Five years ago to the day, on May 29, 2014 the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia gathered in Astana (Kazakhstan) to sign an agreement to establish the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and today its member states are summing up the association's five-year history.
The main question asked by these countries' journalists is as follows: what contributed to the survival of the Union and its strength in such a complex geopolitical situation like the present-day one associated with the aggravation of the global standoff between the leading world powers and the West's hybrid war against Russia? The answer is rather simple: the main factor in developing and strengthening Eurasian integration is certainly the economic and other benefit derived by all the EAEU member states thanks to their unity.
Here I will abstain from appealing to statistics revealing that economic cooperation between the five member states of the EAEU is substantially beneficial to each of the Union's countries. I will only make a point: if it were not for the open borders between the member states of the Union and if it were not for the desire of the government and business community of these countries to integrate, the economies of most of the new states of Northern Eurasia would face immense problems. Belarus and Armenia would not have a market (represented primarily by Russia) open for the sale of goods produced by these countries' farmers; Kyrgyzstan would probably face a huge rate of unemployment and, consequently, a new wave of political instability; and Kazakhstan would clearly experience a shortage of qualified personnel to successfully adopt industrialization policy in this country. Much less the cooperation of these countries in the field of energy (principally as regards the import and transit of Russian gas), which has become a vital factor in economic growth for each of the post-Soviet states.
These days, the positive results of the Eurasian economic integration are being discussed from many different rostrums, and your present correspondent, wishing not to repeat himself, intends to call attention to one important aspect of this integration related to the context of key world events in the recent years. Among other things, the advantage of accepting a number of CIS countries to the single economic union is particularly evident against the background of the winds that started blowing in Ukraine the same five years ago.
Five years that passed since the pro-western Maidan coup in Kiev, confirmed the viciousness of the new Ukrainian government's European integration policy. Kiev's signing of an association treaty with the European Union immediately after the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych (namely the reluctance of the latter to sign an association agreement with the EU appeared as a formal reason for a coup in this country) brought neither economic prosperity, nor sovereignty, nor socio-cultural development, nor peace to Ukraine. Quite the opposite: Kiev's policy of "pro-European reforms" resulted in an ordinary divestiture of national assets and the rupture of economic and other ties between Ukraine and Russia. Provoked by anti-Russian prejudices, the anti-terrorist operation against the residents of Donbass, who do not agree with the nationalist policy of the new Ukrainian authorities, turned into a blow to Ukraine's own gas transportation system, the dependence on the IMF (the present-day external debt of this country exceeds 75 billion), the escape of nearly a quarter of the working-age population abroad, an almost complete destruction of knowledge-intensive industries and, ultimately, the loss of coveted independence.
In turn, over the past five years – while Ukraine was falling into the abyss of socio-economic devastation – neither of the EAEU member states altered their convictions as regards the principles enshrined in the treaty to establish the Eurasian Economic Union, even despite the political provocations by the US State Department against Russia and the introduction of anti-Russian economic sanctions (which could not but hurt the EAEU countries). Moreover, over the five years of integration each of the Union's member states has acquired dozens of bilateral and multilateral treaties, numerous investments and other projects with partners in the EAEU, SCO and CIS, as well as strengthened its political and economic sovereignty.
In fact, the leaders of every Eurasian integration member state jumped to the conclusion that strengthening economic ties among the post-Soviet states is a time proved genuine concern and an urgent need.
Today, even the Baltic States that have swallowed a lot of European dust and seem to be tired of anti-Russian sentiments, are eager to develop economic relations with Russia and the EAEU (as the recent initiative visit of the President of Estonia to Russia demonstrated). As for me personally, I have no doubt that Kiev will eventually turn in the direction of Eurasianism as well – otherwise, Ukraine will face a protracted economic crisis, if not a final and conclusive one.
The European Union which tried to improve the state of its affairs by means of transformation challenges of the post-Soviet space and the countries of Eastern Europe and to include – using the blitzkrieg method – as many states of the Western Eurasia as possible into its sphere of influence, obviously took it too far with the expansion to the East and apparently lost control of its own ambitions. In the end, the world is currently witnessing the agony of Brexit, separatist trends in the different areas of the European Union, as well as increasingly frequent demarches on the part of the authorities of Hungary, Italy, Austria and some other countries in response to Brussels' irrational decisions.
An entirely different situation can be observed in the Eurasian Economic Union, which does not need to expand in any part of the world to increase the quality of integration projects and gradually transform into a free trade zone (FTZ), attractive both to the EAEU member states and to a dozen of largest Eurasian countries as well. Consequently, the official estimates of EAEU development results in each of the Union's countries are consistently positive.
The integration project of the leading post-Soviet countries has been obviously implemented, the economic and other benefits from the unification of the five States in the FTA (which is EAEU's economic essence) has become obvious, and the general outlook is bright. The trade turnover between the Union's member states is growing, cooperation among them has been restored in many sectors, the number of joint business projects and the capacity of cross-border cooperation is growing. Set while creating the Union, the tasks associated with ensuring the free movement of goods, services, labor and capital have been largely solved.
Yes, there are certain problems between separate members of the Union and in their bilateral relations, with protracted disputes and even conflicts happening from time to time, but none of the countries who signed the treaty to enter the EAEU casts doubts on the importance and relevance of such an integration format. Even in Armenia, where the pro-Western sentiments have sharply increased after the "velvet revolution" a year ago, the new leadership has not grown cold to the EAEU, and is even trying to stay in its orbit, considering its participation in the Union as one of the most important factors of the republic's economic development.