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Who is afraid of the Eurasian Union?
by Edward Lozansky
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Jul 12, 2013

The Zollverein certainly did not isolate Germany from the booming global economy. Instead, it allowed all parts of Germany to participate in it economy on far more advantageous terms. The Eurasian Union holds out the same prospects not just for Russia but also of Belarus and Kazakhstan and other states that might join it in the future.

Speaking recently to the press, New York Senator Chuck Schumer blasted Russia for allowing Edward Snowden to land in Moscow. "The bottom line is very simple: allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States," bitterly observed Schumer.

Allies? Treating each other decently? This is a breaking news but since when US and Russia became allies? We certainly wish they were and there was indeed a very short window of opportunity for this to happen after the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union about 22 years ago.

However, the United States and Europe did not seize this historic chance and instead of doing a serious effort for making Russia a real and powerful ally by integrating it into major western political, economic, and security structures did just the opposite by unceremoniously rebuffing all Russia's attempts to achieve this goal.

The most tragic mistake, in the words of the late and one of the most outstanding US diplomats George Kennan, was the NATO expansion which actually started during Yeltsin's reign, the times which ironically many in the West now describe as the brief period of real democracy in Russia.

''I think it is the beginning of a new cold war, the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way," said Kennan to New York Times in 1998.

Many other mistakes followed like unilateral ABM treaty cancellation, direct support of color revolutions on post-Soviet space, calling Russia the aggressor in the 2008 war when it was Georgia who started it, adopting absolutely senseless and harmful Magnitsky Act, and many others.

U.S. President Barack Obama through his policy of "resetting" relations with Russia was trying to correct some of the past mistakes but Hillary Clinton in her last days as the Secretary of State effectively disavowed all the achievements of Obama's first term by bluntly describing Russian President Vladimir Putin's idea of Eurasian Union as a move to resurrect the Soviet Union and adding that the United States will "figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it."

Doesn't sound like she was talking to an ally, does it? Therefore, all of us who have actually been trying to promote U.S. - Russia alliance had a great sigh of relief with the news of John Kerry replacing an erratic Hillary as Secretary of State.

Unfortunately, the exaltation did not last long as Syria and Snowden led to Kerry's loss of temper. However, he and the White House quickly cooled down and we should expect some progress in Kerry's upcoming talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Putin-Obama summit in St. Petersburg in September.

Regrettably, there are still plenty of folks in DC who, like Clinton, have sleepless nights because of Eurasian Union and who are not very happy with Obama's administration being too soft on this subject. In their opinion he must send thunder and lightning in Moscow's direction for pursuing this extremely "dangerous" to America project.

At a recent seminar at the Heritage Foundation on June 27 titled "Russia's Eurasian Union Could Endanger the Neighborhood and U.S. Interests" it was obvious that the emerging Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is not viewed positively by policymakers or pundits.

Fred Starr, chairman of the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute (CACI) at the School for Advance International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, summed up the consensus by describing the Eurasian Union as a "hangover of empire" from the Soviet era. According to Starr membership in WTO should be enough for the countries of this region and he sees no additional benefits for them from the membership in this Union.

Another speaker Stephen Blank from the U.S. Army War College compared the Eurasian Union to the Zollverein, the German Customs Union from 1834 to 1871. He noted that the Zollverein had been dominated by Prussia, the largest purely German state, and that it had been a primary vehicle by which Prussia became the dominant power in Germany and eventually unified it on Berlin's terms.

Blank's Zollverein parallel for the Eurasian Union was a significant one, but not for the reasons he argued. For the Zollverein was an enormous economic success, not just for Prussia but for all the peoples of Germany.

In 1834, the population of a still largely rural Germany was just over 30 million. By 1871, it had risen by 25 percent to almost 41 million. More important, Germany carried out its Industrial Revolution and its annual Gross Domestic Product more than doubled. It became the largest and most prosperous industrial economy in Europe, outstripping those of Britain, France and Russia. This prosperity was shared by all Zollverein member states.

The Zollverein certainly did not isolate Germany from the booming global economy. Instead, it allowed all parts of Germany to participate in it economy on far more advantageous terms. The Eurasian Union holds out the same prospects not just for Russia but also of Belarus and Kazakhstan and other states that might join it in the future.

Sergei Markedonov from the Institute for Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was the lonely voice who tried to emphasize the economics as the main driving force for the Union but all others were talking about dangerous Russia's geopolitical and security ambitions that dominated this initiative.

So when European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA,) Mercosur free trade bloc between Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are forming similar Unions it is OK but when Russia is promoting something like that it obviously has a hidden agenda with the evil intentions.

This is not to say that there shouldn't be security considerations in Eurasian Union strategy. When US and NATO end their disastrous military campaign in Afghanistan in 2014 it would be Russia and the Central Asian countries who would feel the heat from the well-equipped and trained (shall we say by whom?) and hardened in the 13-year war groups like Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and its allied extremist groups that will move from Afghanistan to fill the vacuum.

One would naively think that the U.S. and NATO should welcome the Eurasian Union and work closely with it to help defend the region? However, taking into account the apparent U.S. eagerness to negotiate with Taliban and arm Islamist rebels in Syria the Eurasian Union is indeed "endangering U.S. interests."

If this is true what kind of U.S. - Russia alliance senator Schumer is talking about?

Source: Voice of Russia


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