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Does Putin's Return To Kremlin Breathe New Life Into Eurasian Union Project?

A meeting of the prime ministers of CIS member states at the Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg in October, where Putin triumphantly announced an agreement to form a free-trade zone after years of fruitless negotiations.
A meeting of the prime ministers of CIS member states at the Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg in October, where Putin triumphantly announced an agreement to form a free-trade zone after years of fruitless negotiations.

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When Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first announced his intention to return to the Kremlin back in the fall of 2011, one of the first programmatic articles that he published was devoted entirely to his vision of a "Eurasian Union."

"We suggest a powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world and of serving as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region," Putin wrote in "Izvestia" in October 2011.

Now that Putin is returning to the Kremlin for six more years -- and possibly 12 -- this priority project seems destined for a new infusion of energy. Behind the official congratulations that are pouring out of the capitals of the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are real concerns about whether closer integration can be achieved on an equitable footing.

The issue of CIS integration is clearly important for Putin. Just two weeks after the "Izvestia" article appeared, he hosted a meeting of prime ministers from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Ukraine in St. Petersburg and triumphantly announced an agreement to form a free-trade zone after years of fruitless negotiations.

"We are opening up our markets to each other, which means that goods will be brought to our markets at lower prices, which will in turn provide better conditions for starting new joint enterprises," Putin said. "All of this, of course, increases the competitiveness of all of our economies."

'No Other Way'

Putin sees Eurasian integration primarily as a way of cementing Russia's international status, says Kyrgyz political scientist Mars Sariev.

"Following the election, I think Putin will try to realize his vision about a Eurasian model embracing [the other CIS countries]," Sariev says. "And so Russia will pursue very close relations with Kyrgyzstan, will push us to join the Customs Union and the 'Eurasian Union.' If Russia fails to embrace us -- the CIS countries -- then Russia itself will fail. It will be just the backyard of Europe or a source of raw materials for China. There is no other way for Russia."

In his "Izvestia" manifesto Putin emphasized that Russia is "not going to rush or nudge anyone." States should only sign on to the initiative based on their "long-term national interests," he said.

Oleh Zarubinskiy: No tectonic shiftsOleh Zarubinskiy: No tectonic shifts
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Oleh Zarubinskiy: No tectonic shifts
Oleh Zarubinskiy: No tectonic shifts
But countries across the negotiating table from Putin's Russia often feel as if their "national interests" are being manipulated by their huge neighbor. Moscow recently announced a ban on imports of Ukrainian cheese, in a move that was widely seen as a bid to pressure Kyiv to agree to greater integration -- and to slow down on efforts to move closer to the European Union.

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleh Zarubinskiy, a member of the Russia-Ukraine interparliamentary group, expects that Moscow will continue its tough dealing with Ukraine.

"Over the last few years, Dmitry Medvedev has been in the Kremlin, but the key questions of Russian politics -- both domestic and foreign -- were de facto determined by Putin," Zarubinskiy says. "So we can't say there will be some sort of fundamental changes or, as some people are saying, tectonic shifts. Putin has his own style -- harsh, pragmatic, and sometimes raw politics, including in foreign relations."

The Gas Problem

Cheese, in this case, is just a warning shot. Kyiv knows from past experience that when Russia really wants to get attention, it cuts off the gas.

Putin's vision will be hard to realize in the Caucasus, too. The key country in that region is oil-rich Azerbaijan. Many Azerbaijanis feel that Medvedev made sincere efforts to make progress resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. By contrast, they think Putin views the festering conflict as a way of increasing Russia's leverage over both countries.

In recent months, Baku has turned its attention to the West, seeking direct markets for its natural gas in Europe instead of, as Moscow wishes, selling all its energy to Russia's Gazprom.

Energy-rich Turkmenistan is also wary of Putin's tough approach. Turkmen analyst Amanmurad Bugaev also thinks Putin lacks the subtlety needed to realize the vision he laid out in his "Izvestia" article.

"Putin will certainly try to strengthen Russian hegemony in Central Asia," Bugaev says. "When it comes to Turkmenistan, Putin has always wanted to keep the Turkmen economy dependent on Russia. He does not even hide this."

In "Izvestia," Putin wrote that the "Eurasian Union" should be built on the inheritance of the Soviet Union -- "infrastructure, a developed system of regional production specialization, and a common space of language, science, and culture." But the legacy of the Soviet Union -- both in terms of his own attitudes in the region and the wariness of its CIS partners -- may run deeper than he knows.

