Perhaps for the first time since Russian President V.V. Putin proposed the idea of creating a Eurasian Union a little over a year and a half ago, this project has been the subject of widespread public discussion in the U.S. expert community. In late June, several days after the meeting of the Bilderberg Group, an expert panel discussion took place at the Heritage Foundation on this topic. The organizers phrased the title of the discussion in an emphatically slanted manner: «The New Russian Sphere of Influence: Does Russia’s Eurasian Union Threaten U.S. Interests?»… The site «Voice of America» immediately provided Russian-speaking Internet users with a brief summary of the discussion…
The very fact of such a discussion tells us that in the U.S. they are not only attentively following the processes of Eurasian integration; they are also recording the movement's successes along the way (otherwise, what would be the point of a discussion under the aegis of an authoritative and influential foundation?). Essentially, the Heritage Foundation gave the signal to begin an informational attack from overseas against one of the most important areas of Russian foreign policy.
In analyzing the speeches during the discussion, it is impossible not to notice that they reflected the growth of concerns that the formation of an independent center of power in Eurasia is a practical and realistic matter. And it is very much in character that the majority of participants in the discussion at the Heritage Foundation assessed the creation of the future Eurasian Union as a threat to the U.S.
«Hillary Clinton was right when she called it a new Russian Empire. And Russia, in pursuing its interests by maintaining a 'controlled tension' in the region, is clearly not contributing to its stability», stated Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Army War College Stephen J. Blank.
Fred Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute, tried to convince the discussion participants that the Eurasian Union project is not so much about integration as it is about a «political project» and a «hangover of empire». At the same time, Starr, unlike the majority of discussion participants, does not believe the Eurasian Union is a threat to U.S interests in Eurasia, if only because America cannot clearly define its interests and strategies in the region. However, in his opinion, in the long term perspective «this project's [the Eurasian Union project. – P.D.] chances do not look brilliant…»
Temuri Yakobashvilli, former Ambassador to the United States from Georgia and former Georgian Minister of Reintegration also spoke in the discussion. «No one is speaking of the restoration of the Soviet Union, but of an attempt by Russia to create exclusive spheres of influence; that is a rather outdated concept in the modern world, and we in Georgia do not like it», stated Yakobashvilli. From the lips of a representative of a country which, while it is located on the Eurasian continent, is in the exclusive sphere of influence of the U.S., such a statement sounded comical.
Heritage Foundation expert Ariel Cohen frankly stated his concerns that «a new authoritarian Russian sphere of influence» could further limit U.S. and NATO access to sea and land lanes in the region, and «that's not what the U.S. and NATO want». Well, the U.S. and NATO really do want unlimited access to all of Eurasia's strategically important resources (Afghanistan and Iraq are not enough for them), but not everyone likes that, either. In Cohen's opinion, the initiative to form a Eurasian Union is a very serious attempt by «post-communist Russia» to recreate a deeply integrated sphere of influence in true «Soviet style».
As is evident from the entire discussion at the Heritage Foundation, the propagandistic policy of considering the course of the post-Soviet states which have formed a Customs Union and are moving toward the creation in 2015 of a Eurasian Economic Union to be an attempt to revive the USSR, set at one time by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has already become commonplace among American experts and politicians.
At the same time, anyone with any sense can see that you can never step into the same river twice, and neither the restoration of the Soviet Union nor the restoration of the Russian Empire in the world of the 21st century are possible by definition. Empty, persistent conversations about the revival of the «red empire» have an entirely different meaning: behind them lies the fear that the post-Soviet countries will rebuild the bonds of industrial and technological cooperation which connected them for a long time and have not been completely broken to this day and, along with China, turn into a powerful competitor for the West. The devotion to «free competition» has always been just words in the West; they are afraid of truly strong competitors.
The real point of Eurasian integration is to restore a unified economic space and a common living space for nations linked by numerous cultural, historical and economic ties. The Heritage Foundation experts may not know that the first to put the issue of Eurasian integration on the agenda was not Moscow; the first person to do this was the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev, who in 1994 spoke of the need for new post-Soviet integration in the form of a Eurasian Union. And for Kazakhstan, Belarus, the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet states which are now joining in the processes of Eurasian integration, this project is a common project.
And if, in spite of this, discussions of the idea of creating a Eurasian Union are conducted in the U.S. in propagandistic terms which distort the very essence of the economic integration, what is that if not a sign of open informational warfare against those whom America has too long been accustomed to consider pawns on the «Grand Chessboard»?
The point is not the «resovietization» of the post-Soviet world or «Russia's imperial ambitions»; it is the fact that the U.S. is fundamentally opposed to the free economic development of the countries of Eurasia (and not only Eurasia) without their control. That is why the creation of optimal conditions for the successful economic development of the post-Soviet states is seen as a «threat» to American interests.
The extremely broad treatment of U.S. interests is also conspicuous. Everything which is not «under control», everything which could compete with America is treated as a source of overt or potential threat. But it is just such a broad understanding on the part of the United States of its interests which is in reality the main source of threats to the world.
For the participants in the future unification in post-Soviet Eurasia, the obvious question is: «Is the United States a threat to Eurasian integration?» The answer is «Yes!» And those states which have now started out on the path of coordinated movement toward a Eurasian Union must fully consider this reality in their policies, and not least in their informational policy.
The success of the Eurasian project will be a practical limitation on the excessive and dangerous ambitions of the U.S. and will create a configuration of forces in international relations which would reflect the complex reality of a multipolar world rather than ideological myths about the hegemony of a superpower. And finally (why not?), it would be a lesson for American politicians, who will be forced to accept the idea that the attitude of the U.S. toward the post-Soviet countries like that of a sovereign toward his vassals, which arose after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was a brief historical exception and will never be the rule…