Eurasia's New Frontiers

Eurasia's New Frontiers: Young States, Old Societies, Open Futures

Thomas W. Simons
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Eurasia's New Frontiers
    Book Description:

    In Eurasia's New Frontiers, Thomas W. Simons, Jr., a distinguished veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service with extensive experience in the Communist and post-Communist worlds, assays the political, economic, and social developments in the fifteen successor states to the Soviet Union that comprise Eurasia-from Estonia to Azerbaijan and from Tajikistan to Ukraine, centered on Russia. He makes a compelling case that the United States can play a large role in shaping the future of this vast and strategic region, and at less cost than during Soviet times. This can only be accomplished, however, if U.S. policy toward Eurasia shifts from alternating hand-wringing and indifference to steady and flexible engagement that focuses on its fledgling individual nation-states.

    Throughout Eurasia, Simons shows, civil society is anemic, market reforms have been discredited, and political development has been stunted. Authoritarian and semiauthoritarian regimes are firmly in place from Belarus to Central Asia; in Ukraine, Moldova, and even Russia, some democratic forms have taken hold; but everywhere, politics features struggle among elites over access to economic resources, albeit often defined in terms of "sovereignty." Almost everywhere, states are consolidating: as resurgent Russia presses on its neighbors, they can now press back, alone or with help from the outside world. Simons believes that the post-Soviet space needs stable development of state institutions within which new civil societies can take root and grow. Potentially strong state institutions are, in his view, Soviet Communism's "secret gift" to Eurasia, and they may well enable the region to become in time an arc of promise, an anchor of relative stability in a troubled part of the world.

    For that to happen, Simons argues, the nationalism that gives content to these new state structures must be the right kind: civic and inclusionary rather than ethno-religious and exclusionary. Because Russia is so diverse and its nationalism so state-oriented, Simons also sees it as more likely to develop that kind of civic nationalism than some of its new neighbors. The United States has a limited but real role to play in helping or hindering its emergence everywhere in Eurasia. If it wishes to help, though, the U.S. must realize that in this part of the world the path to democracy leads through state development. The U.S. will continue to advocate for its core values, but it can best act as a City on the Hill for Eurasia if its policy centers on the emerging new states of today, for they must be the incubators of tomorrow's civil societies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6183-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xv)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xvi-xx)
  5. Introduction: Getting Beyond Eurasia’s DNA
    (pp. 1-14)

    Russia’s 2008 presidential election was less suspenseful than ours. Months before the polls on March 2, it was clear that Dmitry Medvedev would succeed Vladimir Putin as president and that Putin would then take over as Medvedev’s prime minister. How they work out their cohabitation is an important question for the future, but getting there took political management that would be the envy of any American candidate if it had anything to do with elections. It did not: as the Russian critic and translator Victor Erofeyev lamented in the New York Times on election eve, “My vote will make no...

  6. I The Weakness of Civil Society
    (pp. 15-37)

    Civil society is hard to define but easy to idealize.

    Whether we realized it or not, many of us in the West grew up permeated with ideas that set “society” over against state power. They are centuries old. In America, our founders looked to the English philosopher John Locke’s defense of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 for legitimation of their resistance to arbitrary royal rule here. Half a century later the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville taught us that vigorous voluntary activities independent of the state are the necessary foundation of a healthy democracy. Tocqueville in turn was reaching back to...

  7. II Politics as Elite Infighting
    (pp. 38-62)

    If civil society is anemic across the post-Soviet space, what does that do to the area’s politics? The answer is that politics comes to consist largely in struggle among factions in the elites, groups in entrenched or competitive positions within existing power structures. To some extent politics is like that everywhere, including the United States. But politics is particularly a preserve of elites in the post-Soviet countries of the world.

    Politics seemed much more wide open in the early years after the dissolution of the USSR. It was not just that millions of people were taking to the streets: it...

  8. III The Politics of Economics and Sovereignty
    (pp. 63-90)

    If infighting among elites has been the stuff of politics in the post-Soviet space, what do they fight about?

    Deprived of the unifying ideology of Communism, they no longer fight to end the exploitation of man by man, nor to consolidate and improve “really existing socialism.” They are not (or not yet) driven by nationalism based on ethnocultural identities. So the natural answer would be that post-Soviet elites fight about economics. They fight over access to resources that were scarce to begin with and dwindled still further in the painful period of retrenchment and readjustment that followed Communism’s fall. Economies...

  9. IV States, Nations, and Nationalisms in Eurasia
    (pp. 91-119)

    If the end of 2005 opened a new era of Russian outward pressure and stiffening resistance from Russia’s neighbors, is twenty-first-century Eurasia likely to face rolling turbulence reminiscent of twentieth-century Europe? Part of the answer will depend on whether state-building and state-consolidation in Eurasia will be underpinned by the same kind of ethnocultural nationalism that helped make Europe the last century’s “dark continent.”¹

    In 2008 it was still too early to say. Russian state actions have told most of the world that Russia has left “liberal empire” behind as its preferred approach to relations with neighbors, and replaced it with...

  10. V Today’s Eurasia and the United States
    (pp. 120-144)

    What does this Eurasia mean for the United States, and what should the U.S. policy approach be?

    As a global power the U.S. will always be interested in Eurasia and engaged with its peoples and nations. Eurasia is too large and important a part of the world to be ignored. It casts a shadow of the old Soviet threat forward in time, and its axis—the Russian Federation—is nuclear armed. So are its neighbors: China to the east and India and Pakistan to the south; and there are others in the queue. Eurasia’s new nations are players on today’s...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 145-166)
  12. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 167-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-178)
  14. Envoi
    (pp. 179-180)