Nowadays, when we are talking about the geopolitical sphere, the first question arising is, to what extent the geopolitical issues are up-to-date in the age of information technologies and the globalisation of the world‛s population. Is it conceivable to talk about geopolitics in times, where the subjugation of nations and the division of territories have already come to an end, and where the giant world of the past has become a “village” in which, at first sight, there is nothing left to lose for further division?
In fact on the one hand there have been some historical processes that changed the geopolitical organisation dramatically, they also have turned the multi-polar world into a unipolar one, with a contribution of processes that, using the words of Francis Fukuyama, resulted in “the end of the history.” Liberal democracy has become a dominant and attractive political doctrine for a majority of countries, and there has been no systemic alternative to it so far. Those states, which do not accept the liberal-democratic ideology, have become political outsiders eliminated from the international community. On the other hand, irrespective of the global changes during the existence of states, the number of geopolitical conflicts and territorial claims has not decreased, to the contrary, they have spread around the world and are even of greater significance. In addition to this, the essence of geopolitics itself has changed as well. The discussions‛ subject matter is not the countries‛ borders or the expansion of the nations‛ living space any longer, geopolitics has been increasingly obtaining a civilisational character and has become a part of metaphysics, i.e. a sphere in which the nations perceive self-awareness in connection to their own fate, mission and role in the world. The preservation of cultural self-identity and civilisational singularity has become basic priority in terms of geopolitical choice for many countries.
After the split of the Soviet Union, political changes in the East European region have created a new contradictory geopolitical situation, in which the ruling elites and nations were forced to seek new orientation and to carry out their own geopolitical concept. The most interesting as well as dramatic phenomenon is the restructuring of geopolitical priorities of such countries like Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Owing to particular historical, political and cultural features that these countries share to a certain extent, some researchers and ideologists talk about the unity of three fraternal countries as far as the geopolitical choice concerned. This also applies to their search for a place in a geopolitical room in terms of a historical as well as present context. Nevertheless, lots of problems and tensions arise among these three states.
When analysing the geopolitical processes concerning the three states, one has to determine at the very beginning that the main differences between Russia on one level, and Belarus together with Ukraine on other level, consist in the relations between a subject and an object. This means that neither Belarus nor Ukraine were independent geopolitical subjects for a long time. They only were objects of Russian geopolitical claims as well as its cultural and political influence. The development and existence of these countries was perceived as an integral part of the Russian ones. In connection with this, new geopolitical choices have been appearing. Russia itself regards these countries as if they were components of its geopolitical space. Based upon this idea, their own geopolitical choice must be oriented towards the Great Russia.
The geopolitical choice of new countries
Not only is Russia a certain geopolitical space, it also bears a specific civilisation. Its geopolitical priorities are shaped partly by means of the activities of political elites, but predominantly as a result of territorial and cultural reality itself. This fact defines in a sense, the form of Russian political existence which is an empire. Historical events have proved that attempts to a transformation of the empire into another system, its liberalisation and democratisation resulted in territorial crisis and political decay. After some time, however, the new establishment ignoring the political changes restored the previous imperial policy. The Soviet economy prior to 1989, for instance, was nothing else than a new kind of Russian imperial policy known before 1917. Russia in its present form can therefore exist either as an empire or it cannot exist at all. The political centralisation and authoritarianisation of citizenship as well as rather aggressive policy on neighbour countries indicate the processes of Russian re-imperialisation. Considering this fact, the geopolitical choice of the ruling elite must be solely Russia-centric. That‛s why there is no other option for Russia except choosing itself. A tendency to become a part of another system means a shift in civilisational identification and a transformation into an object of geopolitics.
Irrespective of the fact that since the end of the 1980‛s and the beginning of 1990‛s, Russia has been in a geopolitical crisis and ceased to be regarded as a source of political influence, it has maintained its civilisational potential around the world and in the regions of Europe and Asia over which it used to reign for a long time. This is the reason why Russia has started the process of the restoration of its influence and the creation of new geopolitical concepts.
It has to be pointed out that Russian geopolitical priorities have been acquiring a philosophical relevance with definite values in the foreground. These are in the process of transition from the level of real politics to the level of metaphysics. Russia is becoming not only a specific territorial and civilisational space, but it is been metamorphosing into a country of the “Good” and the “Bad”. Russian geopolitician V. L. Petrov defines the three main elements of Russian existence. To the spiritual pillar belong fait, truth, justice and orthodoxy. The political pillar is represented by the state, the empire, unity and autocracy. The social pillar is composed of the homeland, the people, the country, patriotism and the nation. Petrov claims: “A centralised “binding” country of the Truth connected by a josiflian principle of the Service and a purging religious and ethical principle of St. Nil Sorsky amounts to the national and political specificity of Russia. The supreme character of Unity… The principle of the “symphony of power” accompanied by the moral priority of the spiritual power over the secular one.” As regards this, Russian geopolitics is a result of a cosmic fight against the Bad, in which Russia is to accomplish a distinctive mission to fight against countries spreading the Bad around the world. The USA is the world centre of the Bad according to current Russian geopolitics. The geopolitical competition with the USA is underway at several levels:
1) Ideological and value level: liberal, catholic and evangelist idea against non-liberal and orthodox idea;
2) Political level: democracy against power centralism;
3) Civil level: mass materialised citizenship of the West against ascetic religious unification of the Russian nation.
