Birth of Big Eurasia

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Birth of Big Eurasia 13.02.2017 10:58


It would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of the changes, meaning the ascent of Grand Eurasia. The most serious contender for the role of an international organization, capable to organize the formation of the Grand Eurasia is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Almost a quarter century is shared two symbolic coincidences, each of which is indicative of the tectonic shifts in world politics. December 8, 1991 in the Belovezskaja pushja the agreement was signed, which ceased the Soviet Union. The next day the Maastricht leaders of twelve Western European countries agreed on the "Treaty on European Union". June 23, 2016 the majority of the United Kingdom of voters was in favor of the UK out of the EU. And at the same time in Tashkent memorandums of accession of India and Pakistan to the Convention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were signed, which as a result of this expansion will unite the country, where nearly half of humanity is living.


Great Eurasia: a long-term strategy and self-organization


Speaking of the Great Eurasia, I mean the fundamental process of geopolitical and geo-economic changes, which have become the scene of the Eurasian continent and the adjacent area of the African continent (though, perhaps, and Africa as a whole). In this article the Great Eurasia is not only considered as a synonym of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, which is involved into the orbit or other states may be involved in. Great Eurasia cannot be reduced to the notion of heartland, and the space factor cannot be the sole determinant of ongoing transformations. No doubt, the space has a value. But to understand the essence of what is happening can only be based on historical time, multi-variant world development paths, alternatives, even in relation to those processes, which appeared yesterday uncontested. Today we are witnessing a radical intensification of some trends that emerged back in 1990 – 2000’s, and at the same time the erosion of the characteristics of globalization, which were associated with the triumph of the post-bipolar world order.

One of the most important preconditions for the formation of the Great Eurasia is the intensification of peripheral nations which caught the trends of globalization and quickly began to catch up with the developed powers. This application for the acquisition of its own subjectivity by non-Western world countries was formed in a short period of modern history, when it seemed that globalization brings gains to all - from the countries - producers of raw materials to the States that have declared a breakthrough in the post-industrial era. As is known, this Belle Époque was cut short in 2008.

The crisis of 2008 has shown that globalization, understood as the universal triumph of liberal political-economic model, stalled. Suddenly it was discovered that to maintain the dominance of the West, many processes need to be urgently deplored reversed. In fact, the country that is able most successfully to cope with the burdens of the crisis is China, which has not only established itself as the second economy in the world, but also announced global ambitions. And it did that when squeezed out almost all of his previous export-oriented growth strategy. The need for a change in policy coincided with the coming to power of a new generation of leaders, headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. Their names are now associated with a package of measures related to the reorientation of the economy to the development of domestic demand, while pursuing structural reforms.

Strategic Initiative "One belt one way" by Xi Jinping is unprecedented in scale and space-time coverage. For the first voyage of Vasco da Gama era there was an attempt to build a system of economic relations in the direction from east to west. Often Beijing's desire to provide the projection of their own economic power, to create a dense network of communications, economic and trade relations between the major markets of Eurasia is interpreted as a manifestation of self-interest: they say Beijing wants to turn the neighboring and distant countries in their own development resources. Of course, China will not do anything in harm, but the Chinese culture of political management, with its focus on long-term strategic planning assumes greater options: to create favorable external conditions for the prosperity of China. The premise of this prosperity is the stability and economic well-being of those countries that are willing to service the Chinese interests

"One belt, one way", of course, creates a new competition between countries aiming at Chinese investments and loans for the fact that the transport infrastructure, providing unity of the Great Eurasia, was held through their territories. But even more importantly, the process launched by Beijing acquires its own internal logic, followed by the desire to connect to the Chinese project start to intensify the efforts of other countries aimed at building their own supply chains. A typical example of the later time is a sharp acceleration of works on creation of the "North-South" transport corridor linking Russia via Azerbaijan and Iran, and in the future - with India. Around this project begins to form a trilateral strategic partnership between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan. In connection with the plans of implementation of transport projects Eurasian values competition of corporate players is exacerbated. In the case with the construction of high-speed railway from Moscow to Kazan (site of the future transcontinental highway connecting the capital of China and Russia). As an alternative to Chinese investors (Consortium "Silk Road") offer (despite the anti-Russian sanctions), investors from Germany (consortium "German Initiative"). The desire not to give the initiative completely in the hands of China is partly due to the new approach and the Japanese leadership to resolve the territorial dispute with Moscow providing for the expansion of cooperation in energy and infrastructure development of the Russian Far East.

