Collective Security and Unilateral Decisions - Security Prospects for the post-Soviet Space
Unlike anywhere else within the international community, the post-Soviet space (pSs) is unique since the states within it are bound together not only because of common history and culture, but also due to political geography and largely uniform self-perceptions. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – the cultural, political, economic and security successor of the USSR – has important and even a strategic advantage over comparable organizations such as: Le Francophonie, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Iberian Union.
These associations of states are not geographically proximate leading to different international relations and geopolitical orientations. Indeed, the aforementioned owe their existence to naval power in the colonial period and the ability of ‘home’ countries to project political and military power to distant lands. This resulted in a lack of geographic integrity. Therefore, post-colonial organizations are characterized by the remoteness of their constituent parts and a disparity in world-views. For instance, the Commonwealth of Nations includes India, South Africa and Australia. These three states can hardly be said to share a similar, let alone homogeneous, international relations outlook. Such geopolitical diffusion waters down such associations and renders them useful only in advancing certain cultural and political activities.
In contrast, the states in the pSs are geographically continuous, a fact that may expedite the construction and utilisation of a common economic space, customs union, and a free trade area that may facilitate the free movement of capital, labour, goods and services.
While heterogeneous political evolutions occurred among the states in the pSs they do share a common foundation; the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Paradoxically however, the pSs currently appears on the international scene as a unique socio-political structure. Despite its omission from political and geopolitical maps, the post-Soviet political skeleton binds independent states that were once a part of the Soviet system with energy resources and transport corridors, established markets, commercial and economic relationships. Also, the states of the pSs share specific state administrative systems, collective remains the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.
Today the CIS forms the bedrock of an established pSs framework that may be utilised as a starting point for an array of additional integration projects in areas as varied as security, economics, diplomacy, enviro- and energy politics. Cooperation within the CIS structure has for example ripened into the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) – perhaps the two most promising long-term projects in the pSs to date.