAL congress was held in 1969 in the USSR, and since then it has traditionally been held once every five years in different cities around the world. Since 1969, MAPRYAL congresses have been hosted by Moscow, Varna, Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Regensburg, Bratislava, St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Granada, Astana.
Common wealth of independent states
The geopolitical environment of Eurasia underwent a profound change with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. A new regional structure known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) arose to deal with the difficulties and uncertainties that came along with this momentous event as the largest communist state in the world began to fall apart. The former Soviet governments that make up the CIS sought to maintain regional stability in the post-Soviet era while fostering political, economic, and cultural cooperation among its member states.
This research explores the intricate topography of the Commonwealth of Independent States and offers a thorough examination of its establishment, structure, and governance. We can understand the motivations behind the formation of this regional organization better by looking at the historical context of the demise of the Soviet Union and the CIS’s ensuing establishment.
This research’s main goal is to explain the political and economic aspects of cooperation within the CIS. We focus on the decision-making processes that have an impact on how the CIS functions as we examine the organizational structure of the CIS as well as the obligations of its member nations. We can gain a better understanding of the role the CIS plays in promoting regional stability by looking at political cooperation initiatives including those that address shared security concerns and participate in political and legal coordination.
The economic cooperation of the CIS nations is also examined, with an emphasis on attempts for trade and economic union. We evaluate the same economic issues these countries confront and look into the coordinated actions done to address them. We intend to determine how well the CIS is fostering stability and economic progress in the region by studying its economic component.
We take into account the CIS’s accomplishments and future advantages while also acknowledging its flaws and detractors. Both the efficacy of institutional processes and the internal problems brought on by disputes and conflicts among the member states are explored. We also look at how the outside world perceives the CIS, focusing on how Russia is seen as the organization’s dominant force and how the CIS is perceived as important and having an impact on global concerns.
Then, we evaluate the CIS’s possibilities while taking into consideration the modifying dynamics among its member states and the transforming global scenario. We look at possible areas for growth and transformation while examining the CIS’s role in solving fresh concerns and promoting deeper regional integration.
This research study aims to increase understanding of the Commonwealth of Independent States and its importance in the post-Soviet era by closely evaluating the group’s conception, structure, functioning, and prospects for the future.
The Soviet Union’s fall in December 1991 is where the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) got its start. Moscow’s centralized control over the vast lands and several republics that made up the union came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union. A number of causes, such as economic difficulties, political changes, and the growing yearning for independence among the Soviet republics, led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Following the Russian Federation’s declaration of independence, other former Soviet republics started down a similar road in an effort to assert their sovereignty and create independent states. In the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a woodland reserve on the border between Belarus and Poland, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus met when the Soviet Union fell.
They approved the Belavezha Accords on December 8, 1991, thus dissolving the Soviet Union and founding the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Creating a framework for coordination and collaboration among the newly independent countries was the CIS’s main goal. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was founded in 1991 with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as its founding members. More former Soviet Union countries were added as the CIS grew over time to comprise the 12 member states it does now.
In its early years, the CIS faced numerous challenges. The difficulties that the member states faced included economic hardship, political upheaval, and territorial disputes from the Soviet era. The CIS provided a forum for dialogue and collaboration to address these problems and maintain regional stability.
The CIS had problems accomplishing its objectives while being technically created. Some member states prioritized their own national interests over group efforts while others offered varying degrees of support to the CIS. The Soviet Union, which had an intricate web of connections covering politics, economy, and security, was no longer as intertwined as the CIS.
The CIS has changed in terms of operations and organizational structure over time. While some programmes have improved member state cooperation, others have had very little success or have mostly been token efforts. The organization, despite various levels of efficacy and influence, provides a space for communication and collaboration. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, an effort was made to encourage regional cooperation among the newly independent republics by creating the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, independent nations established the regional organization known as the Commonwealth of Independent Nations (CIS). The CIS promotes intergovernmental cooperation and aims to deepen the links that bind its member nations politically, economically, and culturally. The CIS’s organizational structure is made up of a number of important parts, including:
Council of Heads of State: The Council of Heads of State is the CIS’s highest legislative body. It meets at least once a year to talk about and decide on crucial topics affecting the CIS. The participating nations’ heads of state or government make up this group.
