"Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself."
President Vladimir Putin,
Annual Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, 25 April 2015
“I do not need to tell you that our relations today are much worse than they were a decade ago. Indeed, they are probably the worst they have been since before the end of the Cold War. Mutual trust has been dissipated on both sides. Confrontation has replaced cooperation.”
Primakov Lecture at the Gorchakov Fund in Moscow, 4 February 2016
In 1991, the world as we knew it at that time radically changed. Through a series of fatal blows in the form of declarations of independence by successive Soviet Republics, in part as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroikapolicy which he rapidly lost control of, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In its wake, fifteen newly independent states emerged with the Russian Federation, a nevertheless huge rump Soviet Union, coming to terms with the realities of the new world order, and the challenges of governance and globalization.
Twenty-five years on, the legacy of this post-Cold War, post-Soviet order is mitigated at best. Though we are living in the era of ‘a World Transformed’ -to use the title of the book by George H. Bush and Brent Scowcroft - or more correctly a world in transformation, the causes of the fall of the Soviet Union still reverberate today.
The twin impact of engagement and interdependence in the form of globalization with the confluence of democracy, human rights, and the attraction of the European welfare state model contributed substantially to its demise. Yet, a quarter century later, democracy or the process of democratization is in retreat in large swaths of the post-Soviet space, with Russia leading the field, possessing governance models that are more authoritarian than democratic. According to Lilia Shevtsova, the authoritarian resurgence in Russia has come with “the return of an anti-Western and revanchist Russia to the global”. A cursory look at the Freedom House ‘Freedom of the World 2016’ index, most countries in the post-Soviet space are not considered to be free or are partly free at best, except for the three Baltic States. According to the World Bank’s annual survey on the ease of doing business and Transparency International’s annual corruption perception index, the post-Soviet states do not fare well either, although the ones with greater interaction with the European Union are on average ranked higher than the rest of their peers.
The post-Soviet space today also represents a major quandary for international politics given its geographic vastness as it is simultaneously European, Asian, and Middle Eastern. The fifteen former Soviet republics are a disparate and diverse group of states, with varied income levels, different ethnic and religious compositions, and contradictory attitudes toward their Soviet past and toward contemporary Russia. Their worldview is in part shaped by the Russian Federation’s perception of the post-Soviet space as a “zone of privileged interests” or its “Near Abroad”, which the West, in particular, as well as other powers such as China are not ready to recognize Moscow’s exclusivity claims over it.
The politics of energy and energy security, too, in part shape western attitudes as do security considerations. The United States’ and China’s different Silk Road visions imply widely different political interests as well as major investment projects in the post-Soviet Central Asia.
This international conference aims to explore the domestic political dynamics; the energy dimension in the post-Soviet geography; the security context in particular with regard to Russia’s relations with the West; and how Russia’s neighbors perceive the emerging post-Soviet space. The objective thus is to assess the developments and changes of the last 25 years and explore what the future holds for this vast geography over the next 25 years.
This conference is open anyone with an interest on the topic. Please confirm your participation by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Post-Soviet Space after 25 years of Independence: Understanding Political and Systemic Dynamics and Risks
Istanbul, 13-14 October 2016
Thursday, 13 October 2016
14:00-14:30 Welcome Remarks
Mustafa Aydın, Rector, Kadir Has University, Istanbul
14.30-16.00 Panel I: The state of affairs in the post-Soviet Space: A Centrifugal development or a Centripetal drive?
Political developments, post-Soviet conflicts, emergence of new tensions and confrontations. Reorganization under new cooperation schemes. The role of Russia: Does the empire strike back?
Fiona Hill, Director, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
Mustafa Aydın, Rector, Kadir Has University, Istanbul
Ayca Ergun, Vice-Chair of Center for Black Sea and Central Asia (KORA), Middle East Technical University, Ankara
Sanford G. Henry, Partner, Global Resources Partnership, London
Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, Chair, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University, Istanbul (Moderator)
16.00-16.30 Coffee Break, Networking
16.30-18.00 Panel II: Energy in the post-Soviet geography: a new instrument of confrontation or collaboration?
Soviet Union’s successors and Turkey: a story of partners in energy and geopolitics. Developments to achieve energy supply and demand security. Pipeline competition. Multiple projects. Diversification of supply, fuels, or redesigning of routes? What are the essential elements for energy security and the implications for geopolitical spheres of influence?
Matthew Bryza, Director, International Centre for Defense Studies, Tallinn, Estonia; former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan
David Merkel, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council, Washington DC
Mehmet Öğütçü, Chairman, Global Resources Partnership, London
Mitat Çelikpala, Dean, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Kadir Has University, Istanbul
Kemal Kirisci, TÜSİAD Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Washington DC (Moderator)
Friday, 14 October 2016
09.30-11.00 Panel III: Security or Insecurity; is a new Cold War brewing?
Russia’s assertiveness in the Black Sea region, in the Caucasus and in the Middle East. NATO’s forward defense system after the Warsaw Summit. Why do the existing schemes such as NATO-Russia Council dysfunction? What is needed for the new Euro Atlantic-European-Eurasian security architecture?
Ambassador Tacan İldem, Assistant Secretary General, Public Diplomacy Division, NATO, Brussels
Ünal Çeviköz, Ambassador (Ret.), Chairman, Ankara Policy Centre, Ankara
Bruce Jones, Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy Program, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
Pavel K. Baev, Research Professor, Peace research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Oslo
Ahmet K. Han, Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University, Istanbul (Moderator)
11.00-11.30 Coffee Break, Networking
11.30-13.00 Panel IV: Regional Perspectives
What do Russia’s neighbors think about the emerging post-Soviet geography? Are their interests taken into consideration? How do they see the evolution of relations between their respective countries and Russia? Does the West offer viable alternatives and security guarantees?
Abzal Saparbekuly, Deputy Secretary General, Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), Istanbul
Eka Tkeshelashvili, President, Georgian Institute for Strategic Studies (GISS), Tbilisi
Fariz Ismailzade, Vice Rector, ADA University, Baku
Sergii Glebov, Senior Research Fellow, Center for International Studies, Odesa Mechnikov National University, Odesa
Mitat Çelikpala, Dean, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Kadir Has University, Istanbul (Moderator)
13:00 – 13:30 Conference wrap up – highlighting of key points by panel moderators