2013-11-02 As we have written elsewhere, the Russians are recovering their place in global affairs.
Clearly, when one looks back on 2008, the actions against Georgia were the beginning of a more assertive Russian policy.
A line in the sand was placed on NATO expansion, and neither the United States nor Europe have really crossed that line since then.
With the return of Putin to the Presidency, the centrality of energy policy has been reaffirmed and with it Russian Arctic policy.
Unlike the United States as a reluctant Arctic power, the Russians have figured out that the Arctic is a centerpiece of their 21st century strategy.
And also have figured out that energy flows from the Middle East and the Arctic are two parts of a global picture…..
The “return” of Russia (rather than the reset) has been evident in the Middle East as well. The Russians are seeking ways in the Euro crisis cracks to expand influence, and the Syrian crisis has provided a very significant opportunity to return center stage.
The Russians have been a key patron of the Assad regime, but in spite of this, Putin has now positioned himself as an arbiter of the outcome of the Syrian crisis. This is rather a slick move.
Now in a recent French report from the French firm CEIS, Emmanuel Dreyfus looks at the prospects for the evolution of integration in the post-Soviet geopolitical space or a look at the operation and success of a customs union within that space.
The report documents the rocky beginning of such a customs union in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the weight of Russia in the region remains an important magnet for growth and given its centrality with regard to energy and other commodities Russia is a key economic player in the region.
There are clear limits to any customs union built around Russia. Although there is clear interest in Minsk and Astana with regard to some aspects of economic integration, there is little enthusiasm for turning this into monetary or political union. History is strong here and is a clear barrier to integration.
Nonetheless, the customs union formed by Russia, Belarus and Kazkhakstan has been the most successful experience of integration inn the post-Soviet geopolitical space.
The author concludes that trade has been augmented among the members of the customs union by having the customs union. And there may be some attraction to associate with this customs union and expand it into a Eurasian Economic Union or EEU. Clearly, the Russians are trying to use the European Union example as a template in part for organizing those states which will not be part of the EU from the former Soviet Union.
But the challenge of so doing remains formidable.
The author concludes that if Russia can expand its economic role globally, then being more closely associated with the Russian economy could well prove desirable to several post-Soviet states.
If Russia manages to become as it was at other times for a part of the world a real economic model with associated social, political and cultural dynamics , then it could become a new major hub of international relations.
For the report readable via a flip book see below: