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The presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan at the Eurasian Economic Union summit, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2014 (AP photo by Maxim Shipenkov).

Putin’s Eurasian Union Doomed to Irrelevance by China’s Silk Road

Monday, Oct. 5, 2015

Earlier this week, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched on a topic that was easily overlooked amid his claims about Ukrainian and Syrian sovereignty. “Contrary to the policy of exclusiveness, Russia proposes harmonizing original economic projects,” Putin intoned, citing “plans to interconnect the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and China’s initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt.” Putin promptly turned to other topics, letting any further details about linking the troubled Kremlin-backed EEU—made up of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia—with one of the two principal components of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” strategy for new trade and transportation networks across Eurasia.

The merger, originally proposed in May, stands as a last-gasp effort at relevance for the EEU. For Moscow, avoiding further discussion of how it will work in practice may be the best current tack. Should observers delve further into the details of this putative integration, it would quickly become clear that the move is far from a merger of two equitable partners, or another step in a burgeoning Sino-Russian axis. Rather, linking these two massive economic regional projects, if and when it actually happens, further highlights both the EEU’s futility and China’s pre-eminence within Central Asia. Instead of a parlayed partnership between Moscow and Beijing, the proposed union will be more evidence of China’s economic primacy over a reeling Russia. ...

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