The Greater Eurasia, Putin’s idea of Europe after Brexit
He never publicly supported the "Leave", nor showed enthusiasm after the referendum result. But Vladimir Putin has a clear idea of Europe, that after Britain leaving the EU is no longer a utopia.
- Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Putin talked about it for the first time at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, SPIEF 2016, in the presence of Italian Prime minister, Matteo Renzi. "Along with our Chinese colleagues, we are planning to start official talks on the formation of comprehensive trade and economic partnership in Eurasia with the participation of the European Union states and China”, Putin said. But the highlight came later, when he added that “I expect that this will become one of the first steps toward the formation of a major Eurasian partnership, […] the “greater Eurasia”. Putin gave no other details, but said that this will be discussed at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. Meanwhile, he added, "Yesterday we discussed this issue at the meeting with the President of the European Commission", Junker, who was also at the SPIEF 2016.
The Greater Eurasia
Putin's words came on the eve of the British referendum on the European Union and now they look like a premonition.
The EU without of one of its most uncompromising members about Russia – certainly the most influential in the "anti-Russian" block – could be a plus. I wrote that it is unrealistic to imagine Putin rubbing his hands for the Brexit, but certainly the unexpected outcome of the referendum is convenient to Russia in many ways. One of these is the possible weakening of the front in favor of maintaining sanctions against Moscow. "Regarding the sanctions policy, I do not think that this will in any way impact our relations with the EU in this regard", Putin said after the outcome of the British vote. But it’s clear that with London out of the EU, the Kremlin's efforts to break the axis of sanctions is easier.
The new project launched by Putin is another move in this direction. But it seems to hide behind his high-sounding name, all the weakness of Moscow in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis. Almost a desperate attempt to get out from isolation.
From Lisbon to Vladivostok
A transcontinental union spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific is not a new idea. A united Europe "from Lisbon to Vladivostok" is a Putin’s old idea. A geopolitical concept that comes back from time to time in his speeches and that is linked to neo-Eurasianism of Aleksandr Dugin, the philosopher cherished by the European far rights.
A vision shared even with Angela Merkel, who a few days ago at a CDU congress said she hopes "that Russia would increasingly develop ties with the European economic area, finally resulting in a common economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok".
Putin’s Greater Eurasia should have its pivot in the Eurasian Economic Union – already a reality – linking the West to the Far East, the EU to India and China. The point, though, is that Kiev lies right between Brussels and Moscow.
Ukraine has always been the main tile of the Eurasian project of Putin, an ambitious project that goes well beyond the simple removal of borders between the five ex-Soviet countries (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia). The element that could provide this new entity with a pan-Slavic character and – in the absence of an ideological constituent basis – an internationally recognized identity, like the EU. The ingredient that Putin lost the very moment he grabbed a piece.
Putin’s announcement has all the flavor of an attempt to save a project on the path of failure. An attempt that without Britain has more chance to be successful.