The Council of Prime Ministers, also known as the Council of Heads of Government, coordinates and implements the decisions taken by the Council of Heads of State. It meets frequently to discuss and organize many aspects of cooperation and is made up of the heads of state or prime ministers of the member states.
Council of Foreign Ministers: The foreign ministers of the member nations make up the Council of Foreign Ministers. It acts as a forum for coordination and diplomatic dialogue on issues related to politics, security, and foreign affairs. The majority of the CIS’s foreign policy priorities are established by the Council of Foreign Ministers.
Economic Council: The member states’ economic cooperation is the main emphasis of the Economic Council. It aspires to improve economic integration, trade, and investment inside the CIS. The implementation of joint economic projects, the creation of common economic policies, and the encouragement of intra-CIS commerce are all coordinated by the Economic Council.
Sectoral Cooperation Bodies: The CIS has a number of specialized organizations that focus on particular sectors of cooperation. These organizations represent a wide range of professions, such as those in the legal, judicial, cultural, educational, and medical fields. They promote collaboration, knowledge sharing, and team projects in their specialized domains.
A structure of intergovernmental cooperation and consensus-based decision-making underlies the operation of the CIS. The following elements are essential to how the CIS functions:
- In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), decisions are frequently reached by consensus. Negotiations and discussions among the member nations frequently result in important decisions. All key decisions and initiatives shall be developed and approved by the Council of Heads of State and Government and the Council of Heads of State.
- Cooperation Agreements and Protocols: The CIS is governed by a number of agreements and protocols that set the standards for member state cooperation. These accords cover a wide range of topics, including cultural exchange, economic integration, and security collaboration.
- Working Groups and Committees: The CIS creates a range of working groups and committees to help with the execution of decisions and objectives. These organizations are in charge of planning events, keeping an eye on initiatives as they take shape, and resolving particular problems within their individual spheres of expertise.
- Joint Programmes and Projects: The CIS supports collaborative initiatives that encourage member states to work together and integrate. These programmes cover topics like infrastructure construction, international interchange, scientific research, and humanitarian aid. Bilateral and multilateral agreements among member states are used to implement joint programmes and projects.
- Interaction with International Organizations: The CIS is in touch with other international bodies as well as regional groups. In order to address shared difficulties and advance shared objectives, it cooperates and engages in discourse with organizations like the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
The CIS aims to improve cooperation and collaboration among its member states in different political, economic, and cultural domains by operating within its organizational structure and functional framework. The operation of the CIS has, however, altered over time as a result of changing member state dynamics and a more general geopolitical environment.
Political and economic cooperation
A crucial component of the CIS’s operation is the political collaboration between its member states. It seeks to solve shared security issues, advance regional stability, and foster political and legal discussion. The following are some of the important CIS political cooperation areas:
- Common Security Issues: The CIS focuses on resolving common security issues that member governments encounter. Combating terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, and illegal immigration are included in this. To improve regional security, the member states work together through collaborative initiatives like intelligence sharing, law enforcement coordination, and joint military exercises.
- Regional Stability Initiatives: The CIS contributes to efforts to maintain peace and resolve disputes in the region. In order to resolve territorial disputes and disagreements between member states, it develops procedures for discussion and negotiation. The group promotes peaceful dispute resolution procedures, aids in negotiations, and offers a forum for communication between disputing parties.
- Cooperation on Political and Legal Issues: The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) promotes cooperation on political and legal issues with the goal of harmonizing legal systems among member states. There are initiatives to harmonize legal frameworks, improve judicial collaboration, and advance the rule of law. Through discussion, the sharing of experience, and cooperative projects, the organization also addresses topics including human rights, democratic government, and electoral procedures.