Thus, the formation of the Great Eurasia begins to look like a self-organization process. Background was matured for a long time, but now the necessary conditions were formed. However, several factors have a negative or a destabilizing effect on the acquisition of Great Eurasia subjectivity as a major subsystem of a transformed world order.

These factors include the US policy of containment by the giant outer perimeter of Russia and China. Deliberately or not, but, pulling NATO to Russia's borders in the West and strengthening the existing defense alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, Washington contributes to the fact that the vision of the strategic objectives of US policy in Moscow and Beijing approaches, resulting in their desire for greater military and political coordination. At the same time, many countries, through which the line of confrontation, find themselves in a difficult situation because of their national goals can respond more actively involved in the processes of formation of the Great Eurasia.

An example is South Korea, agreed to accept on its territory of the US missile complex THAAD. According to official statements from Washington and Seoul, the missile complex is located in order to counter the nuclear threat from North Korea. However, Seoul will not have control over the missile defense infrastructure and all the solutions are transferred to the American command. And for the US deployment of missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula means one can reduce the effectiveness of China's nuclear missile potential, and - though to a much lesser extent - the appropriate Russian capabilities. Not surprisingly, Moscow and Beijing initial reaction was very painful. South Korea is in fact involved in the strategy of containment of China and Russia, while its long-term national aspirations are likely more consistent with the maximum use of the opportunities of becoming Grand Eurasia. Seoul faces a difficult search for the middle line between maintaining the alliance with the United States in the field of security and prospects of transcontinental cooperation and division of labor.

If Washington continues on course for confrontation with Beijing and Moscow, one should expect new attempts of destabilization in especially vulnerable points of social and ethnic tensions in the countries that are relevant to Russia or China. The biggest rate again becomes world trade, the US attempt to ensure its own dominance after the failure in 2008, the old model of globalization. In place of the exchange rate on the trade liberalization on a global scale the race came a new generation of commercial and economic groups, the creation of which is dictated not only by considerations of market rationality, but also geostrategic interests.

Perhaps the only economic reasons are due to the absence in the Trans-Pacific Partnership between China and Russia. Moreover, if Washington plans to establish economic macroblocks - Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - will be implemented in full, Orwell’s Oceania will become a reality, at least in terms of the control of giant territories from a single center. Moreover, NATO and military and political alliances activates the APR under the auspices of various formats US can be viewed as a sort of power "scrapie" of the American economic dominance zone. However, the sensational election victory of Donald Trump, who campaigned under the slogan of denial of trade unions as a class, makes the situation even more confusing.

But one should not look at this trend simply. The perception of the future system of international relations as a binary opposition Heartland and Rimland, the space of democracy and autocracy space is no more than an artificial frame, used for certain tasks, but hardly adhesion property the complexity and diversity of relations actors of the changing world order. This contributes to the aggravation of the reduced picture centripetal tendencies, strengthening the forces that benefit from the conduct of new dividing lines and hyperbole contradictions. The danger is not only a distortion of the actual state of affairs, but also in the fact that, in accordance with the theorem of Thomas, the perception of a picture of the world as a real will have real consequences.

The confrontation between the United States, on the one hand, and China and Russia - on the other hand, is already there, but the value factors of hard power and economic power will gradually decrease, and the two major powers of Eurasia will try to get away from the formation of a joint military-political bloc. At the same time all the more acute will become competition in the interpretation of reality, the production of meaning and translation values And if in these areas the dominance of the West until recently seemed absolute, it is now found that in the discussions on the meaning and value of the role of teacher and student, a leader and laggard not attributed once and for all in some nations and models of social and political order.


West peninsula of Eurasia


Arguments about the totality of the changes, contributing to the formation of Great Eurasia, inevitably raises the issue of what kind of place in this new reality will belong to Europe. After all, if most of Eurasia seen in the context of geo-strategy of the Chinese leaders, it is the emergence of a plurality of binder yarns with Europe and is designed to ultimately project "One belt, one way".

Brexit makes it obvious to everyone (even the enthusiasts of European integration) of the fact that the EU is not Europe. Perhaps for a while London will gain some room to maneuver large, there will be a kind of British multi-vector, in which there is a place for the Great Eurasia. The United Kingdom leaving the united Europe will try to use every opportunity to secure a better position in the global economy.

With the release of the UK the territorial expansion of the European Union is quickly enough designated. Most likely the view that Turkey's accession will irreversibly destabilize the EU is prevailing. Apparently, the general feeling of congestion will put obstacles to EU enlargement and to the territory of the former Soviet Union. Finally, there is no guarantee that the UK example will not be contagious.

