SOURCE: National Interest
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Nikolas K. Gvosdev: The New Russian Empire
Nikolas K. Gvosdev, a senior editor at The National Interest, is a professor of national-security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are entirely his own.
In his last major address as Russia's prime minister before retaking the presidency, Vladimir Putin outlined "five priorities" for his third presidential term. His fifth task is to boost cooperation across the Eurasian space, enhancing Russia's global position by having it lead a new effort towards integrating the states of the former Soviet Union. Speaking before the Duma last Wednesday, Putin said, "Creation of a common economic space is the most important event in post-Soviet space since the collapse of the Soviet Union."
Russia is already in a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, and it has long sought to bring Ukraine into the common economic space. Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization may help to remove some of the barriers that impeded Ukraine's participation. In addition, at the recent summit meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community in Moscow, the countries that make up the customs union, as well as the other Central Asian states that are members, committed to completing work on a proposed Eurasian Union treaty by 2015.
Throughout his time as president and prime minister, Putin has had a clear "Eurasian vision," seeing Russia as the metropolitan center of the region. With the eastward expansion of Euro-Atlantic institutions sputtering to a close, and with China still primarily focused on South and East Asia, Moscow feels it has the window to begin consolidating a new Eurasia. Rather than have the territory of the former Soviet Union effectively "partitioned" into European and Asian "spheres of influence," Russia instead can reemerge as a leading global power by creating a new bloc of states that will balance the European Union in the West and a Chinese-led Asia in the East.
These aspirations, however, have always caused concern. Is Putin, who famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical catastrophe, trying to put the USSR back together again?..
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