Chapter 5: Russia and the Eurasian Customs Union
Because of the scale of the Russian Federation in terms of territory, population, resources and military might, any economic integration within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) must inevitably have a highly asymmetric character. This fact, coupled with Russia’s own sense of being, if no longer a superpower, then at least a great power, makes any process of integration a sensitive one for the partner countries. But during the 1990s, for Russia and the other new nations of the ex-Soviet Union, the principal concerns were post-communist economic transformation and state-building. In these circumstances it is not surpris- ing that it took over 15 years after the collapse of the USSR before meaningful economic integration began to become a reality. In this chapter the evolution of Russia’s economic engagement with other CIS countries is first explored and consideration is then given to the role of domestic actors, the political dimension and public opinion. There is also discussion of an issue that tends to be overlooked in examining Russia’s economic relations with its CIS partners: the role of the defence industry. The chapter closes with some conclusions about the prospects for Russia of Eurasian economic integrations, costs, benefits and possible dangers. Russia’s approach to economic integration within the CIS has been shaped by a number of general factors, including the influence of domestic reform priorities, changing drivers of economic growth, the personal inclinations and ideas of leaders, external shocks and the stance, actual or perceived, of other ex-USSR nations.
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