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Identity Politics and National Security Interests: Deciding the Fate of Soviet Military Assets in Estonia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine

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When the Soviet Union collapsed, Soviet military assets were stranded in Estonia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Estonia was home to the headquarters of the Northern Group of the Baltic Sea Fleet, and more than 36,000 Russian troops in Estonia occupied three air defense bases and one bomber base. In Kazakhstan, the Soviet government built the world's largest space launch facility. Although Russia eventually evolved Baikonur into a civilian space station, the Soviet government built the complex to develop and test intercontinental ballistic missiles. Finally, Ukraine was home to the Black Sea Fleet, the Soviet Union's second largest naval fleet. When the Soviet Union collapsed, there were at least three hundred warships and submarines and 47,000 Russian personnel serving the Black Sea Fleet. Considering Russia's historical legacy and its military superiority over the other former Soviet republics, Russia's military presence represented a potential threat to the independence of these new countries. Thus, logically each country should have demanded the immediately withdrawal of Russian troops. Yet, only Estonia demanded and secured an end to Russia's military presence. Kazakhstan opted for extensive cooperation with Russia, concluding a leasing arrangement that gave Russia operational control of Baikonur. Ukraine also decided that cooperation with Russia was in its national interest, agreeing to divide the Black Sea Fleet and granting Russia a twenty-year lease for the majority of the ports and facilities. Why did these three countries, similarly positioned vis--vis the Russian Federation, not make similar decisions on the fate of Soviet military assets? All three countries faced economic and demographic (i.e. the presence of ethnic Russians) pressures that made cooperation with Russia an attractive option. Considering such pressures, it may have been rational for Kazakhstan and Ukraine to agree to lease Russia the strategic military assets in their countries, but why was Estonia not guided by the same decision-making calculus? This paper argues that state leaders adopt strategic decisions that are consistent with their conceptions of the national identity, or how they want their state to be identified by other states. Using a cognitive definition of identity, I demonstrate that leaders in each country realized their strategic interests based on a conception of the national identity that they personally embraced or chose to aggrandize for domestic reasons. In Kazakhstan and Ukraine, extensive ties to Russia limited the development of an anti-Russian or anti-Soviet identity. Although nationalists in each country viewed Russia as a security threat, they were not sufficiently represented in the government or parliament, and they were unable to mobilize society to embrace their identities in order to prevent military cooperation with Russia. In Estonia, the dominant conception of the national identity was based on a negative view of Russia. The Russian troops in Estonia were viewed as a real security threat and a symbol of Russian occupation. The argument is based on a content analysis of Estonian, Kazakh, and Ukrainian media sources and public opinion polls. In addition, the author conducted twenty-three interviews of high-ranking Ukrainian government officials and members of parliament. This evidence demonstrates that identity politics in each country determined the notion of rationality and the extent to which Russia's national interests could be embraced.

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russia (255), russian (199), ukrain (140), ident (130), nation (125), fleet (90), polit (89), estonia (88), countri (86), ukrainian (83), secur (74), state (69), soviet (64), kazakhstan (61), interest (56), relat (54), nationalist (54), ethnic (54), black (51), sea (51), argu (48),
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Stevens, Christopher. "Identity Politics and National Security Interests: Deciding the Fate of Soviet Military Assets in Estonia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii, Mar 05, 2005 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p71418_index.html>

APA Citation:

Stevens, C. A. , 2005-03-05 "Identity Politics and National Security Interests: Deciding the Fate of Soviet Military Assets in Estonia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p71418_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: When the Soviet Union collapsed, Soviet military assets were stranded in Estonia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Estonia was home to the headquarters of the Northern Group of the Baltic Sea Fleet, and more than 36,000 Russian troops in Estonia occupied three air defense bases and one bomber base. In Kazakhstan, the Soviet government built the world's largest space launch facility. Although Russia eventually evolved Baikonur into a civilian space station, the Soviet government built the complex to develop and test intercontinental ballistic missiles. Finally, Ukraine was home to the Black Sea Fleet, the Soviet Union's second largest naval fleet. When the Soviet Union collapsed, there were at least three hundred warships and submarines and 47,000 Russian personnel serving the Black Sea Fleet. Considering Russia's historical legacy and its military superiority over the other former Soviet republics, Russia's military presence represented a potential threat to the independence of these new countries. Thus, logically each country should have demanded the immediately withdrawal of Russian troops. Yet, only Estonia demanded and secured an end to Russia's military presence. Kazakhstan opted for extensive cooperation with Russia, concluding a leasing arrangement that gave Russia operational control of Baikonur. Ukraine also decided that cooperation with Russia was in its national interest, agreeing to divide the Black Sea Fleet and granting Russia a twenty-year lease for the majority of the ports and facilities. Why did these three countries, similarly positioned vis--vis the Russian Federation, not make similar decisions on the fate of Soviet military assets? All three countries faced economic and demographic (i.e. the presence of ethnic Russians) pressures that made cooperation with Russia an attractive option. Considering such pressures, it may have been rational for Kazakhstan and Ukraine to agree to lease Russia the strategic military assets in their countries, but why was Estonia not guided by the same decision-making calculus? This paper argues that state leaders adopt strategic decisions that are consistent with their conceptions of the national identity, or how they want their state to be identified by other states. Using a cognitive definition of identity, I demonstrate that leaders in each country realized their strategic interests based on a conception of the national identity that they personally embraced or chose to aggrandize for domestic reasons. In Kazakhstan and Ukraine, extensive ties to Russia limited the development of an anti-Russian or anti-Soviet identity. Although nationalists in each country viewed Russia as a security threat, they were not sufficiently represented in the government or parliament, and they were unable to mobilize society to embrace their identities in order to prevent military cooperation with Russia. In Estonia, the dominant conception of the national identity was based on a negative view of Russia. The Russian troops in Estonia were viewed as a real security threat and a symbol of Russian occupation. The argument is based on a content analysis of Estonian, Kazakh, and Ukrainian media sources and public opinion polls. In addition, the author conducted twenty-three interviews of high-ranking Ukrainian government officials and members of parliament. This evidence demonstrates that identity politics in each country determined the notion of rationality and the extent to which Russia's national interests could be embraced.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 68
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Identity Politics and National Security Interests: Deciding the Fate of Soviet Military Assets in Estonia Kazakhstan and Ukraine Christopher A. Stevens Visiting Lecturer Department of Political Science University of Vermont 509 Old Mill Burlington VT 05405 (802) 656-4365 cstevens@uvm.edu Draft--Comments Welcomed Paper Prepared for Poster Session "Multiple Identities: Culture Gender and Sovereignty " at the 46th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association Honolulu Hawaii March 3 2005 The states that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union
Sevastopol's right to remain a Russian city...No Russian will feel comfortable until Sevastopol is returned to the Russian Federation." See Orest Deychakivsky "News Analysis" Russian legislature and politicians claim Ukrainian port of Sevastopol " The Ukrainian Weekly January 26 1997. 240 August 5 1997. 241 March 2 1999 p. 4. 242 July 13 1993 p. 1 and October 22 1996 p. 3. For examples see 243 See RFE/RL Daily Report January 10 1992. 244 The Washington Post January 31


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