Written in Prague by RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson on the basis of reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, and Ukrainian services
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 06, 2012 20:18
An interesting piece of news on Russia and "abroad": according to the media reports, China is about to sign a contract with Russia on a purchase of 48 Russian Sukhoi-35 fighter jets. The deal, if signed, would imply China's payment of several billion dollars to Russia.
Source: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,819717,00.html
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 08, 2012 15:07
Joy Rashka-Prashka, the Russian Empire is comming,
Steaming "Cheremushka" and echoing from Austria!
Joy Rashka-Prashka - USA and EU play dammies,
For combined "Cousin's" witchcraft and Britania!

Joy Rashka-Prashka - billions are comming,
To squize-repopulate non-Russian nations!
Violate free trade with them, but damning -
All. Will later Russians give permission
Europe and Asia buy back their grid?

God isn't fool - CIS they hate restore,
But tiranny of breeding Russian hoar:

"Pridi Zvesda Vsevyshnego, na posledniy sud!
Pust' vse nevinno-ubiennye na etot sud pridut!
Pust' Yarost' blagorodnaya vskipaet kak volna!
Pust' odenut tkani belye dlya strashnogo suda!"



In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 09, 2012 11:42
Konstantin, you are just a poet - you should publish your poetry in separate books and have crowds of romantic 16-17 year old school girls waiting for you on the corner of your house in LA and, once you've appeared, running after you and asking for an autograph :-)).
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 10, 2012 17:44
Eugenio, you might of have a point, if not few reasons:
Since birth I wasn't allowed girls - in plagiarist prison,
Created by Russian assassinations and "Anaverde".
Only few times in my life they "allowed" me dating,
Trying inslave, maybe steal a sperm for keeping.

I tried to marry once, but Russia was screaming,
Under my windows: -"Don't do it, or even think it!
We read your mind, taking priorities and royalties,
For Russia - you block us when think about her!"
Labeling like "womanizer"? Recroute for Gelena?;

This is not a real poetry, just abbreviation of truth
That I tired say again in full - while Russia still lie,
Again and again, written by many Putinist's spies;
Spies-telepaths make it sound disconect, or rude,
They aren't "School girls.. ..on the corner" of mine;

Simce you know too much - maybe you were there,
As the pact "Prussia-Russia-Bechtel-Quin" evolved,
Thought Gelena and Viena participation wasn't clear
Till "Viena balet on ice" and "Sound of Music" shown
In USSR, and Gelena joined party of eating my brain.

Are you trying save me, Eugenio, from Putin's sting?
"Just a poet"? In movie "Pure Nastia" his copy kills,
Poet Lermontov - now he quotes poet's "patriotism",
While making nazi speaches - rephrazing Hitlerism.
Poet versus professional - rather leader versus spy:

Not unlike God versus devil, Christ versus antichrist
And "devil is in practical detail", Stalin was poet once,
Stopped by the conspiracies of Varaga-Prussia bust
Of "secret" tiranny, as Ekaterinians did to Petrovians,
As "boggy tribe" did to Rome and Reme - fist of rats.

Are you saying "Just a Spirit of the Law" to keep quiet
When "letter of the Law" usurped by tiranny is spying?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 07, 2012 18:43
Another interesting piece of news on Russia and "abroad": it appears that "Russian oil companies Rosneft and Lukoil are spearheading what looks like an acquisition spree of refining capacities in Western Europe". They are currently buying refineries in Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
Source: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=39102&tx_ttnews[backPid]=27&cHash=84d02f3ee05e2821707bed047c45002e
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
March 08, 2012 16:40
Yep, oil and gas for military bases. Just like in Crimea. Europeans only have themselves to blame for not diversifying their energy needs. Once these refineries change over to refining exclusively Urals-grade there will be no turning back. Energy hegemony?
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 09, 2012 11:39
A very good point, Anonymous! One could even go further along the line of argumentation you suggested ("Europeans only have themselves to blame") and ask: "If such European nations as Greece are continuosly put under the economic knife by the Germany for the next 3-4-5 years, will they stop just burning German flags on their streets and undertake some more decisive action to dissociate themselves from the EU which is just making them ever poorer and more desparate? And, if they do so, where will they turn for help next?"
VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLoafSrncVI&feature=BFa&list=UUpwvZwUam-URkxB7g4USKpg&lf=plcp
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
March 09, 2012 20:14
They will turn to China.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international-business/eurozone-delays-greek-bailout-as-china-pledges-support/articleshow/11898275.cms
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 09, 2012 21:23
Completely agree with you, Anonymous! That's what I also think will happen: something similar is already happening in Africa and Latin America (where the Chinese have been very engaged economically), and Greece and other Southern European states will surely follow suit. 5-10-15 years from now we will see the British bases departing from Cyprus and the Chinese establishing theirs on the same premises.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
March 11, 2012 04:25
LOL, I don't think the British will be leaving Cyprus any time soon. Chinese economic "engagement" will come with a political price.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17306228
http://www.economist.com/node/18586448

