Ph.D.c Lucian MILICĂ
Ph.D. at the University Complutense of Madrid,
Department of Human Geography
Abstract. At the stage of regional geoeconomic multipolar gigantism, along with the unipolar des-globalization, the double regional integration both geopolitical and geoeconomic which is proposed through the creation of the Eurasian Union is increasingly interesting, even more considering that changing the entire continent configuration will have a global effect.
Through this article we want to realize a geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic analysis of what implies the emergence of an expanded Eurasian Union, integrative, starting from the fact that the first step in its design was created, namely the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan. The article offers a view of the mutual influence that could be generated between the Union and the existing macroregion energy resources (Middle East, Persian Gulf and Central Asia- the Caspian area). It also shows the role of the transasian transport corridors and their value to revitalize the relations between Europe and the Asia-Pacific and Middle East, the Eurasian Union and the Middle East being key points of the contact.
- The Eurasian Union a new URSS or an alternative for the European Union?
It is essential to define what does the Eurasian Union mean. First of all we will make a geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic projection of the supposed Eurasian Union. The “project” is a proposal initiated by Moscow to Belarus,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, to which would be added other post-Soviet states. According to The New York Times, several candidates in the 2011 presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan approved the concept, while Tajikistan stated that it will be considering the possibility to become a member.
There are not excluded the former communist republics from the Eastern Europe including Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic or countries that historically have had close relations with Russia (Finland). Mongolia is also taken into account, mainly due to the position regarding the relations with China. It is interesting for example that in September this year, Armenia has expressed its desire to access the Eurasian Customs Union. Chronologically, the idea of forming such a union belongs to the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev who in 1994 emphasized the importance of such an agreement. The idea was later taken over by Vladimir Putin who published an article in 2011 about the prospects of this project and its position towards other international organizations such as the European Union. Lately, he sees this plan more feasible. Basically, at the moment, there is still no Eurasian Union. What has created for the moment is a customs alliance of three ex-Soviet states: Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. However, it is said that it will start operating from 2015.a,b.
Russian experts have defined the Kremlin initiative as being purely political. Thus, on 19th of November 2011, Dmitry Rogozin, in charge for the military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation, declared that “the Russian Federation, the largest territory in the world, will not be able in the future to keep this earth only with one hundred million people (the population of Russia is of 143 million – according to 2013 estimates), while China, the state with the largest population in the world (over 1.3 billion people – according to estimates from 2010), develops rapidly”. From this we can deduce what is the orientation of the future Eurasian Union and of all unions that Russia wants. It should be noted that, since the emergence of the rumours, the United States has opposed to the Eurasian Union, seeing it as an attempt to reestablish a Russian-dominated Soviet Union-type union amongst the Post-Soviet states.
At the same time, it is considered that Putin’s Eurasian Union competes with the United States: an attempt to rebuild the Soviet Union similar to the European Union (EU). The goal, according to Putin, would be to create real conditions to change the geopolitical and geo-economic configuration of the entire continent, which will have a positive effect overall. At the stage of regional geoeconomic multipolar gigantism, together with the unipolar deglobalization, the dual regional integration, both from a geopolitical and geoeconomic perspective, what Putin proposed is not negligible. What does emphasize Putin is that the new alliance could compete for influence with the United States, the EU and Asia as one of the poles of the modern world, serving as an efficient link between Europe and the dynamic region of Asia-Pacific. It follows that the great eurasian vision of Putin has geostrategic meanings rather than merely geopolitical or geoeconomic.
On the other hand we should not forget that Russia Eurasian project can be derailed not only in Ukraine but also in the Transcaucasus and other relevant countries ranging its inclinations (Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Uzbekistan does not want to join, fearing that economic union would gain political valences, precisely the purpose implied by Moscow. Turkmenistan has energy resources and does not want to subsidize others of them. Azerbaijan being in the same situation, now develops alternative routes to export directly to the EU (pipeline through Turkey to Greece – Italy). Therefore, the decision may come along with a rise of the divergences existing between the Kremlin administration policy and representatives of the countries considered by Russia as part of its area of influence. Some examples can be the policies of countries like Moldova, Georgia and even Ukraine’s policies towards Moscow. Russia would become a kind of link between Europe and Asia in the context of this international organization, thus maximizing its bargaining position to the west.
Noteworthy is the fact that the Eurasian Union is not the first attempt of Moscow to restore the Soviet empire. The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the disintegration of the Union are undoubtedly the largest rupture that occurred in modern history. The bipolar system during the Cold War has been replaced by a completely new geopolitical reality, marked by the American hegemony and by Russia’s decline. The world understood through the phrase “Russian influence space” changes after the disintegration of the Soviet empire. Even if Russia became the official heir in all international fora, most of the newly independent states decided to set up a CIS in December 1991, designed to maintain a certain economic, political and military coordination.
