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Customs Disunion

Putin's Plans for Regional Integration Go Boom

A commemorative coin from the series "The Gatherer of Russian Lands," which was minted in Russia to mark the recent accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, May 6, 2014. Andrei Romanov / Courtesy Reuters

On April 29, after months of anticipation, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Russia met in Minsk to put the finishing touches on the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), an ambitious plan to unite into a single economic entity. Observers from Washington to Moscow expected this meeting to be the last step before the official signing of the EEU treaty in May. But something went wrong.

Statements released just after the summit hinted at trouble. “If we are not ready to do it now,” Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, remarked, “we should openly admit it.” A few days later, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, noted that he was not in favor of “quick decision-making” about the union. In reality, both have acted increasingly wary of binding themselves too tightly to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regional agendas.

The diminishing commitment of former Soviet Union countries to regional integration is

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