In this regard it is possible to define the following priorities that are ahead of Russia:
a) The protection of own civilisational space against a destructive impact of American liberal influence. Many Russian theorists consider liberalism a process of the destruction of Slavic peculiarity lasting for the whole historical period. According to them, liberalisation has got violent character and has become a basis for the Americanisation of Russian citizens and economic control over Russia. The creation of an isolated cultural space with strong centralised government capable of mobilising Russian nation for the idea of orthodoxy is the only way how to preserve Russia as unique civilisation.
b) The composition of the new geopolitical space of three Slavic countries, namely, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia that would be on the head. It is supposed to restore the geopolitical and civilisational integrity of Russia and the whole orthodox civilisation (A. Dugin, A. Panaryn, V. Petrov, G. Zyuganov and V. Zhirinovsky). „In the present, the united Russian civilisation is torn into three parts. Each of them is condemned to a miserable existence when living alone. The issue of re-unification with Belarus and Ukraine is therefore not just a start of the restoration of a natural geopolitical statute of Russia. It is actually an issue of our viability. The being and not-being of our fatherland and civilisation as it was since time immemorial, that means unique, distinctive and self-sufficient, will depend on how this issue is about to be dealt with. That‛s why the re-unification of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia represents the second strategic objective following the internal consolidation of all healthy political powers.” The new Slavic union is supposed to attract also the other countries of the former Soviet Union like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Armenia. The establishment of an economic bloc called EurAzES (Eurasian economic union) may serve as an example of an attempt to restore the Soviet space.
c) The resistance against the expansion of the geopolitical influence of the USA and its satellites in post-Soviet space at least in countries which hasn‛t become members of NATO or EU yet. With regard to this, every political or economic structure built without Russian assistance is considered to be aimed against its interests. This relates particularly to the GUAM union. “GUAM is an anti-Russian and anti-integration union. The purpose of this union consists in the creation of obstacles to the integration of CIS countries with the involvement of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.”
Russian basic priority at the global level is the creation of a europewide bloc of mainland countries that could rival with the Anglo-American naval alliance. This bloc, a promising “New European empire” should originate, according to Russian geopolitics, on the basis of the Moscow – Berlin political axis. “The European empire should not repress European nations or subjugate them to the Germans or Russian, to the contrary, it should liberate them from the oppression of the quantitative consumer market society. Further it should awake their deep-rooted patriotic energy, bring them back to the “womb of history” as independent, vital and self-reliant political subjects, freedom of which shall be granted by the strategic force of the whole Eurasia.”
In terms of the development of its “fight-against-the-bad” geopolitical concept, Russia suggests to other nations nothing more than an abstractly comprehended worldwide spirituality destroyed by the materialism of the USA and an infinite fight for its victory. It is exactly this spirit that the other countries of the former USSR as well as Europe are obliged to a priori serve on. In practice, this theory is just an attempt to a justification of Russian imperial ambitions. The own geopolitical choice of these countries, which found themselves under the pressure of the Russia itself for a long time, is regarded by theorists and political empiricists as incorrect and aimed against Russian sovereignty. If the political initiatives of the particular state are not in accordance with Russian priorities, Moscow takes immediately advantage of the material mechanism of its influence, e.g. the increase of oil and gas prices, putting an embargo on goods etc. At the same time, however, it forgets its spiritual mission. Thus Russian geopolitical choice amounts to a gradual restoration of the empire as well as reign in Eurasian region at the cost of the democracy and sovereignty of neighbour countries. The idea of the unity of three fraternal nations is therefore conceivable solely in terms of a united Great Russia.
The geopolitical choice of Ukraine and Belarus seems to be rather difficult under the circumstances. It also encounters a whole range of geopolitical impediments connected mainly with Russian disapproval of the loss of the control over their territories. On the other hand EU is in pursuit of a very careful policy on the countries mentioned and is also restrained, for example, as to Ukrainian struggle for a faster integration into European territory in order not to enter a conflict with Russia. “They (EU member states) take account of Ukrainian geopolitical disputability and they consider, like they always used to, the possible response to the EU initiative within this country from Russian side. In addition, they regard, at least in their minds, Ukraine as a part of Russia.”
