Belarus has not broken off its bonds with Moscow after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Throughout the whole period of the Belarussian independence we can observe the country·s strong political, economic and military dependence on Russia. This dependence allows Russia to control, and even shape, the processes that take place in Belarus in all the areas mentioned.
Among all of the countries that border Ukraine, the Russian Federation is its most important partner. Ukraine·s relations with Moscow are the key issue of its foreign policy to such an extent that each option of the Ukrainian foreign policy is first and foremost a choice as to the shape of its relations with Russia.
Last year Kaliningrad became the subject of an international debate involving first of all the European Union, Russia, the USA, and the countries bordering the enclave, Poland and Lithuania. Such keen interest in a small region of less than a million inhabitants was mainly due to the fact that Kaliningrad has found itself in the very centre of two processes which are of paramount importance for Europe: EU and NATO enlargement.
A year has passed since Vladimir Putin was sworn in as President of the Russian Federation on 7 May 2000, five months after taking over the duties of head of state from Boris Yeltsin. This prompts our attempt at a certain summing-up of the changes which have been made in Russia under the new leader's government.
The current condition of the gas industry is one of the most crucial factors influencing the Russian state·s functioning, internal situation and international position. Not only is gas the principal energy resource in Russia, it also subsidises other sectors of the economy. Status of the main European gas exporter strengthens also Russia's importance in the international arena.
Caspian stocks of energy resources are not, and most probably will not be, of any great significance on the world scale. Nevertheless it is the Caspian region which will have the opportunity to become an oil exporter which will reduce the dependence of the European countries on Arabian oil, and which will guarantee Russia the quantities of gas which are indispensable both for meeting its internal demands and for maintaining its current level of export.
The basic reason why the Central Asian states are compelled to participate in building regional order with the help of Russia is the threat posed by the activities of fundamentalist Islamic movements. The most serious manifestations of this threat were the two Batken-area crises in 1999 and 2000. The fear of the results of the current civil war in Afghanistan is constantly growing. It is in Russia·s interest to maintain the state of threat and tension in Central Asia, and Russia fuels it and benefits from it.