EURASIAN INTEGRATION: PROBLEMS AND DEVELOPMENT SCENARIOS
Sergey Zhiltsov, D.Sc. (Political Science), Professor at the Department of Political Science, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) (Moscow, Russian Federation)
Almost immediately after the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991, the newly independent states encountered the problem of establishing economic relations in the new geopolitical conditions. In so doing, some of the states in the post-Soviet space—Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova—did not support the initiative to create integration unions, being in favor of weakening economic relations with Russia and reorienting their foreign economic ties toward the European countries and the U.S. Another group of countries—Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and several other Central Asian states—advocated economic integration, seeing in it an opportunity to retain their industry and implement industrialization plans. The need for economic interaction was determined by tasks to maintain the industrial potential that was created during the Soviet Union and the need to resolve current socioeconomic problems. Adherence to one or the other of these two positions determined the difference or, often, the diametrical opposition in the approaches of the countries of the post-Soviet space to economic integration, as well as in the evaluation of the prospects for their future relations.
Over 25 years, the countries of the post-Soviet space have repeatedly tried to implement integration projects. Not all of them proved successful due to the difference in approaches to establishing cooperation and the unwillingness to relinquish some of their national sovereignty to supranational structures.
Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, which, given the special features of their domestic political development and need to preserve the economic potential they had, showed the greatest interest in cooperating within the post-Soviet space and have comprised the nucleus of the integration organizations over the last 20 years.
In the past five years, one of the most promising integration projects has been the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), to which Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan belong. Formation of the EEU was preceded by projects to create a Customs Union and a Common Economic Space aimed at augmenting cooperation and maintaining industrial potential.
Creation of the EEU was possible due to the growing interest of several of the post-Soviet countries in intensifying multilateral cooperation. Furthermore, the far-from-easy situation in industry and the limited opportunities for establishing and developing equal trade and economic relations with Western countries have been forcing the post-Soviet states to turn toward their neighbors. Domestic political and foreign political factors, primarily the policy of non-regional states, have been providing an additional impetus to develop integration interaction.
This article examines the results of the activity of the Eurasian Economic Union, analyzes the factors that interfere with greater cooperation among the EEU member states, and forecasts the possible paths of development of this integration union.
Keywords: Eurasian integration, Eurasian Economic Union, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia.