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Protests cloud Putin’s Eurasian ambitions

world Updated: Dec 19, 2011 00:29 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

The domestic problems of Vladimir Putin also put into question his ambitious “Eurasian Union”, a foreign policy strategy which seeks to see Russia assert economic and political influence among key ex-Soviet Republics.

India also sees an opportunity for its own relations in this region if the Eurasian Union comes to fruition.

The heart of the plan, says Ivan Sofranchuk, deputy director of the Institute for Contemporary International Studies, Russian Diplomatic Academy, is the creation of a common economic space built around an exisgting customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

The Eurasian Union would also open up labour movement and possibly harmonize taxes and other economic regulations among its members.

But Putin’s great ambition is that this union would eventually rope in Ukraine, the second-largest Soviet republic and one which Russians see as closest in cultural and historical terms to themselves. “Ukraine has yet to say it will join such a union,” says Sofranchuk. “But with 40 million people and its location it would add greatly in terms of membership value.”

Putin had planned to make this union the cornerstone of his foreign policy after he became prime minister once again, said Fyodar Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs.

Until the protests against the recent parliamnetary elections in Russia, Putin had reason to be optimistic.

Russia had seen relative economic and political stability the past few years, making it an attractive partner to a bankrupt Belarus and an already economically close Kazakhstan.

Indian officials say that if a Eurasian Union comes through, Indian goods and services would be able to use their near-completed free trade agreement with Russia to access all these countries as well.