After Brexit German superiority in the EU will be undeniable. But this does not mean that Berlin will be able to impose on the rest of the 26 countries own script of deepening integration. More likely is the regrouping and rethinking of the overall integration process as the return to Europe of national states. Accordingly, the change and the level of foreign policy coordination, a new space differentiated interoperability of various countries with external players. It can be said that the EU array surface will be more porous, it will be much more susceptible to the establishment of multiple and different levels of interaction with state and non-state actors of the Great Eurasia. For example, it is possible to imagine the European Union, combined with the United States, Canada and the UK general free trade regime (TTIP), if it is still held, and military and political commitments (NATO), but at the micro- and mezo-levels more tightly covered by a network interaction of the Great Eurasia.


The downside of Eurasia


The most diverse factors begin to act synergistically, enhancing the interdependence of transcontinental scale, and in many ways it can be seen as negative, coupled with the high level of risk and political turbulence.

Today, the processes are once again intensified that have forced thousands of years ago the inhabitants of European centers of civilization to realize that their prosperous cities and provinces - a giant suburb of oicumene where one can constantly wait for the invasion of aliens. In modern Europe, the problem of the migratory flows and the coexistence of indigenous migrants from Asia and Africa are connected with the legacy of the colonial era, as well as held for decades the liberal migration policy. The true drama of the situation became clear when it was discovered that there is no full integration of immigrants from countries where the majority is Muslim, and other culture infiltrates occur instead of a coherent social fabric.

Migrant communities in Europe do not lose their religious and cultural identity, and in some cases, their relationship with the country on the basis of the exit is more profound than the country's society, asylum or work. The revolution of information and communication media has only intensified the resistance of many migrant communities attempts to integrate them, not just providing everyday communication are physically distant from each other friends and relatives, but also keeping the absorption of migrants in their close socio-cultural realities. When the "Maghreb in Provence" or "Karachi on the Thames" transformed into a dense network of regions of No-go for the representatives of the titular nation (in France alone these areas for nearly 800), multiculturalism becomes altogether impossible due to the lack of access in one of the cultural traditions the relevant territory.

The failure of multiculturalism and ethno-demographic dynamics in the EU is irreversibly bind Europe to the Muslim part of the Great Eurasia. But the political elites of many Western countries have succeeded in the release of the destabilizing potential accumulated in the Middle East countries. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and ending with the promotion of the "Arab Spring", all barriers to strengthen radical Islam successively eliminated, and adjacent to the vast region Europe plunged into The terrorist attacks in European cities and the largest since the Second World War migration crisis has shown that the turbulence in the Arab world is beginning to spread and prosperous Europe, changing ideas about internal security and confusing the previous electoral classifications. This was followed by the events that precipitated the change in the geopolitical reality in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Eastern Europe.

In 2015-2016 two of the three powers, geographically located in Asia and in Europe, have taken actions that have led to the confusion of the West of the country. For all their differences, both goal-setting powers - Russia and Turkey - have sought to demonstrate that hold in their hands the keys to the resolution of the Syrian crisis, or at least capable of handling instability caused by the actual destruction of Syria and Iraq statehood. In fact, Russia and Turkey participated in the Syrian conflict helped plunge the EU countries in the Eurasian context.

Intervene in the Syrian war on the side of Bashar al-Assad, Russia has shown that is not only able to act effectively on multiple theaters of military-political confrontation, but also to link one node conflicts that in European capitals regarded as completely isolated. Syrian gambit of the Kremlin has not brought to a primitive bargaining "Levant for Donbass" (such a problem was never actual), but contributed to the erosion of the anti-Russian orthodoxy and understanding the true price of the sanctions policy. Now the West is forced to consider Russia as a key partner in coping with the risks posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the destabilization of the Middle East states

The objective basis of the involvement of Turkey in the Syrian conflict is security problems, the Kurdish separatism and threats to vital national interests. However, these factors were repeatedly strengthened by neo-Osman ambitions of President Erdogan. In addition, the situation is further complicated by the internal political opposition, culminating in a military coup attempt in July 2016. Turkish leader’s maneuvers in the Syrian conflict were particularly risky. He willingly played the rate hike, but the game only brought temporary success, and then the situation of Ankara was aggravated.

At the critical moment of the migration crisis, Erdogan, in fact, tried to dictate to Brussels and Berlin the conditions, take the opportunity to adjust the intensity and scale of refugee flows. Discouraged by European bureaucrats and EU leaders made a deal with Ankara, the conclusion of which Amnesty International called "a black day for the UN Refugee Convention, Europe and humanity." Ankara has clearly "pinched", and the apparent rapprochement with Brussels quickly turned increasing mutual irritation and estrangement.

