Benevolent hegemon, neighborhood bully, or regional security provider? Russia’s efforts to promote regional integration after the 2013–2014 Ukraine crisis
Russia has tried to use economic incentives and shared historical and cultural legacies to entice post-Soviet states to join its regional integration efforts. The Ukraine crisis exposed the weaknesses of this strategy, forcing Russia to fall back on coercive means to keep Kiev from moving closer to the West. Having realized the limits of its economic and soft power, will Russia now try to coerce post-Soviet states back into its sphere of influence? Fears of such an outcome overestimate Russia’s ability to use coercion and underestimate post-Soviet states capacity to resist. Rather than emerging as a regional bully, Russia is trying to push Eurasian integration forward by becoming a regional security provider. The article relates these efforts to the larger literature on regional integration and security hierarchies – bridging the two bodies of theory by arguing that regional leaders can use the provision of security to promote economic integration. Despite initial signs of success, we believe that the new strategy will ultimately fail. Eurasian integration will continue to stagnate as long as Russia’s economic and soft power remain weak because Russia will be unable to address the economic and social problems that are at the root of the region’s security problems.