Putin’s “Eurasian Union”: Geopolitical Repositioning

Özgür Tüfekçi*

On 24th of September 2011, during the United Russia congress in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ended all the speculations on his candidacy for the Presidency of Russia. Putin announced that he will run for president next March in presidential elections that could extend his rule until 2024. Vladimir Putin served as President of Russia from 2000 to 2008. And in 2008, Putin was forced to yield the presidency by the constitution as it is limited to two consecutive terms. But we all remember the agreement between Putin and Dmitry A. Medvedev. That agreement was revealed by Putin himself in a Moscow sports stadium in 2008:

“I want to say directly: (Medvedev and I) reached an agreement between ourselves long ago, several years ago, on what to do in the future, on who should do what.

But both I and Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev believe that this is far from being the most important thing — who will do what, who will sit in what place. What is far more important is something else: how we will all work, what results we achieve, and what the citizens of our country think of this.”[1]

When it comes to yield results, it can be said that that agreement is a success for now as Mr. Medvedev is keen to keep his promise to Putin. This likely replacement has been harshly criticised so far. Nevertheless, against all odds, it was an unsurprising announcement. What was really surprising is that Putin’s call for creating a “Eurasian Union”.
In a lengthy newspaper piece published on October 4 in the daily newspaper Izvestia, Putin said that he wants to bring CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) member states into a “Eurasian Union”. It seems that this Union will be one of the Putin’s key priorities during his presidency. In his paper, Putin calls this Union as a crucial integration project and it will be kicked off by the establishment of the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (CES) on the 1st January 2012.
While Putin is proposing this project, he takes the creation of European Union as an example. The roots of the European Union can be found in the European Coal and Steel Community. And, it took almost 40 years to form the present day European Union. That is what Putin points; first it is the Customs Union, and then will be the Common Economic Space, eventually the Eurasian Union.
This process has already started. In Putin’s words:

“On July 1, 2011 customs control over goods passing through the borders between our three states (Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus) was lifted. This completed the establishment of a fully developed common customs area with clear prospects for implementing highly ambitious business initiatives. Now we are about to move from the Customs Union to the Common Economic Space. We are creating a huge market that will encompass over 165 million consumers, with unified legislation and the free flow of capital, services and labour force.”[2]

Following this statement, many states, especially western, have been alarmed by the idea of “Eurasian Union”. The only state has straightforwardly embraced the idea is Kazakhstan. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was the first President who mentioned the concept of Eurasian Union in May 1994. Besides, Nazarbaev is known as a fervent supporter of Eurasianism. In this sense, it is safe to say that the Nazarbaev regime is the only one which endorses Eurasianism as the official state ideology.
While Putin is in power, international politics has several times witnessed the rapprochement of Putin and Dugin, who is a politologist and one of the most important ideologists of Neo-Eurasianism. In short, Dugin advocates that the Western civilisation has launched a new world order and in this order Russia is no longer a global player let alone a superpower. And that is the thing which humiliates Russia. The only way for Russia in order to save itself from this unwanted situation is to reposition its place in international politics with a Russian-led Eurasian Union.
In the light of this short information, it is well-known that Putin’s collaboration with Dugin and Eurasianism were aimed to intimidate the West in order to show that Russia still has a potential to become a rival. However, this last announcement has gone further than a threat. What it shows is that Putin will try to raise a new pole in the modern world. For now, he proposes that such a powerful supranational association will serve as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. Besides this point Putin promises that “The Eurasian Union will be based on the universal principles of integration as an essential part of Greater Europe united by shared values of freedom, democracy, and market laws.”
Hope, Putin will keep his promise. Nevertheless, it would be naïve to expect Russia to stay quietly as the super power, United States of America, is increasing its hegemony around the world. When we look at from Russia’s perspective, we will see that the world politics is getting tougher. In the east, China is rising as a multidimensional power. China has a strong global economy for the last two decades and is the world’s biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves. Besides, China is also a military power. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) consists of 2.3 million active Chinese troops. And the official military budget for 2009 was $70 billion. On the other hand, after the war in Afghanistan, the US has increased its dominance in the region. In the South West, Turkey is emerging as a middle power. In particular, during the recent Arab revolution Turkey has proved how it can be influential in the Middle East.

it is well-known that Putin’s collaboration with Dugin and Eurasianism were aimed to intimidate the West in order to show that Russia still has a potential to become a rival. 

Economically, Turkey is one of the most vibrant emerging economic powers with its 15th largest economy in the world, as well. In this big picture, launching new initiatives may be perceived as a strategic and economic step as long as Russia does not cause instability in the region for the rest of the world via those initiatives. PR
* Özgür Tüfekçi is the Chairman of Centre for Strategic Research & Analysis.
1. T. Grove and G. Bryanski, “Putin sets stage for return as Russian president” http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/24/us-russia-idUSTRE78N0RH20110924.
2. V. Putin, “Новый интеграционный проект для Евразии — будущее, которое рождается сегодня” (A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making), Izvestia, http://www.izvestia.ru/news/502761.

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