FEATURED | How to deal with EU in Post-Soviet space : Understanding core Mechanisms of Russian Foreign Policy towards “near abroad” by Elmir Badalov
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FEATURED | How to deal with EU in Post-Soviet space : Understanding core Mechanisms of Russian Foreign Policy towards “near abroad” by Elmir Badalov

How to deal with EU in Post-Soviet space by Elmir Badalov, IndraStra

By Elmir Badalov 


During the cold war period one of the essential and vital strategic policy of the United States of America was to prevent communist takeovers in the world, despite the fact that in some cases it led US to get involved in war for instance in Vietnam, as well as US spent huge amount of money in order to attract some countries to stay far from communism. After the end of the cold war EU started (1) to build strong relations with former soviet countries, EU launched some projects and programmes for those countries, the aim of these initiatives were to help those countries to overcome financial difficulties, and to complete their economic transformation process successfully. EU’s specialised projects aimed to bring them even more closer to the EU. However these countries always have been considered as backyard of one of the main key players in this region, Russia. Russia never seems to be happy to see EU’s active presence in this region, it is totally against interests of Russia in those territories. When Ukraine declared its interest to sign Association Agreement with EU, first of all Russia via diplomatic channels tried to create hurdles for Ukraine and played carrot and stick policy with its neighbour. It ended up, with annexation of Crimea, another territorial conflict occurred in post-soviet space.

Domino Theory:

Domino theory In the 1950s domino theory was a core strategy of US foreign policy, the basic explanation of this theory was communist victory in one nation would quickly lead to a chain reaction of communist takeovers in neighbouring states. When Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam’s independence from (2) France, US government under Harry Truman, provided financial and military aid to the French, the purpose of this aid was that communist victory would precipitate the spread of communism throughout Southeast Asia. It even forced US to get involved in war in Vietnam, at that time president of US expressed his belief as following: “We should use our influence in as effective way as we can, but we should not withdraw from Vietnam." Simultaneously, US implemented Marshall plan, in order to attract Greece and Turkey and keep them far from communist threat. While referring to conflict in Vietnam 34th president of US Dwight D. Eisenhower used “falling domino” principle, the loss of Vietnam, are just incalculable to the free world, it would lead to similar communist victories in neighbouring countries. The word of domino theory has been used by Eisenhower, later on it became (3) popular in International Relations. Despite the fact that, in Laos and Cambodia communist takeover took place, however communist takeover failed in other part of Southeast Asia.

EU and Post-soviet countries

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, EU have developed strong and tight relations with some countries of the former Soviet Union. Partnership and Cooperation Agreement have been signed with those countries, EU has launched TACIS (Technical Aid for Commonwealth of Independent States) project in order to help financially to those countries. Later on (3) post-soviet countries Latvia, Estonia (4) and Lithuania became fully member of the European Union, during the Eastern Enlargement process of EU in 2004. At the same year EU has launched European Neighbourhood Policy, this programme aimed to bring peace, stability and prosperity to all EU neighbour countries. Later on EU came up with new unique policy towards its Eastern Neighbours, so called Eastern Partnership Initiative, this initiative encourages (6) post-soviet countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) to implement reforms, to adjust its government structure and judiciary system to EU’s structure, in exchange of this EU offers Association Agreement, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement as well as visa facilitation or visa liberalisation opportunities for those countries. For newly independent countries, this means to get into EU market, to attract foreign direct investment, to create new job opportunities. This policy also is called more for more policy, more reforms lead to more advantages. Since the launch of this initiative countries like Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine have made a lot of progress, implemented many reforms, changed some part of its judiciary and legislation structure in to EU structure. However countries like Azerbaijan, which pursues balanced foreign 5 policy, doesn’t involved in this policy. Countries like Belarus and Armenia which is massively dependent on Russia, also not seemed interesting in this policy. The most successful country in terms of implementing reforms were Ukraine, if things would have gone according to plan, Ukraine were expected to sign Association Agreement in November 2013. But it didn’t happen.


During the history Russia always was a giant power in so-called post-soviet region and Russia always was dominant power in this region, Even now Russia have big interests in this region and Russia is still considering these territories as its backyard. Nevertheless, from the military and economy perspective Russia is not strong enough as it was before, however Russia still have some strong tools to have an impact in region and to change the whole status-quo. While Ukraine was on negotiation stage with EU, on signing of Association Agreement, this idea didn’t make Moscow happy. Russia used vulnerabilities of Ukraine, in particular energy rich Russia is a main energy supplier of Ukraine and Ukraine owed a huge amount of money to Russia, Russia used this tool, offered new agreement to Ukraine, cut off energy prices, lend huge amount of money to Ukraine, in order to distract attention of Yanukovych administration signing Association Agreement with EU. Putin was aware that in any 6 cases loss of Ukraine, means loss of Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan , Armenia and even Belarus. Yanukovych was more than happy to sign that agreement with Putin, despite Maidan movement started in Ukraine. At first glance it seemed very calm uprising, people were demanding from Yanukovych to sign Association Agreement with EU, however Yanukovych never did so, despite the pressure, he didn’t hesitate to kill his people, in the end he was forced to escape from the country. Later on Russia annexed Crimea, Russian military bases which is located in Sevastopol invaded Crimea and referendum was held in this territory, the outcome of referendum was that inhabitants of Crimea declared that they would like to be a part of Russia, rather than Ukraine. Despite, the objection and criticism of International Community and Human Rights Organisations, Putin’s army is yet to withdraw from Crimea. The idea behind of this annexation was simple as Eisenhower described “falling domino” principle.


Despite EU is keen on developing strong relations with post-soviet countries, it should be considered that Russia is still powerful in this region. Even though, from the economy and military prespective Russia isn’t strong enough, it still have very strong tools to jeopardise the whole situation in the region. In 2008 war with Georgia and annexation of Crimea has shown that, Russia considers each of this country as domino, if one domino falls it may lead to absolute disaster for Russia and it would even put the sovereignty of Russia under threat. At least for now, domino theory by Putin administration is being implemented successfully, despite the sacrifice and loss of its partners and some allies.

About the Author:

Elmir Badalov is Azerbaijan based independent political analyst specialising in current political situation in Central and Eastern Europe and writing articles based on observation and analyse with primary focus  in reviewing current situation in Russian Foreign Policy, towards Post-soviet space.

  1. Cold War History, http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cold-war-history
  2. Domino Theory, http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/A-D/The-Domino-Theory.html 
  3. Eisenhower Doctrine, http://millercenter.org/president/eisenhower/speeches/speech-3360 
  4. The European Commission’s Tacis Programme 1991 – 2006, http://www.enpi-info.eu/files/publications/tacis_success_story_final_en.pdf
  5. Eastern Partnership, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/international-affairs/eastern-partnership/index_en.htm
  6. The Ukraine Crisis Timeline, http://csis.org/ukraine/index.htm