Power to the pragmatists : the role of the economic elite in relations between Russia and Ukraine 1994-1998.
This work discusses the role of the economic elites of Russia and Ukraine in the development of relations between the two countries in the period between 1994-1998. A “Pragmatist approach” to bilateral relations, that emerged in Kyiv and in Moscow in the mid-1990s, and the doctrine of CIS integration are identified as the ideological underpinnings for the participation of the economic elites in the process of foreign policy-making. According to these approaches, economic elites in Russia and Ukraine share similar economic interests derived from the necessity to restore a post-Soviet common economic space. Convergent interests of the economic elites are assumed to be powerful incentives to increase bilateral co-operation and eventually foster economic and political reintegration between the two countries. In an analysis based on the study of domestic sources of foreign policy, the author contests these approaches. This work argues that, contrary to expectations, the consolidation of nation-based economic elites led to the emergence of conflicting rather than convergent interests. The redistribution of national wealth, following the demise of the Soviet structure of state-ownership, sparked a struggle between domestic and economic elites for the control of economic resources. The penetration of external economic actors was viewed, in this perspective, as a factor that might upset the delicate balance of power between domestic institutions and economic agents. A nationalist vocabulary, resulting from a century-long struggle for independence, was used in Ukraine to express a protectionist mood against Russian competitors. This research contributes to the debate on co-operation between states and the role that domestic factor play in encouraging or hindering such a process. In particular, this study supports the argument that recently established independent states are less prone to join co-operation schemes, especially when a process of redistribution of national resources follows the demise of the previous regime. The economic elites may be identified in this process as active participants or even promoters of nationalist movements.