News / Europe

    Putin Kicks Off Eurasian Union, Without Ukraine

    From left: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko before meeting of Eurasian Economic Union, Astana, Kazakhstan, May 29, 2014.
    From left: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko before meeting of Eurasian Economic Union, Astana, Kazakhstan, May 29, 2014.
    James Brooke
    Moscow increasingly speaks of Russia’s “sphere of influence." And, on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin took a major step in securing that position by creating a shared market of former Soviet states to help integrate economic policy.

    Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed an agreement establishing the Eurasian Economic Union at a meeting in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.
     
    With Armenia and Kyrgyzstan set to join by the end of this year, the union is to link five of the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union. Some call this Moscow-centered group “Soviet Lite.”

    But as a sea of black business suits filled the 3,000-seat Palace of Independence in Astana, Moscow’s big prize was absent: Ukraine.
    Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus mapRussia, Kazakhstan, Belarus map
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    Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus map
    Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus map
     

    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko broke protocol, and bluntly lamented that Ukraine had “dropped out.”
     
    "Sooner or later," he said, "I'm sure one day the leaders of Ukraine will understand where the country's happiness lies.”
     
    Russian President Vladimir Putin was more diplomatic. For the last year, he has worked - overtly and covertly  - to bring Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence.
     
    “The transfer of certain powers to national bodies of the (Eurasian Economic) Union brings absolutely no harm to the sovereignty of our states,” said Putin.
     
    Ukraine has 46 million people -10 million more than the combined populations of Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

    Putin to keep eye on Ukraine
     
    New York University Russia expert Mark Galeotti said that Putin remains determined to orient Kyiv toward Moscow.
     
    “I would be surprised if Putin was willing to accept Ukraine not being part of the Eurasian Economic Customs Union, for the simple reason that, without Ukraine, that union looks increasingly threadbare. It is little more than a series of bilateral relationships with Russia. Ukraine in this respect is crucial, and this explains quite why the Russians have been so bloody minded in their dealings with this,” Galeotti said.
     
    In short, Russia’s president wants Kyiv to look to Moscow, not to Brussels.
     
    But in Kyiv on Thursday, Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Petro Poroshenko, said he plans to sign an economic association pact with the European Union by mid-June.
     
    Georgia and Moldova are to sign similar pacts on June 27. The three former Soviet Baltic republics - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia -  already are full-fledged EU members.
     
    For the last six months, Ukraine’s protest movement has demanded that Ukraine take the path toward Europe. This popular revolt forced Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, to flee Ukraine in February.

    Did Russia already lose Ukraine?

    In Moscow, Carnegie analyst Masha Lipman says that Putin’s crusade to force - or cajole - Ukraine into the Eurasian Union is a lost cause.
     
    “To bring Ukraine to the Eurasian Union, this is something in the past. If Ukraine ever joins the Eurasian Union, it will take a political crisis in Ukraine, and a reorientation from the West towards Russia,” said Lipman.
     
    By the end of this year, the former Soviet Union will have new fault lines.
     
    Five republics will be in Putin’s Eurasian Union. Six will be affiliated with the European Union. And four will not be tied to either bloc.
     
    Lipman says Moscow has a geostrategic plan.
     
    “With such membership, the Eurasian Union looks small, and not impressive. But apparently President Putin is looking at taking advantage of a change of the global system, of the U.S. gradually losing its position of sole superpower, the rise of China, and maybe this Eurasian Union is part of something bigger.”

    No foregone conclusions on Eurasian Union

    But just as pro-Russia secessionists fight Kyiv on Ukraine’s eastern edge, not everyone is happy with their new affiliation. Armenia has seen demonstrations against joining the Eurasian Union.
     
    And on Thursday in Kazakhstan, police in Astana detained dozens of protesters. They wore surgical masks and held up posters saying: "Protect Yourself from Russia's Imperial Virus!"
     
    But, in Russia, big power projection is increasingly popular.
     
    On Thursday, Russia’s state-run VTsIOM polling center released data indicating that 82 percent of respondents thought that Russia now wields “big influence” in world affairs - almost a 50 percent jump from six years ago.
     
    Pollsters asked 1,600 people across Russia: Should Russia regain the superpower status of the Soviet Union?
     
    Forty-two percent answered yes.
     
