Eurasian Unions in Post-Soviet Zone

18.10.2018

Seven years ago, on October 18, 2011, eight republics of the former USSR - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - signed the Treaty on the Free Trade Zone (FTA) of the CIS.

At that time it was an important step. This can be proved by the fact that the preparation for the creation of the FTA took 17 years, and all this time the countries have been working in this direction. The first prototype agreement was signed in April 1994; at that stage, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia were still involved in the case.

Then amendments and additions to the treaty were adopted, which, however, all countries did not finally ratify. And finally, the heads of government of the republics, sharing between themselves 90% of the “pie” of mutual trade in the commonwealth, signed a final document allowing its participants to de facto export the absolute majority of goods without duties and quotas.

Competitor Associations

A year before the FTA, in July 2010, another union started operating in the CIS - the Customs Union (CU). At the first stage, only Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia entered it. Later, in 2014, Armenia joined the organization, and a year later - Kyrgyzstan. At present, Tunisia and Syria are also candidates for membership, and this point cannot be ignored: the cooperation within the CU has turned out to be interesting and relevant not only for the countries of the former USSR.

According to the main provisions of the CU, a single customs tariff has been applied to goods imported from third countries. The territories of the member states began to be considered a single market and customs space, where customs duties and many economic restrictions were abolished.

From the very first day of its existence, the FTA proved to be a direct competitor to the Customs Union. However, she really had a number of important advantages. In particular, on the territory of the FTA:

    there were no uniform requirements for products sold;
    there was no supranational regulation of re-export;
    No increase in import duties to third countries was applied.

We can say that the members of the FTA got almost all the main advantages of participation.

However, in economics, as in all other spheres, there are no pluses without minuses, and vice versa. It quickly became clear that effective resolution of disputes within the framework of the FTA is almost impossible, just because of the lack of clear regulation.

Why produce entities?

In subsequent years, the Commonwealth of Independent States decided to go along the path of rapprochement, closer integration and stricter regulation; as a result, in 2012, following the CU, it earned the format of the Common Economic Space (CES), and on January 1, 2015, the Eurasian Economic Union was created (the EAEU, not to be confused with the EurAsEC, the Eurasian Economic Community, which appeared in 2000 and included Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), where the obligations were even more serious, and the regulation of interaction - is stronger. It was the EEU that eventually became the main integrating structure in the post-Soviet space.

It's time to ask the question: why, in fact, all these associations were created, some of whose functions and powers frankly duplicate each other? Was it worth it, in the language of psychologists, to produce so many of the same type of entities?

Perhaps worth it. The fact is that behind each of these associations is Russia's attempt to build its zone of economic influence. Create a territory where the Russian economy would feel good, and at the same time help to become more successful and wealthy neighbors, who even now, 27 years after all of us have ceased to be a single state, are perceived as "non-alien." Every self-respecting strong power seeks to create its zones of influence. This is an indisputable fact. And Russia, in contrast to the same States, which in their attempts often resemble an elephant in a china shop, did this in the most diplomatic and friendly ways.

Too many friends ...

The FTA, CU, CES, EAEU were a very good attempt, more precisely, a whole series of attempts by Russia to convince their neighbors to live by the principles of the most mutually beneficial interaction. Moscow was especially anxious in this respect with Ukraine. The preservation and enhancement of economic ties between the Russian Federation and Belarus with Kiev was, in fact, the main political meaning of the FTA. Moreover, as economists have repeatedly noted, and even Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was outraged, Kiev and Minsk benefited from this, and for Moscow, the situation was more likely to result in costs.

Even creating the most favorable conditions for cooperation for friends and “brothers”, it is impossible to be sure that all these efforts will not be destroyed tomorrow and will not go to pieces.

The same Ukraine, without batting an eye, announced on May 23 of this year that it would withdraw from the CIS. The document was signed by Petro Poroshenko on the 19th, and on the same day the head of state announced the recall of representatives of the republic from the statutory bodies of the Commonwealth.

A few weeks before this, there was a “velvet revolution” in Armenia, which also called into question the prospects for the participation of this country in the CU and the EAEU. Of course, until new elections are held in the country, the new political course will not be settled down - the question will remain open.

The thought involuntarily arises: is it worth Russia to continue to go in this direction, supporting the “half-dead,” according to some political scientists and economists, associations?

Yes, Worth it, because without their own economic associations, Russia will have to live inside the global economy by alien rules.

But, probably it need to stop so hard taking care of all neighbors, and finally pay attention to its own interests.

In general, summing up: various associations within the CIS, as well as forms of cooperation with any other countries, can be useful. But work in these directions on the part of Russia should be built on the principle that the Byzantine philosopher Gregory Palamas long ago voiced: “May you not destroy your house, contributing to the house-building of your neighbor.”