Vladimir Isachenkov reports for the AP that on Dec. 23, 2014, Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations — Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan — completed the creation of a new economic alliance, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The EEU will begin on January 1, 2015. In addition to free trade, the new union will coordinate the members’ financial systems and regulate their industrial and agricultural policies along with labor markets and transportation networks.
Russia had tried to encourage Ukraine to join, but its former pro-Moscow president was ousted in February following months of protests. Russia then annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimean Peninsula, and a pro-Russia mutiny has engulfed eastern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the new union will have a combined economic output of $4.5 trillion and bring together 170 million people: “The Eurasian integration is based on mutual benefit and taking into account mutual interests.”
The EEU will create a single economic market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars (PPP). The union will operate through supranational institutions — the Eurasian Commission (the executive body), the Court of the EEU (the judicial body). the Eurasian Development Bank — and intergovernmental institutions. National governments are usually represented by the Eurasian Commission’s Council. The union’s member states account for about 15% of the world’s land mass, covering over 20 million square kilometers. (Wikipedia)
But the new economic alliance immediately showed signs of fracture as Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko launched a harsh attack on Moscow for damaging Belarus’ economic interests with moves to restrict its exports to Russia.
Belarus, sandwiched between Russia and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, has profited handsomely from Moscow’s ban on imports of EU food in retaliation against Western sanctions against Russia by boosting imports of food from the EU nations and reselling it to Russia.
The Russian authorities have retaliated by halting imports of Belarus’ own milk and meat, citing alleged sanitary reasons, and banning transit of Belarusian food bound for Kazakhstan through its territory on suspicion that much of it ended up in Russia.
“In violation of all international norms, we have faced a ban on transit,” Lukashenko said. “It was done in a unilateral way and without any consultations.”
See also Radio Free Europe’s assessment of the EEU. Click here.