    The Eurasian Economic Union of today could become a geopolitical one tomorrow.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Nashingun from: Timbuktu
    May 31, 2014 1:46 AM
    This is a funny three stoogies economic alliance! lol So should we be alarmed and tremble in awe? lol I'm not even gonna think we need to worry what currency this Union's gonna used but they can technically start with the old soviet currency! lol

    by: Frank Capra from: Ekaterinburg RU
    May 30, 2014 5:56 PM
    President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko look about as comfortable standing next to Adolf V Putin as would a cheap New Orleans Hooker standing in the front row pew for Sunday services. Your part of my union. Or else! Adolf's saying. Heil Putin!

    by: Igor from: Seattle
    May 30, 2014 12:45 PM
    Sooner or later Ukraine will be in this union cause Putin wants to regain the superpower status of the Soviet Union where Ukraine will have their important role in economic, geopolitical sense. By the way in historical sense the eastern Ukraine essentially is a part of the Russia and Russia will never give up to lose this part of land. In other way if Russia will see they will lose the Ukraine as a member of this Eurasian union they will try to take at least eastern part of the Ukraine.
    In Response

    by: Blah from: New York
    May 30, 2014 11:38 PM
    Blah. Igor. You are not even count Ihor, my friend. Keep dreaming your imperial dream, but awakening will be horrible.

    by: Anonymous
    May 30, 2014 12:21 PM
    Who is going to be the next brave slave to dare to break free from the KGB's grip of death?

    by: Natalia Bubnova from: Moscow
    May 30, 2014 6:52 AM
    "For the last six months, Ukraine’s protest movement has demanded that Ukraine take the path toward Europe"? Actually, for the last three months, the bulk of the protest movement in Ukraine has been in favor of the federalizion of the country, taking into account the position of the South and East of Ukraine, and retaining Russian as the second official language. Kiev and the West alike have called these people "separatists" or "pro-Russian militants," yet their main slogan was "federalization," not "separation."

    Separatist trend grew with the increased violence on behalf of Kiev. Their main goal was to be heard, to take part in the decisions concerning their country. It is against these protesters that the military action is taking place now. The Russian state-run media indeed has been covering these events from a one-sided position, though there are many alternative news sources in Russia. Yet the western media also takes a biased stance - not showing the shelling of cities and the victims among the unarmed civilians in the East of Ukraine, including women and children.

    by: Syakoyna from: XXX
    May 30, 2014 4:39 AM
    How accurate is pooling system in Russia when the media is owned by their government and control by them...LOL so funny....
    In Response

    by: Stephano Ugarte from: Michigan
    May 30, 2014 10:33 AM
    The US media is corrupt as hell. You are too stupid to see it.
    The media picks your politicians for you. Joos control the US media. It's all about the Zionist Neocon agenda. Never in the best interest of the American people.

    by: Vovan from: Central Ukraine
    May 30, 2014 3:27 AM
    Main geopolitical trend of the West is one - to help Ukraine. Ukraine three centuries dreamed to break from the "cuddles" of Russia. Helping Ukraine, the West will be on the light side of history. Russia does not release Ukraine mainly because Russia stole history at Ukraine. Russia pretended, that Ukrainian history - it is her, of Russia, history.
    Fear to be disrobed in the myths - here reason for Russia to torment Ukraine!
    Russia outlays the milliards of dollars on propaganda to slander Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

    by: Ernani D. Medenilla
    May 30, 2014 2:45 AM
    Sounds so pathetic Putin trying to play king of the world. This union will be dissolve in no time. Carnival of clowns. This union has happened before in Soviet times, will never work now.
    In Response

    by: Ernani Medenilla
    May 31, 2014 9:57 AM
    Addis Ababa,
    Being impartial? Kindly listen to yourself of how your Russian mentality tries to twist things around. How could you say NATO meddling with other country's affairs when in this crisis it was Russia annexing Crimea as it manipulated Ukraine politics for more than 5 years? It is obvious how ousted president Viktor Yanukovych run to hide in Moscow a puppet of Putin carrying most of Ukraine's $32 billion money? Yet you accuse NATO of meddling with other country's affairs? Russia has no business inside Ukraine! NATO is just supporting its own members like Poland calling for troop deployment incase Russia felt to stage same pro-Russian armed separatists movements in its borders! You have the audacity to twist things around when obviously Russia is the culprit here. All Russian speaking Ukrainians aren't Russian citizens. Anyone who does must leave Ukraine. Ukraine land is for Ukrainians, all Russian citizens does not have any right being there.
    In Response

    by: Alemu from: Addis Ababa
    May 30, 2014 8:23 AM
    Medenlla! Be impartial on your opinion as this is an open media. Why NATO meddle over other countries affairs? why is America all of the bother for Nato, a War Organization? Because NATO & US provocked Russia, I think it is rational for Russia to look for its allies.

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