Just like the USA, China WILL be resented by many!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 11, 2012 10:30
Hey, Anonymous!
As far as the British presence in Cyprus is concerned, I think the coming Greek default will change a lot here: when Greece goes bankrupt, then Cyprus goes bankrupt too. And as we know from other cases of coutries going bankrupt (Russia in 1998, Argentina in 2001), this inevitably leads to a radical political change (Putin coming to power in Russia in 1999, Kirchner coming to power in Argentina in 2003) and significant shifts in foreign policies of the countries in question.
So, I can very easily imagine Greece leaving NATO and Cyprus kicking the British out after the respective defaults of these two countries. And then, you know, strategic vacuum never last for a long time - once someone leaves, someone else come to take his/her place.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 11, 2012 18:12
Anonimous go just as far as events happened and some more,
Suggesting recent precident, not as far as argument of Eugenio,
Which sound as many others from Russia, or relm of conspiring
With its British, German, Austrian and their nationals - or proxios,
That started again an imperial resurection - 1954-56 "Bechteling".

Eugenio boast for expanding Russia and integration of empires.
Anonimous presume bases for energy - not unlike would USA,
Like it isn't Russian Neanderthal-repopuilate Ukraine for Zcar,
Or just "hegemony", like it isn't lead by Russia colonial sway.

Eugenio picks on his "European to blaim", pushing Greece,
Accomplishing devide-Europe - by Germo-Austrio fleecing
And Russian energy squize, while brother Ortodox dance,
For Mother Russia, "golden fleece" of Argonavts splitting.

Anonimous respond, but too an irelevant " turn to China",
Anothyer do not like - Russia gets Greece and Visantina,
So he scare EU and the Quin, with China military bases.
Anonimous irelevant - "economic engagement for price".

He add "British will leave Cyprus". Forging iron, Eugenio,
While it's hot - Putin is power, Brits leave, leaving NATO,
Greece, brother Ortodox of Russia, must fill the vacuum.
Who if not Russia must move there - always expandium!

How West and Russia can even talk - first is a merchant,
While another is cannibal, expanding waistland and stand
Upon the breem of it, devouring recently desecrated lands
That Russia still eating, breeding behind hords of termites?
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 12, 2012 09:33
Hi, Konstantin! As always, you are making some interesting points and as always I just love your poetic style :-)).

by: Ben
March 08, 2012 14:18
Obama`s "reset" to Russia creates all the "Eurasian "wring hands.
One can understand Putin: "democratic nationalists" demand the Caucassus` freedom and the imperial idea`s rivival is the only answer of his style.

by: ulkenbay from: Houston
March 14, 2012 20:36
Here we go again, SOVIET EMPIRE is getting built again. The reason is economy... free oil, gas, timber, wheat, cotton, etc.
It started with customs union..it will continue until they will achieve what they want....cheap gas, oil can only flow via RF territory, wheat that will reduce price of bread to 20 kopeks again.,.Wewll, what can you say they are samrt...who cares about the populus...they live in 18 to 36 meter square buildings. and so on so on so on.
I almost forget they will talk about brotherly love, 70 years of history, common language a nd unity...what can we say to that?
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 15, 2012 08:13
You are saying: "hey will talk about brotherly love, 70 years of history". Why "70"? Different nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States have much older common history: some Central-Asian nations, for example, have been interacting with each other ever since the times when Alexander the Great of Macedonia "visited" the Uzbek city of Samarkand (4th century B.C.) and even before that, actually.

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