Another important part of the CIS’s operation is economic cooperation, which aims to improve trade, investment, and economic integration among member states. Among the crucial components of economic cooperation within the CIS are the following:
- Initiatives for Trade and Economic Integration: The CIS promotes intra-CIS trade and economic integration through a number of programmes. The establishment of a free trade zone, standardization of customs practices, the removal of trade restrictions, and the mutual recognition of standards and certifications are all included in this. Processes for trade are streamlined, cross-border travel is made easier, and investment flows are encouraged within the CIS.
- Economic Reforms, Market Transitions, and Infrastructure Development are a few of the common problems that the CIS member nations must deal with. To meet these problems, the CIS promotes the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and technical support. Key economic sectors are developed, innovation is encouraged, and economic growth and stability are fostered through joint efforts and projects.
- Joint Energy and Transportation Projects: The CIS places a high priority on energy and transportation cooperation. In order to develop and manage energy resources, such as oil, gas, and power, the member states work together. To improve regional connection and guarantee dependable energy supplies, projects including pipelines, power grids, and transportation networks are launched.
- Financial Coordination: The CIS encourages member state coordination in the financial sphere, notably in the areas of capital markets, banking, and insurance. The region’s financial systems are being strengthened, monetary cooperation is being improved, and financial transactions are being made easier. Initiatives to stop corruption, money laundering, and illegal financial activity are also supported by the CIS.
It’s significant to note that over time and across member nations, the extent of political and economic cooperation within the CIS has changed. While some programmes have produced observable effects, others have run into difficulties because of conflicting national interests, economic inequalities, and geopolitical factors. As member states adjust to shifting conditions and work to further integrate the region, the efficacy of political and economic cooperation continues to change.
Challenges and Criticisms
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has encountered the following difficulties and criticisms:
- The member states of the CIS have a variety of political, economic, and security interests. This could make it more challenging to conduct collaborative activities and achieve genuine cooperation. It could also make it harder to coordinate on important topics and develop consensus.
- Institutional Weaknesses: The CIS’s institutional framework’s efficacy has been called into question. Some detractors contend that the organization’s capacity to respond quickly to new challenges is constrained by the bureaucratic and delayed decision-making processes. Concerns concerning the implementation of cooperative measures are also raised by the absence of enforcement procedures for agreements and protocols.
- Conflicts and Disputes: Left over from the Soviet era, the CIS has had to deal with persistent conflicts and disputes among its member states. Territorial conflicts, separatist movements, and racial tensions are a few of these. Such disputes can erode confidence and make it harder for employees to work together.
- Economic Disparities: The CIS faces difficulties integrating and cooperating economically due to the widening gap in wealth between its member states. Achieving equitable and sustainable economic cooperation may be hampered by differences in resource endowments, diverse economic systems, and varying levels of development.
- Perception of Dominance: There has been criticism and worry over Russia’s perceived dominance inside the CIS. Some contend that the organization’s power dynamics are unbalanced as a result of Russia’s sway and ability to make decisions, which eclipse the interests of smaller member nations.
The case studies below demonstrate the difficulties and dynamics that the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) faces:
Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh: Within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Armenia-Azerbaijan war in Nagorno-Karabakh has continued for some time. Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians, is the focus of a disagreement that has led to a protracted conflict and a precarious security situation. The CIS has attempted to aid in a peaceful resolution of the conflict through its processes and mediation efforts. Despite this, the crisis has brought to light issues like how difficult it is to come to a sustainable peace deal, how different national interests affect discussions, and how ineffective the CIS is at settling conflicts.
Conflict in Transnistria: The conflict in Transnistria, a province of Moldova that seceded, is still active. In 1990, Transnistria proclaimed its independence, sparking a bloody struggle between Moldova and the separatist territory. The Joint Control Commission, a CIS peacekeeping force, has been actively involved in maintaining tranquilly in Transnistria. The issue is a great example of how challenging it is to negotiate with separatist parties and how challenging it is to forge durable agreements inside the CIS.
Relations between Russia and Ukraine have had a significant impact on the dynamics of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 have strained relations between the two nations..
Future prospects for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are uncertain and rely on a variety of factors. Within the organization, increased efforts by member nations to collaborate on security, political, and economic fronts may be seen. Increased collaboration in sectors like energy, transportation, culture, and education might lead to greater wealth and advancement for everybody. Along with forging ties with other regional organizations, the CIS may also need to adapt to altering geopolitical circumstances. However, problems such as divergent national interests, institutional shortcomings, and on-going conflicts between member states may continue to have an impact on how the CIS develops in the future.
