European UNION Foreign Affairs Journal (Libertas Blog)
SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 HINTERLASSE EINEN KOMMENTAR
On the eve of the visit of NATO SG to Armenia
The Euro-Asian Union is an initiative proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that many perceive as an attempt to revive the Soviet Union - a communist country removed from the world map almost two decades ago. Perhaps that's in vain... Hardly a person once serving in Soviet KGB could have that much problems with adequate apprehension of the reality - to assume possible the recreation of the Soviet Union or any of its patterns whether in Europe or Asia. It can rather be expected from a KGB officer to use his public acts and steps as a veil for solving pragmatic tasks behind the scene, for achieving "program minimum" in course of stating about "program maximum".
Battle for Kazakhstan
Independently of the geographical latitudes where the Russian officials state about the Euro-Asian Union, despite the quantity of continents they unite in that virtual union - marking boundaries in air - the core idea and target of Euro-Asian Union is the preservation of Kazakhstan within the orbit of Russian influence.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, once nicknamed "the purple sultan", remarkably succeeded to lead his country to prosperity and increasing international engagement, turning Kazakhstan into a kind of powerhouse in the Central Asian region. Today one may witness the presence of Western capital and giant companies in Kazakhstan, the advancement of the Russian ground space station and cultural, scientific interrelations there, as well as the broadening influence of Far-Eastern giants' - with China's leading progression.
The Western presence in Kazakhstan hardly ever worried Russia much. That presence has little potential to go beyond the financial-economic sphere in the large - both by geographic and civilization affiliations. Kazakhstan lies far away from Europe. Meanwhile the increasing influence of China - involving at once financial-economic, political and migration dimensions - is obviously another opera.
If China's financial and economic advancement in Africa is sufficient to bother the European Union, then how much worried must get Russia in face of China's expansion in Central Asia - escorted with migration and political instruments. Such course may once end up with geographical enlargement of China - maybe reflecting in establishment of some kind of commonwealth of the Central Asian states.
The successive transference of Kazakhstan into the zone of China's influence is still the partial misfortune of Russia. The full misfortune is that Russia is a material empire without spiritual impetus and the peoples inhabiting the Russian Siberia - with their small and large autonomies - glance not only at Moscow. The Chinese influence in Kazakhstan sooner or later will have projection on Russian Siberia.
Life is what we think of it
At some point in future the NATO initiative of a defense shield "from Vancouver to Vladivostok" may factually turn into guarantee of Russia's territorial integrity. Still what is noticeable for the moment is the repetition of the story. Just alike to the first decade of the new millennium when Russia almost walked out of Europe and the advancing NATO established itself along the Russia's entire European border, a decade later Russia seemingly gets to depart from the Central Asia and the Far-Eastern giants will further expand their influence along the Russia's southern border.
Likewise a decade ago Mr. Putin succeeded to award the Russians an imitative sense of powerfulness, thanks to the Chechnya war and the permanent loss of influence in Europe passed relatively unnoticeable for the Russians, now the same scenario is under examination: the initiative of the Euro-Asian Union and the imitative developments around it will allow Russia to fight its interests in Central Asia and in case of failure at least to step back painlessly and imperceptibly for the Russian society. Mr. Putin obviously succeeds to neutralize the essence of events through their staged appearance.
Remarkably realizing the game, Kazakhstan herself erects the main obstacle and complexity on the way of formation of the Euro-Asian Union. President Nazarbayev declared with full clarity that the Euro-Asian Union is a format of economic cooperation only that can't and doesn't pursue a goal of political uniting. The formation created in sake of involving Kazakhstan hardly can disregard or oppose Kazakhstan's stance.
NATO Secretary General's visit instead of Euro-Asian Union developments
Kazakhstan's discord to political unification marks almost a fiasco to Russian aspirations of Euro-Asian political union. Here Russia hardly nourishes illusions; now she rather disseminates illusions to achieve some psychological pression and effect in the countries she'd like to get in that union.
Seemingly the last was the aim of Russian propaganda throughout July-August 2012 when primarily several high-ranking Russian political emissaries arrived to Armenia and made statements about the Euro-Asian Union, then on the eve of the Armenian President's visit to Russia scheduled on 8th August 2012, the Russian mass-media endlessly and persistently reported about Armenia's principal consent to join the Euro-Asian Union that had to be declared on the meeting of the Armenian and Russian Presidents.
Armenia doesn't possess a common border with any member of the Euro-Asian Customs Union (Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan), therefore Armenia's involvement into this customs club - claiming to transform into Euro-Asian Union - would de facto attach political appearance to economic formation, balancing at surface the Kazakhstan's "no" to the political union.
The visit of the Armenian President to Moscow planned for August 8, surely took place. The Kremlin and the Presidential Palace of Armenia issued press releases, even a joint press conference was held... still as it should be expected despite all the noise raised by mass media the Euro-Asian Union wasn't even mentioned. Furthermore it didn't become even clear what was the topic touched at the meeting of Presidents or not.
If the theme was discussed then obviously Armenia hadn't obeyed to summons and pressure of Russia to join the Euro-Asian Union, like in 2008 when Armenia dismissed the Russian demands to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the Russia-Georgian military confrontation. Then Armenia argued that she hasn't recognized even the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh - the Armenian enclave separated from Azerbaijan and declared independent some 20 years ago. Now Armenia argues that she doesn't possess any common border with any country of Euro-Asian Customs Union, intending to transform into Euro-Asian Union.
The arguments are interpretation of reality but they are rather reflection of will. Probably that will was demonstrated by Armenia and thanks to that the noise around Armenia's possible joining to Mr. Putin's Euro-Asian initiative calmed down. Moreover still in the beginning of summer there was announcement that Mr. Putin will pay an official visit to Armenia in September. But the September arrived with another news - the Secretary General of NATO is paying visit to Armenia on September 5-6 - some symbolism that speaks for itself.