Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Things fall apart

Part of what is motivating Vladamir Putin in his handling of the crisis in Ukraine is his Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) project. Had Ukraine had agreed to join (as Russia was hoping ex-Ukrainian President  Yanukovych would do before he fled the country and was removed from power), it would have been a big boost to the project. If Ukraine ended up with a government seeking EU membership instead, the EEU's ability to be a real counter-balance to the EU would remain in doubt.

Two other countries other than Russia have already agreed to join the EEU, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Both are already members of the custom's union that is the precursor organization to the Eurasian Union. Yesterday, the heads of state of Belarus and Kazakhstan met with Putin to set a date to sign the EEU treaty. It did not go well. No date was set for the signing. It is not clear to me that the EEU will ever get off the ground. At the last customs union summit in October, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan complained that the custom's union was designed to favor Russian interests. Those concerns seem to be carrying over into the negotiations over the EEU treaty.

The Ukraine crisis has managed to get some American news sources to pay some attention to the EEU. But the weird thing is that yesterday's setback for Putin seems to have gotten zero coverage in these parts outside of web sites that focus on Central Asia. American media is more focused on whether Putin is "winning: because he bears his chest while riding a horse.