Courtesy Reuters

The Remaking of Eurasia

FILLING THE POST-SOVIET VACUUM

Russia's post-Soviet orientation toward Europe and the West is in serious trouble. Western leaders' decision to expand NATO eastward without taking Moscow's objections into account has sidelined Russia on matters that affect its strategic interests. Fellow former Soviet republics seeking Western investment and sponsorship have spoken out against Russia in international forums; within the country, some groups even feel they must leave the Russian Federation to gain Western favor. Since nobody wants powerful neighbors, even when they are not hostile, the Western powers have been the natural allies of all who would break with Moscow. The West does not want to see any structure in Eurasia that permits Russian hegemony.

But abetting the continuing destabilization of Eurasia is not in the West's interests. NATO enlargement has not consolidated anti-Western forces in the region, as some Western experts had feared, but it has encouraged the division of Eurasia and the shattering of the Russian Federation. There will likely be further attempts at secession, although not necessarily according to the bloody model of Chechnya. Central Asia and the Caucasus are rife with flash points that could ignite several nations and draw in outside powers. And with regional destabilization and the slackening of central control, the nuclear threat is perhaps greater now than during the Cold War.

If current trends continue, Russia's clout in Eurasia will further dwindle and that of Western powers and Western-dominated international organizations will grow. The United States, however, will be unable to maintain control of the process. Western allies like Germany, Japan, and Turkey will adopt independent policies in the region. The jockeying of Western interests will exacerbate tensions between and within countries. And the West will confront the increasing power of China and, to a lesser extent, Iran, which will make extending Western influence beyond the Urals impossible. Eurasia will rapidly become a less predictable and more dangerous place.

There is an alternative. The United States could begin supporting integration in the territory of

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