The EEU: The Economically Egocentric Union?
This opinion piece originally appeared in New Eastern Europe.
There is a Russian saying Не бей дубьем, бей рублем (ne bej dub'em, bej rublem), which means that if one wishes to bring harm to an opponent, the most effective way to do it is to apply economic, not physical, measures. Russia, despite the recent quasi-military intervention in the Ukrainian Crimea, seems to instinctively understand the gist of this phrase.
Moscow’s aspiration to reintegrate the post-Soviet area has led to the creation of various organisations and models of cooperation over the past 20 years. It is, however, the latest project of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that has gained considerable political momentum.
The EEU treaty between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia is to be signed next month and launched in January 2015. It will be based on the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, which were established amid these countries in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declares that this project is not an attempt to revive the USSR. But it is specifically designed to counterbalance the European Union and the Eastern Partnership program in particular. The EEU serves the geopolitical ambitions of Moscow to once more unite its former satellites under one – if not territorial then economic – banner. Both Belarus and Kazakhstan seem to be responding to this initiative out of political fear, not genuine interest. The same situation is with the bloc’s future members. The partner-oriented union is a fiction in which only Russia believes.