The Eurasian Illusion

The Myth of Russia’s Economic Union

President Vladimir Putin and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan at the Kremlin in December 2014. Maxim Shipenkov / Courtesy Reuters

On the first day of 2015, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia officially launched the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a trade bloc that Moscow hoped would one day bring the former Soviet nations back together. The initiative, however, appears to be a failure. The EEU is nothing more than an illusion—and an unconvincing one at that.

For two decades now, Russia has called for the integration of former Soviet states as equal partners, as in the European Union. Several unsuccessful early attempts toward that goal included the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), now a largely defunct conglomerate of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Russia launched a new attempt in 2010, when it finally managed to produce a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan and planted the seeds for the eventual creation of the EEU. From the start, Moscow has voiced its hope that the organization’s economic

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