Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, security has been difficult to maintain in the former states. The 15 states have assumed varying levels of autonomy over the years, forging alliances, claiming resources and adopting political positions that have often resulted in high levels of tension in the Post-Soviet space.
Incorporating a broad spectrum of issues, from those relating to the economy and the environment, to social and governmental affairs, the concept of security in this area of the world is a complex one. We spoke to International Relations lecturer and leader of the Security in the Post-Soviet Space module of our Online MA International Relations, Marianna Poberezhskaya, to explore these ideas further.
How far do you think Post-Soviet states have come in terms of security since the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
“It varies significantly from state to state. Since the collapse, some of the security threats in the region have remained the same, such as economic and political instabilities. Others have either gone away or changed in nature, including most of the open ethnic clashes, which have either stopped or turned into ‘frozen’ conflicts. Some newer threats have also developed, such as those relating to climate change and international terrorism.”
How have different Post-Soviet states sought to maintain national security since the Union was dissolved? Can you describe some of the alliances and tensions that have formed?
“Clear divisions have formed within the region. Some countries have chosen a pro-Western approach by joining the European Union (EU) and/or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Some have remained loyal to the former regional leader Russia and have become members of the the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and some have picked a more neutral position by not closing doors to any of these alliances.”
How have power struggles over energy exports represented wider conflicts among Post-Soviet states?
“Energy resources have become a cornerstone for major players in the region by defining the re-disposition of power and allegiances. Thanks to energy resources, some players have been able to influence political change within more dependant states, or impact their relations with the rest of the world. Energy resources have also impacted the way the region is seen by the rest of the world.”
What did the so-called ‘colour revolutions’ of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan achieve in the 2000s, and do you think similar political revolutions could happen today?
“I think we’re still understanding the impacts of the colour revolutions in the region. On one hand, it might look like the uprisings weren’t able to bring about major change, or that the changes they did bring were not sustained.
“However, the colour revolutions were important demonstrations of the people’s will and the influence of foreign actors in the region. We cannot assume that these countries will remain in the shadow of more powerful actors; instead they will go through complex transitional processes in order to find their own identity.”
Do you think the Soviet Union could have survived into the 21st century?
“This is a very difficult question. It certainly could not have survived in its old form, as its political, economic and social policies were simply not sustainable or compatible with 21st century structures.
“There were also many internal conflicts which weakened the Soviet Union’s foundation over several decades. Therefore, even if it did mange to overcome these internal problems it would have had to substantially change its political and economic nature.” Your research has evaluated the role of social media in Russia with relation to global climate change. To what extent do you think social media has a part to play in the continuing discourse between Post-Soviet states? “Social media is very important in the Post-Soviet space as it offers an alternative platform for discussion, especially in the countries where traditional media has been heavily censored.
“Unfortunately though, where this kind of platform is needed most, social media is either not available to the majority of people due to technological or economic poverty, or it has been as strictly monitored as traditional media. The positive thing about social media is that it is still very difficult to control; there are many ways people can avoid barriers and continue their political discussions online.”
How does your research influence your teaching of the module, Security in the Post-Soviet Space?
“I’ve tried to cover the most topical security issues in the region within the module. Thankfully, my research enables me to stay tuned into the political and social changes happening in the Post-Soviet space.”
How does the module use interactivity to bring the content to life?
“Students will find a range of audio-visual material to support them in the learning process. They can also interact with their peers, module tutor and me, the module leader, on a regular basis by advancing our discussion of the security threats in the region.” What will students gain from this module and how can it be applied to a career in International Relations?
“Traditionally, Russia has been considered one of the most important actors in International Relations, and close attention has been paid to its political, economic and social development. Whilst this is still the case, we shouldn’t underestimate the growing importance of other actors in the region.
“Some states play a key role in building a political or economic bridge between Western and Eastern super powers. Some states are extremely rich in their natural resources and are becoming increasingly important to global energy security. Some states are of utter importance to the global fight against international terrorism. I’m convinced that in order to advance a career in International Relations, students must pay close attention to all member states covered in our module.”