The needle of the political barometer points “clearness” in the autumn for the Russian elite. Apparently, the Russian Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin most probably will become President again, and the current President Dmitry Medvedev will occupy the position of the present Prime-Minister. Almost at the same time with the established clearness in the Russian political higher spheres, a campaign has started to promote the political and economic project of the “Eurasian Union.” Not only the Russian leader V. Putin, but also the Presidents of Kazakhstan and Belarus expressed their ideas on formation of such a union.
V. Putin’s article, published in Izvestia newspaper, made it quite clear that coming back to presidency, the Russian national leader will substantially amend the course of his foreign policy. The aim of such amendments first of all will be the consistent defense of the national interests and refusal to follow the U.S. and EU policy.
It is absolutely obvious that we will witness the start of a new large-scale integration project in the post-Soviet space. At the same time we have to admit that two previous attempts were not realized as much as they had been announced. We mean the CIS and the project of the Commonwealth and then the Russia-Belarus “Union state.” As for the project, it is possible to say that it is not yet “calculated to the end.”
According to V. Putin’s ideas, presented in his article, the new integration initiative will be subjugated to the economic and defense interests and their basis will be the Customs Union (CU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of the CIS. Moscow supposes that:
– the implementation of the “Eurasian Union” project will minimize the possibilities of any alternative games, which might be played by its western and eastern geopolitical and economic opponents in the post-Soviet space,
– such a project will help creating an adequate military-political structure to be able to secure the zone of its responsibility first of all from the external challenges, particularly, in the southern direction (in the Central Asia and Caucasus.)
According to the articles of A. Lukashenko and N. Nazarbayev, the Belarus and Kazakhstan leaders are just trying to define the common rules of the game and have no intention to allow the countries, not wanting to follow such rules, to be accepted by the “Eurasian Union.” Lukashenko’s statement, that Tashkent ceased its participation in the integration projects after the suppression of the Islamist opposition, should be explained just by that.
Speaking about the “Eurasian Union,” it is also necessary to take into account the fact that the election campaign has already been launched in the Russian federation, and the statements about the new integration process are traditionally taken favorably by the Russian electorate.
During his state visit to Moscow in the last decade of October Armenian President Serj Sargsyan expressed the readiness to take part in the “Eurasian Union.” On the eve of his visit Prime-Minister Tigran Sargsyan signed the documents announcing that Armenia joins the Free Trade zone of the EvrAzEs countries. So apparently the official Yerevan displays its intention to participate in this integration process. However, it is necessary to take into consideration the following:
– unlike the countries of the CU, Armenia is a member of the WTO, which is a different trade-economic zone. However, with the upcoming accession of Russia to the WTO this issue will not be a problem;
– Armenia has no common border with any CU country, i.e. even if it becomes a CU member, then only as an original enclave;
– unlike the other countries, which have expressed the readiness to join the CU (e.g. Kyrgyzstan), Armenia is engaged into the Nagorno Karabakh conflict on the side of Stepanakert side and against Azerbaijan;
– there is a movement of “Eurasians” and even a Eurasian party (not taking part in the parliamentary elections) in Russia. This party is headed by the famous Russian expert of geopolitics A. Dugin. The problem is that a part of his doctrine supposes that the Eurasianhood is an alliance of Slavs and Turkic peoples. In the mid-1990s this formula was a little corrected, and the alliance was presented as a union of Orthodoxy and Islam. However, A. Dugin’s recent statements show that he is again more inclined to the initial formulation of the Slavic-Turkic alliance. Taking into account the influence of A. Dugin’s position in the Eurasian issues, we cannot rule out that this doctrine will be taken by the Russian leadership for action. If so, Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh will not fit the “Procrustean bed” of the ideological doctrine and may become pariahs, if it starts to be implemented in practice.
As for the “Eurasian Union,” if it is created as defense and economic union, then Armenia will have the reason to take part in this integration process, despite some of the above-mentioned problems.
Speaking about the Euro-integration vector, which first of all is accumulated for Armenia in the Eastern Partnership project, proposed by the EU, it undoubtedly opens some perspectives for Yerevan. The material component part of this project is not big at all, although some experts like speaking about it. The project embraces 5 more former Soviet republics besides Armenia with absolutely different models of governance and economy. For example, Moldova is a parliamentarian-presidential republic, regularly holding national elections, quite close to the European standards of democracy. Power has been changed three times as a result of national elections in the last 20 years in Ukraine. In Armenia and Georgia, there are classical hybrid regimes, but Tbilisi has been much more successful in the economic reforms and especially in the struggle against everyday corruption than many of its partners, taking part in this project. As for Belarus and Azerbaijan, they have absolutely authoritarian regimes, and the last one actually has the Что касается Беларуси и Азербайджана, то здесь полностью авторитарные режимы, при том, что в последнем фактически реализован проект наследного правления.
All the above-mentioned countries have quite serious problems in economy, state-governance, democracy and civil freedoms; and they suffer from corruption. The EU’s goal in this case is, on the one hand, to make all these countries getting closer to the EU standards, and on the other hand, to initiate the integration process where it is possible (the privileges and preferences in the trade regime, complete integration in the education, easing the visa regime, providing the rights for labor migration, etc.) Apparently, this process will last long, maybe covering the life of one generation (25 – 30 years). So the Eastern Partnership countries will get a chance to join the EU not soon at all, and it is unclear whether they will have such a chance some 25 years later or not. The important thing here is that the EU provides a minimal help to get to appropriate standards. Some will be able or have a desire to use such a chance, but the others will not. We think that Armenia should do its best to reach the appropriate standards of life, state governance, economy, struggle against corruption, democracy and civil freedoms, etc.
It is also obvious that the “Eastern Partnership” project is rival to the “Eurasian Union” project.
However, not taking part in the “Eastern Partnership,” Armenia dooms itself to isolation. That is why, making the decision, the official Yerevan should be guided by the ‘and – and,’ not by the ‘or – or’ principle. In addition, it is necessary to take into account the following remarkable fact: the EU is an important partner of Russia, and the latter is going to integrate with Brussels by some key parameters that are also mentioned in the “Eastern Partnership program.