The recent crisis in Ukraine cast a spotlight on the countries located between Russia and the EU, a region that has long existed on the radar of international politics. Even the name of the region remains unspecified; the term “post-Soviet” is too enclosed, and the notion of “Eastern Europe” lost its geographical coordination long ago. The new region-building endeavour taken by Russia through the Eurasian Integration Framework is an important development in this regard.
A Russian scholar, Nikolai Danilevsky (1822–85), introduced the word “Eurasia” in the 19th century as a vast, unique geographical space, separate from both Europe and Asia. The main objective of Russian geopolitics has been to advance the process of economic integration in the post-Soviet space from the Baltic Sea to the Yellow Sea. The Russian leadership was forced by economic conditions and the collapse of Soviet security infrastructure to reshape Eurasia’s geographic security. In addition, the dawn of the twenty-first century marked an era of regionalism across the globe with multidimensional interstate integration across cultural, economic, political, and security spheres.
The Eurasian Economic Integration Regime is a new attempt by Russia and other countries of the region to create an association by building common institutions and norms, not through contest. The EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union) is a young regional organization. In 2011, it established a customs union. In 2015, it commenced operations as an aspiring economic union. Member states, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia, established the EAEU based on a certain understanding of their long-term political and economic objectives. In this context, its main purpose is to help member states realise the potential of regional economic ties, modernise national economies, and create the conditions necessary to enter global markets. Establishing a single market for goods, services, capital, and labour is the main aim of Eurasian integration.
This Eurasian integration strategy failed to bring Russia any significant economic benefits, and there are no guarantees that such benefits will materialize in the future. However, for Moscow, Eurasian economic integration is primarily a political ambition. This means that Russia’s Eurasian policy must be understood in a much broader context than Eurasian integration itself. It supports Russia’s claims to world great power status, assures regional security, and opens up new avenues for extending its influence and control over post-Soviet territory.
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