Ever Closer Union (East)

by Andrew Stuttaford

In a post yesterday, I linked to an article by Andreas Umland in The Globalist in which he discussed the longer-term ambition behind Putin’s insistence on drawing Ukraine into a customs union:

[The Moscow-led Customs Union] is one of the Kremlin’s various instruments to secure Putin’s authoritarian regime via the re-building of a new empire that covers a specifically “Eurasian” civilization – a unique pan-national culture between Asia and Europe. The Customs Union is to be followed, in 2015, by the even more integrated Eurasian Union.

The Customs Union effort is now the core of the Kremlin-promoted national dream about rebirthing Greater Russia as a self-sustaining pole in international politics. That project is designed to function as an effectual distraction of the Russian population from the many domestic failings of Putin’s regime.

In a piece in Vestnik Kavkaza, Alexander Gusev of the Russian Academy of Sciences explores this idea (if not the calculation behind it) further:

It’s premature to talk about the Eurasian Union, for on January 1, 2015 we will sign an agreement on the Eurasian Economic Community, which will be a step towards the creation of a full-scale Eurasian Union. This process will take quite a long time….

There have been two approaches: political and economic, and as a result of negotiations and agreements between the authorities of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the countries’ leaders came to the conclusion that, first of all, an economic community should be created. Later on, it will grow into a political union to become a full-scale Eurasian Union.

We consider the Customs Union to be our second platform on the way to the Eurasian Union, for Armenia is joining it, and maybe, Ukraine as well. The second platform will gradually transform to a third one, referred to as the Eurasian Economic Community, and finally, the fourth platform is the Eurasian Union. What I’m talking about is a gradual movement from economics towards politics, and forming a serious global player. The Eurasian Union, just like the European Union, is to unite over 250 million people from different countries.

This model — of ever closer union — is, if only nominally, borrowed from that of the EU with the twist that one country, Russia, rather than a supranational bureaucracy, would be driving it forward and on a basis owing more to the ideology of a 19th century great power than that of the post-national 21st century EU.  The implications for the sovereignty of the ‘smaller’ nations that have signed up, or will sign up, for it would be catastrophic and the consequences for the democratic development of a Russia once again assuming an imperial role would be no better. 

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