Then, in the late 90s, appeared again, on the initiative of Moscow, the Union State of Russia and Belarus. This union led to misunderstandings and loss of billions of dollars after economy wars (oil, natural gas, pipeline gas). After these bilateral turbulences, the game between Moscow and Minsk continued. If Moscow considers Lucaşenco guilty, Minsk replied that it does not want to lose its independence, what followed after Minsk’s declarations can be understood without further explanations.
Subsequently, the union of the two countries was forgotten and then, in 2003, after Vladimir Putin’s proposal, it has been tried to create the Economic Union of the four (Putin – Nazarbaev – Kuchma – Lucaşenco). To highlight the importance of this union and to attract other members, the official document was signed by these four politicians at the Levadia Palace in Krimea, the same place where it had been signed the historic act of division of Europe after the Second World War. From this Economic Union is not running anything.
In 2011, on July 1st, took place the final stage of formation of the customs area of the Three (Putin – Nazarbaev – Lucasenco): Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. It remains to be seen which will be the result of this union. After a brief analysis of the involved countries interests, including the leaders of the three, they are diametrically opposed. Kazakhstan, which before the crisis developed best, needs the Russian market and Belarus needs Russian oil and gas.Russia conditions these wishes by its own interests. What are those interests? Sergiu Chirca highlights in an article that the main goal of Russia is thearming: “the Russian Federation, only because of the thermonuclear potential can impose itself as a great country. From an economic perspective, it is one of the developing countries (India, China, Brazil and others). But if Brazil, India and especially China are developing their economies rapidly, Russia doesn’t do it”.
The Polish-born American political analyst Zbigniew Brzezinski points out that if Russia showed some real development intentions during Vladimir Putin’s first term, it seems that during the second one, he becomes hostage in the nostalgia for the past and Russia enters in an area of stagnation. China is developing, but Russia doesn’t. Russia has energy resources, but because of the lack of advanced technology, lack of reforms that would restructure the economic and political system and, especially, the mentality, the lack of manpower and skilled required (Russia’s population is aging and, by 2030 will worsen the ratio of the number of retired and active people), the leader of the Kremlin decided by the price of oil and natural gas, to impose to some countries of the CIS to give up to the independence and join the Eurasian Union, so join Russia.
- The main geoeconomic implications: The “Great Game” of the natural resources and the trans-Asian transport corridors
In geopolitical terms the Caspian region and the Middle East are vital, as they serve as a connection between the West and East.
The Caspian Sea is the second largest oil deposit in the world after the Persian Gulf. Even if until now the states of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) continue to dominate the energy market, the reserves of the Caspian basin could help to diversify, secure and stabilize the supplies of the future, in the same way that the oil coats from the North Sea have done it.
Given the potential instability of the Islamic countries and the impact this could have on the oil supply, the Department of Defense of the United States has been according increasing importance to Central Asia, which is no longerWashington’s peripheral interest of converting it a strategic area.
With the conclusion of the dispute East-West were the manifestations of the bipolar ideological conflict was overcame, with the notable exception of the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, Cuba, some Asian and African countries and China, which has managed to mitigate the impact of this change of strategic perception with the policy of “one country, two economies.” In this new global vision, other regions such as the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea basin and the South China Sea are receiving increased attention from the United States.
One of the main attractions of the Eurasian Union and Eurasian Economic Area is its great geographical mainland extension as a single market and a source of immense resources and raw materials. The economic, political and military greatness of European powers such as Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, France and Great Britain was due to its maritime expansion beyond Europe and its establishment of colonial commercial empires, providing resources to raise and maintain their power, as also to establish and open new markets for their products. That is why the Eurasian Economic Area can provide to European countries vast resources, raw materials and markets of the Eurasian continent. European countries may have wider markets for their products and better access, for example, to the vast energy and mineral resources of Eurasia. In turn, the members of the Eurasian Economic Area may invest in the development of the economies and the production of raw materials from countries of the Eurasian Union.
Some interesting phase of the integration processes that now is not only in the imaginary design phase, are the Euro-Asian corridors that, in the context of current interests that are a key component in connecting the East with the West and get a more interesting valence with the possible creation of a Eurasian Union, but especially given the fact that it connects the three areas of real interest (Asia-Pacific with Beijing as a representative, the Middle East – especially through Iran’s transit and access to the Persian Gulf and the European Union in the west).
