When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) existed, it included Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Georgia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, each individual republic became it’s own country with varying degrees of loyalty to Russia, formerly the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) which held the greatest power over it’s neighbors.
Some countries, such as Belarus, maintain strong support for the Russian Federation. Ukraine maintains relatively good (If not frequently strained) relations with Russia, although the popular opinion in Russia towards Ukraine in mostly negative. The country was offered membership to NATO, which the Ukrainians have made clear will not happen but caused Russia to became hostile towards both NATO and Ukraine.
Others nations, such as Georgia, view Russia as a threat to it’s independence. This became obvious during the recent War in South Ossetia in 2008, when Russia fought Georgian forces in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia, which had troops deployed in Iraq with the Coalition had to recall them to combat Russian forces.
This fear of Russian intervention in other countries’ affairs in the region is what caused Lithuania and Estonia to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) after achieving independence. This, in turn, has caused tensions to rise between NATO and Russia.
To maintain it’s strength in the region and relations with it’s allies, Russia founded the Commonwealth of Independent States on December 8th, 1991. Membership to the CIS is available to all former USSR nations, though other countries may apply to join. Current members include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The goals of the CIS include trade between members through means such as coordinating taxes,currency, etc. and assisting in matters such as humanitarian aide and joint security. The Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, was founded on October 7th, 2002 by Russia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The CSTO is technically a part of the CIS, and has aims towards counter-terrorism (A problem Russia in particular is affected by) and preventing crime that crosses the borders between member countries.
Although the CIS is regarded as an attempt by Russia to maintain allies with it’s former members of the Communist bloc, the CIS is largely an economic and political organization that has so far not become the second version of the Warsaw Pact as it was envisioned it would be. Examples of unified action being taken by all members of the CIS and the CSTO remain to be seen, but with the economic crisis in Europe, it’s difficult to predict whether the organizations will break apart or become stronger and eventually challenge the European Union or NATO.