The organization will need to deal with these concerns, encourage consensus-building, and effectively react to the changing requirements and aspirations of its member states if it is to preserve its relevance and effectiveness in the years to come.
The CIS’s future will ultimately depend on how committed its members are to overcoming obstacles, fostering cooperation, and advancing shared objectives. The CIS has the chance to promote regional stability, economic growth, and interstate peace among its numerous member nations as the geopolitical landscape changes.
Developing Far Eastern Region Russia’s Priority
The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) is held annually in cooperation with the Far East regional administration, in the city of Vladivostok. Three years of COVOD-19, followed by Russia’s ‘special military operation’ and the current geopolitical situation have adversely affected this corporate business event, as Russia looks towards East and made its focus to develop the Far East.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the opening session that the government would not allow the pace of development to slacken in the Russian Far East as it is a strategic region for the country. “We will definitely not be scaling down the pace of development in the region, because the development of the Far East is an absolute priority for Russia, a direct priority for Russia as a whole for the entire 21st century, because it is a colossal region with a small population but huge potential. Of course, this is a strategic interest for the country,” the president said at the Eastern Economic Forum, which Vladivostok is hosting on September 10-13.
Putin further pointed out that it is necessary “not only to hold on to this region, but also to develop it and put its resources to work for the benefit of the state.” According to the president, “it is necessary to talk not only about the development of mineral resources in the Far East, it is necessary to build even more enterprises for the processing of industrial raw materials, so as to increase the added value.”
Putin later held discussion with Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Zhang Guoqing. Both noted that Russia-China relations in this area – the area of economic cooperation – have reached a very high level. This is a derivative of what has been achieved in the political sphere, but the results are excellent, as every year trade grows by almost one third. This year, over the first seven months, trade is up about the same amount, 24 percent – to as much as 120 billion. The goal President Xi Jinping and Putin have set – to reach the US$200 billion mark in trade – can be achieved by the end of 2023.
In addition to above, Putin held discussion with Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Pany Yathotou, also on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum. Russia and Laos have made significant contributions to the development of bilateral parliamentary relations.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Yury Trutnev, earlier reiterated that the forum has been the world’s leading platform for discussing economic and political issues. The largest delegations are from such countries as China, Myanmar, India, Mongolia and Laos. He also expressed confident that a large number of new investment agreements with foreign participation would become the outcome of the forum. The Far East region expects new projects, technologies and jobs. And also to strengthen the Far East’s position in the system of economic relations in Asia Pacific.
For the past few years, Western and European businesses have largely been missing in this forum. And those from the Asian and Pacific are getting fewer and fewer as opportunities seem monotonous and speeches have the same message relating to world geopolitics. Business people are really for business opportunities, not geopolitics. Business people are simply looking for the unique products, services and profits.
Nevertheless, at the start of the forum the photo exhibition «Developing the Far East!», organized by the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic with the support of the Office of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern Federal District and the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, opened in the departure area of the domestic terminal.
The exposition presents a chronology of images: a decade during which unique conditions for business development were created in the Far East, more than 2.8 thousand investment projects were launched, about 700 of which have already been put into operation.
According to analysts interviewed by Russian media Izvestia, the forum’s agenda will be comprehensive, covering both domestic Russian and external economic issues. “This year, due to the greater focus on the East that has emerged in the country’s economy, the agenda for discussions are extensive, on both internal domestic and external issues,” according to Vladimir Klimanov, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Regional Policy at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) Institute of Applied Economic Research.
Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the EEF Organizing Committee, says participants have the chance to exchange experiences, discuss networking practices at EEF events including a plenary session, panel sessions, round tables, and business dialogues. The main theme of this year’s forum is “The Path to Partnership, Peace and Prosperity” fixed by Roscongress Foundation. The Eastern Economic Forum will be held on 10–13 September 2023 in Vladivostok on the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University.
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