Among these, we can clearly distinguish three major routes to the north, centre and southern Eurasia, complexly interwoven. Each one is characterized by different distances and different natural conditions, involving, for their importance, the strategic natural resources (hydrocarbons and minerals) that may be found on their path, the abundance or scarcity of labor and the various local (Europe, Russia, the Islam, India, China, North Korea) and external (the USA occupying Afghanistan and Iraq etc.) geopolitical forces that influence the interlaced regions.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Europeans began to plan the construction of a link through different corridors, relating the countries from Central Europe and the Black Sea in order to connect with China and the Pacific Rim. These routes are directed towards the Caucasus and through the Caspian Sea, shall allow the link with two exits to the north and south. Both would cross the area of the balkanized countries of the ex – Soviet Union: Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan,Uzbekistan, Tajikistan.
The second route, controlled by Russia, it can be clearly distinguished in the image of the Eurasian block, into a sequence of straight-line cities. This shows that the Russians have urbanized the Siberian territory following some logics regarding the corridors. In fact, the oil industrialization process of West Siberia continues in eastern Siberia, forming city lines that descend to China or to the Pacific, whether along the coast of Russia, or the Korean peninsula. The corridors enterNorth Korea or border the country in order to enter the industrial area of the Far East. In this regard, in addition to the proposed corridor by the Europeans, there is a very urbanized corridor in northern Siberia.
Besides the European corridors under construction and the “path of Siberia”, there is new “Silk Road”. As part of it, the construction of various types of infrastructure (roads, ports, etc..) it is being partially advanced in countries like Iran, while in the region is encouraged the manufacturing industry. It is about a corridor that passes through the troubled Baltic region, the northern Middle East, Central Asia, northern India and Southeast Asia and enters China from the south.
In this southern route of Eurasia, the “Silk Road” it comes into notice how the construction of the infrastructure splices, not only with the presence of the major oil resources in the world (the Middle East), but also with the systematic development of the political provocations and warlike conflicts, often associated with military action or the U.S. geopolitical manipulation. For example Turkey (in the Kurdish region) and Iraq (torn and militarily intervened country by the United States),Iran (increasingly beset by the U.S.A country, accused of developing nuclear weapons), Afghanistan (devastated and intervened country), Kashmir at the border between India and Pakistan or Tibet at the border between India and China (areas in progressive decomposition). However, the TRACECA route and Siberian one are not spared from this warrior logic, if taking into account the problems in Chechnya in the Caucasus region and the constant threats of the U.S. against North Korea. Thus, new keys corridors offer new and very important solutions, but also neglected for the understanding of the geopolitics logic of the region.
The Figure 1 shows the geostrategic position of the study area between two large concentrations of production areas (Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific), in the central area of the global instability it is involved the region of the five seas (mainly with its role in the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea), being located at the eastern border of the European Union and at western border of China and in the proximity of the Islamic world, the Middle East with its oil region, the Persian Gulf, regions which undoubtedly have influenced one other. It also represents the bridge for the Eurasian connection through major corridors. All these features plus the large concentration of energy resources make it the new global pivot. It has also been tried to represent the polarization aria of the future Eurasian Union that if it would consolidate as Moscow pretends, will become the most capable of polarization region of the world.
From the realized analysis it follows that we can not speak of a Eurasian Union without involving neighboring regions, namely the Middle East, China, the European Union. We can not speak about the Russian Federation or its projects without mentioning the energetic part. If a Eurasian Union project will be implemented and will reach full development stage, it will control 30% of the world natural gas reserves (currently, Russia owns 25%). In such conditions, Gazprom would be the best actor, because it could expand its interests beyond northern Russia or the Barents Sea, which would put pressure on the European investors. In such a scenario, we could not talk about a gas route in Central Asia, because this region will be mostly influenced by Russia. But the possibility that this project become a reality is extremely low if we consider the policies of the states mentioned above towards Moscow. Also, a possible accession in the future of Russia to the World TradeOrganization will not allow it to behave aggressively in the created Union.
However, it is interesting to note that the logic of a Eurasian Union this time is, first of all, geostrategic and economic, so, very different from other attempts that were political or simply decorative, in order to show the Russian leadership.
Fig.1. Eurasia – a geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic interpretation
(transport corridors, resources macroregions, strategic points)
and the impact of alleged future Eurasian Union (the polarization area)
Source: Author’s own elaboration.
Is therefore, the Eurasian Union utopia or reality? The first step in its establishment was made through the creation of the Customs Union of Russia – Belarus – Kazakhstan. The fact that other countries have expressed in one way or another favorable position towards it, meaning Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and, recently, Armenia, shapes the idea of the “project”. However, the area’s reality area is so complex and the multitude of issues involved, to which it’s added the external influences from the European Union, Chinaand the U.S.A that do not support this idea, are weaknesses that hamper the consolidation of the project by Moscow’s real expectations.
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