Revival after the incident with the downed aircraft the partnership between Russia and Turkey can significantly affect the process of becoming a Grand Eurasia and correct direction is already reaching geopolitical transformations. However, one should be aware of restrictive factors. These include the continuing differences on Syria, accelerated the formation of the regime of personal power of President Erdogan and total internal tensions connected with ends of the political landscape in Turkey after a failed coup.


SCO as an incubator


The most serious contender for the role of an international organization that can streamline the formation of Great Eurasia is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Entry into SCO by India and Pakistan will obviously lead to qualitative changes in mission and regional agenda of the organization. The rivalry between the two countries can contribute to blockage of a number of initiatives that lead to an overall reduction in the effectiveness of decisions taken on a consensual basis. There is a risk that the current institutional format cannot cope with the rapid expansion of congestion, and the formation of a new structure for a large part of the problem and promising starts to slip.

The solution seems to strive for the implementation of less ambitious and more realistic scenarios for the future of the SCO. On the one hand, a high degree of plasticity is required, allowing increasing the role of the SCO as a dialogue platform and regular interaction increasing number of countries. But one must avoid the temptation of premature development claiming the universality of documents, such as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. On the other hand, the SCO should not become just a platform for rhetorical exercises on transcontinental cooperation.

Saving the achievements of the first 15 years of its existence, the SCO could act as an incubator of the set of agreements and initiatives in the areas of security, trade, addressing environmental problems, cultural and scientific-technical cooperation. The way forward should be gradual: on the development of the process will begin to form a network of formal relationships, partnerships, and institutions at the regional, inter-regional and trans-regional levels, in the long run - across the Great Eurasia. Most likely, only after the passage of these milestones would be appropriate to begin a substantive discussion on the formation of "The Great Eurasian Community".


Small Eurasia in the Great Eurasia


The development of the Eurasian Economic Union is once the most promising integration project in the post-Soviet space which does not go on rising. In fact there is a lot of reasons. One of them is the dominance of Russian natural consequence of which is the high degree of dependence of all countries - members of the EAEU on the state of the Russian economy. The combination of the current crisis in the Russian model of economic development to Western sanctions and a decrease in energy prices led to the fact that both partners EAEU faced with considerable economic costs Attempts to Belarus or Kazakhstan to minimize these losses (and when it seemed possible - and then benefit from the restrictions imposed on the US Russia and the European Union, and retaliatory sanctions by Russia) are clear, rational.

The idea of pairing of the Eurasian economic integration with the Chinese initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt had somewhat protective character. It is allowed to remove stress, which inevitably would arise in the event of no regulated competition between further efforts in the development of Beijing and EAEU activities in the former Soviet space. Recognizing the role of China and declaring the possibility of a coordinated participation in its projects, Russia and several other members of the EAEU strengthened the position of the association.

In the further evolution of the EAEU increasing influence is beginning to have a multi-vector policy in countries such as Kazakhstan and Belarus. In the case of Kazakhstan greatly enhanced the uncertainty associated with the inevitable change of leadership and the apparent increasing challenge of maintaining stability in the transition of power. After the events in Aktobe Kazakhstan has largely lost the image of a bulwark of stability and order in the Central Asian region. And no matter whether these events are a manifestation of the internecine struggle of elites or the actions of Islamist groups, it is necessary to understand that the unfolding processes in Kazakhstan are long-term problem, to participate in the decision which will not be able to leave Moscow.

Kazakhstan's membership in the EAEU and in particular the economic crisis (not all of them are directly related to the Eurasian integration) become the subject of criticism from both the ruling circles, and disgruntled Nazarbayev government. The president himself mainly uses ineffective criticism of institutions and mechanisms of the Eurasian integration not to undermine them, and to strengthen the position of Kazakhstan in the EAEU and beyond. Proposed by the President of Kazakhstan at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum a proposal for conjugation European and Eurasian unions, at first glance, brings to fruition the idea of the Great Eurasia. However, in an embodiment of the institutionalization of the dialogue between the EU and the EAEC is Astana can most benefit from the process itself, not even too much counting on the actual pairing of two integration projects. But the scenario of "integration of integrations" refers to the sphere of good intentions, trying to premature implementation of which can have dangerous consequences.

