How far has the Eurasian Union come?
It seems a century has passed since, with triumphant tones, the birth of the Eurasian Economic Union was announced. The grand design of Putin to bring back under the Russian orbit the former Soviet states met more than a hindrance. Starting from Ukraine. How far has it come?
- Tuesday, 20 October 2015
The Eurasian Economic Union will soon mark its first anniversary. It represents a step beyond the customs union and forward a closer political integration. So far, its main feature is the economic aspect. Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia: five countries, 183 million people, one-seventh of world’s surface and a GDP equal to Italy’s one, almost ten times smallerthan EU’s and five times of China’s. The Eurasian Union seems a rabbit roaring. It now makes even some cough.
The ruble crisis that is squeezing the Russian economy, with the price of oil well away from those $ 100 on which the state budget is based, made membership suddenly less attractive. Besides creating an asymmetry in the trade of goods, making Russian exports more convenient than other members’. Armenia, which has seen the collapse of its exports to Russia after joining the EEU, knows it well. "If the Russian economic slump continues, other countries will experience growing disappointment with the Eurasian Economic Union,”GagikMakaryan, chairman of Armenian workers union, said.
But there are also open rivalry between current and potential members. Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elman Mammadyarov, said the presence of Armenia in the EEU is "an extremely serious obstacle" for his country membership. The NagornoKarabakh conflict still burns. And the same thing can be said for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in respect of Kyrgyzstan, due to the territorial dispute over the Fergana Valley.
The Russian-Asian Union
Many things have changed from how the ambitious project started. The Eurasian Union is in many ways modeled on the European Union. But according to many observers, it has all the characteristics of a de-ideological rehearsal of the USSR, of which already covers two-thirds of the territory. The Union goes far beyond the simple elimination of borders between the former Soviet countries. It's more aformally flexible but substantially rigidstructure, binding member countries with the orbit of Moscow.
It started to shake when the most important tile of the mosaic didn’t fit into place. Ukraine has always been the seeds in Putin’s head. Lost, perhaps forever, just when the EUU began to take shape. The land referred as “Little Russia” until the Twentieth century, where the pan-Russian culture, tradition, language and religion have their roots. Russiaitself took its name from the KievanRus’. And now it’s gone.
It was not only a territorial, economic and prestigeloss for Moscow, but a distortion of the character of the Union.
The loss of Ukraine together with the cooling of relations between Russia and the West, has shifted the axis further east than expected. I mentioned China’s GDP not by accident. During his recent address to the UN, Putin mentioned the idea of "interconnecting the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt.”
The Eurasian Union seems more and more a Russian-Asian one. Moscow alone already accounts for 63% of the domestic market and covers 57% of the voters, Russian citizens and ethnic Russians account for 87% of the 170 million total population, the ruble has the role of the single currency and the fact Russian the lingua franca.
And now Putin set his sight on China.