What Ever Happened to Putin’s Dream of a Eurasian Union?

The World
How It Works
May 9 2014 2:04 PM

What Ever Happened to Putin’s Dream of a Eurasian Union?

488931497-russian-president-vladimir-putin-speaks-during-his
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol on May 9, 2014.

Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin traveled to Sevastopol today for a celebration of Russia’s annual Victory Day holiday as well as an affirmation of Russia’s now all-but-confirmed annexation of Crimea. “I think 2014 will also be an important year in the annals of Sevastopol and our whole country, as the year when people living here firmly decided to be together with Russia, and thus confirmed their faith in the historic memory of our forefathers,” Putin said in a speech broadcast throughout Russia.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Amid all the triumphalism, it’s easy to forget that reuniting Crimea with Russia was not Putin’s goal in the first place. Before President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine was overthrown in February, Russia’s major priority was the formation of Eurasian Economic Union, including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, meant to promote greater economic integration between the former Soviet states and counter European influence in the region.   

Advertisement

Ukraine’s participation was off the table after Yanukovych’s ouster and the events of the past two months have made it even more unlikely in the future. With Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko—a onetime staunch Russian ally whose personal relationship with Putin has appeared badly frayed for the last few years—openly voicing discomfort about Russian actions in Crimea, the rest of the planned union appeared unlikely as well.

Minsk and Moscow have evidently ironed out their differences, with Lukashenko announcing today, "We won't block signing of this agreement. We managed to resolve issues which worried us." The “issues” referred specifically to a long-standing dispute over oil duties. As Reuters notes, the alliance could turn out to be a costly one for Russia:

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov told Reuters in March that Belarus and Kazakhstan received about $6 billion annually from Russia in direct and indirect support and said that could increase by $30 billion if all trade restrictions were lifted in 2015 after the union is created.

Ukraine was always the linchpin in the Eurasian Union plan. Aside from the symbolic value of reuniting two countries with a huge amount of shared history in some form of strong political alliance, there’s the sheer size of it. Ukraine has a larger population than Kazakhstan and Belarus combined. (Though energy-rich Kazakhstan has a larger economy.)

I was clearly a bit too skeptical back in February about Putin’s ability to transform the Ukraine crisis to his advantage, but it’s still the case that while today’s parades in Russian-controlled Crimea aren’t a bad consolation prize, the grand Eurasian alliance the president was aiming for isn’t materializing the way he hoped it would  

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.