For the Kazakh government calls to fit stalled Eurasian integration project under the European standard may be an attempt to overcome the discomfort that is associated with a stay today as a part of the EAEU. One cannot exclude also that in Astana balances between the desire to "improve" the EAEU, for example, to a reduction in the list of exceptions from the free trade regime, and the steps leading to the erosion of the integration project.

At the same time Kazakhstan has made much more impressive results in economic cooperation with China within the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. At the beginning of 2016 Kazakhstan was ahead of Russia in the field of cooperation with China, carrying out more than fifty joint industrial and logistics projects worth over $24 billion. However, some of these efforts will be futile as long as they are not joined by Russia: that is, for example, motor road "Western Europe - Western China" abutting "nowhere" in the Russian-Kazakh border. At the same time Kazakhstan takes part in the laying of the routes that bypass Russia via the Caspian Sea and the South Caucasus countries. Leaders in Astana seek to turn the country into a major transportation and logistics hub, and here the interests of Kazakhstan and Russia coincide far from complete. However, in the case of transport infrastructure development of the most promising direction is the cooperation between China, Russia and Kazakhstan, with the last two positions only is strengthened if they are to carry out a pre-agreed line within the EAEU.

The new perspective mission of the EAEU institution would be to develop a common position of the participating countries on issues related to the multiple integration initiatives and formats of trade and economic cooperation in Eurasia and globally. The economic zone of the Silk Road is a major challenge for EAEU countries, but not the only one. However, if Russia can persuade the EAEU partners to develop a common line on the Chinese strategy of economic development of the Eurasian continent, it will be a fundamental achievement. Stakes are so high, that the revision of the institutional model of the EAEU would be justified.


Some of the conclusions with regard to Russia


The major impetus in accelerating changes in the vast Great Eurasia comes from China. Russia has to react to these transformations, but that it can significantly affect their progress. The problem is that at the same time regional and global conflicts enhance, they become more complex, encompassing not only the area of security, economy, trade, finance, and information flows and virtual space.

The strategic partnership with China is becoming the key issue to Russia. It should not develop into a formal political-military alliance directed against the United States or other countries, but also China and Russia will act in solidarity in the case of dismantling the US-centered world order and the construction of a fairer and more secure system of international relations in Eurasia and the world.

Developing strategic partnerships and constructive dialogue with India, Vietnam, Iran, Israel, Egypt, under certain conditions - with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea, Russia will help to ensure that the Great Eurasia has become more balanced system that has multiple centers of power. Not only to achieve a favorable balance of power for itself, but also to try to maximize the number of countries with which possible solution to common problems on the basis of trust and alignment of interests could be found.

Simultaneously, Russia will have to prepare for integration into the Great Eurasia own institutions of influence on post-Soviet space, providing, together with the allied states a significant increase in efficiency and agility of EAEU and CSTO. It will be difficult. At first, the impact of lack of experience, the weakness of expert maintenance, the inertia of previous relationships will take place. However, the incorporation of the former Soviet Union into the Great Eurasia is an inevitable process, which is better to lead than to resist it.

Russia, of course, remains a country of European culture. But now we are not talking about how to cut through another window to Europe. More recently, the leading EU countries with disregard shrugged off the idea of a Greater Europe "from Lisbon to Vladivostok". Now Moscow will take part in the opening of the shortest path to the European threshold for the Asian giants of the world economy, although only one role of the transit Russia will not be satisfied. Russia will not be satisfied. Russia has the opportunity to form their own, important set of proposals, which includes not only a means of communication and logistics centers, commodities, agricultural products, production of defense industry and space technology, and security. We are talking about the sources of instability and threaten the old Europe and Asian centers of global economic growth.

With regard to the European Union while it is impossible to do more than show the Europeans that in the format of the Grand Eurasia possible to solve some of the problems with which Brussels is unable to cope. No need to strive to achieve universal agreement regulating the entire complex of relations of the EU with the main body of the former Soviet Union (EAEU), and - even more so - to other parts of Great Eurasia. The European Union is at a crossroads, and he needs time to choose the direction of its own transformation.

Russia has the necessary experience and capabilities to cope with the risks arising in the process of becoming Great Eurasia. One of the components of success here is the optimum division of labor in a strategic partnership with China and several other Asian and African countries, in the long term - with the leading European countries. But another component is the launch of strong economic growth, political stability with simultaneous modernization of the public administration system, ensuring the effective functioning of public institutions. The experience of China and other Asian countries will be very useful in the search for a working model of economic development, but ultimately only the inner joint work of government and society can ensure Russia a worthy status in the Great Eurasia and in the world.

Dmitry Efremenko