When talking about Ukrainian geopolitical choice, it needs to be mentioned that regardless of political independence, Ukraine remains a kind of arena for fierce geopolitical clash between Russia and the USA. Simultaneously, the civilisational division of Ukraine into a western and an eastern part causes that its geopolitical choice appeals to be contradictory and dependent upon the political elite to some extent. During the existence of an independent state, favourable conditions for the forming of a national consciousness of Ukrainians were created. These have become more Europe-centric in the course of time. In spite of this, Ukraine is been facing several crucial geopolitical tasks:
1) The decrease of the cultural and political influence of Russia;
2) The preservation of country‛s territorial integrity and the prevention of the separation of the Crimea and Donetsk region etc.
3) The coordination of activities among other states of the former USSR focused on the creation of an independent geopolitical and, above all, economic space that would enable to cut down Russian economic pressure. Theoretically, the GUAM could become such a geopolitical bloc.
4) The expansion of political cooperation with young European states like Slovakia, Poland and the states of the Baltic region aimed to win support for processes linked with the integration into the European space as well as NATO entry.
The change of the political situation in Belarus is momentous for Ukraine as well in order to deprive Belarus completely of Russian geopolitical influence. It would automatically increase Ukrainian potential in the battle with Moscow.
Irrespective of the conflicts among Ukrainian citizens, Ukraine has the potential to make its geopolitical choice, which is, at the moment, the entry into the European geopolitical space.
The position of ruling elites plays an important role in the process of formation of the geopolitical concept of a state. The role of the elite is distinct, when the citizens are disorientated, or they haven‛t nationwide priorities. In such a case, geopolitics is oriented towards the government and fully depends on the will of the ruling class. As far as the geopolitical choice of Belarus is concerned, it is exactly this country where this choice depends on the preferences and objectives of the elites, because most of the citizens have not their own opinion on Belarusian national development. One has to point out that by the creation of an authoritarian regime, geopolitics is restricted not only by the interests of the ruling elite, but is also made subjective to a great extent, and though by the will of an individual. That‛s why Belarusian geopolitics has been taking still more virtual shapes escaped from reality, but has remained inevitable for the legitimisation of the political elite‛s isolation as well as the country‛s geopolitical isolation.
The present virtual geopolitical concept of official Minsk encompasses the features of “mesianism and self-sacrifice” that are characteristic of Russian geopolitical doctrine. This is an evidence that the ruling elite is not able to make up a nationwide concept of the development of the country. Among Belarusian geopolitical priorities for the 21st century are:
a) The “fight” against the cultural, ideological and economic expansion and the political dominance of the West. As regards the relations with the West, Belarus acts as a geopolitical bastion of Russia and fits well in the concept of the united state of “Truth”.
b) The establishment of a common east-Slavic space with Belarus playing the leading role: “In the aftermath of a cultural and ideological decay of Russia, this country is not able to claim the status of a political and spiritual centre any longer. Belarus can therefore by the spirit of law of its “younger brother” claim the spiritual and political heritage of Russia.” “Minsk, the fourth Rome.” This argument is used to justify the freeze on the process of the political integration between Russia and Belarus. The real reason, why it ended is that the “union ” ceased to fit the interests of Belarus elite, because it endangered its sovereignty and power. It is often emphasised that Belarus is to become a geopolitical bridge between the West and the East. The quest for a way out of the cul-de-sac, that Belarus found itself owing to Lukashenko‛s geopolitical activities, forced it to use the idea of “the third way”, proposed by Belarusian opposition yet in the middle of 1990‛s. Unfortunately, the political isolation of Belarus turns this way into a way of an “outcast”. The next element of the concept is connected with this.
c) The formation of a worldwide geopolitical bloc of states which has not joined the American political system of “global world”. “The movement of the uninitiated must fight for a new world with a dignified place for everybody. We must defend the right of our nations for the choice of an independent way of development. All together we must face the dictate of external forces, discrimination and war threats.” Recently, the Belarusian administration has been orientating itself towards such countries like Cuba, Malaysia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Syria and Lebanon. There are high expectations of the relations with China. European vector in Belarus foreign political relations keep losing as regards the priorities. The country‛s geopolitics has been still more Asia-centric. There is no doubt about the “asiatisation of Belarus” being most advantageous for Russia, since it doesn‛t allow Belarus to free itself from Russian influence, regardless of the fact that the relations among the countries mentioned can pretty hardly be referred to as constructive.
The issue of the geopolitical choice of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus remains up-to-date and controversial. In spite of this, the chances for the idea of a united Slavic country seem to be slim at the present time. Russia has chosen a form of a new empire, Ukraine is on the way to Europe and Belarus has got lost somewhere between the West and the East.