Chapter 6: Russia, the Eurasian Customs Union and the Asian dimension
Russia’s engagement in Eurasian integration highlights, and stems from, the challenges that Russia faces in Asia. The deepening of Eurasian integration together with the opening of the initiatives to participation from other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was at the core of Putin’s first Presidential Decree on foreign policy in The contemporaneous Decree on long-term economic policy focused on accelerating social and economic development in Siberia and the Far East, including transport to remote areas. Yet these two facets of Russia’s strategy are by no means identical in vision, means and policies, though there are important linkages between them that one cannot ignore. This chapter examines Russia’s economic integration policy in relation to Central Asia and beyond, towards Asia as a continent. It is argued in this chapter that even if Russia coveted the restoration of the Soviet Union – a frequent yet unsubstantiated claim – it would have neither the economic nor military capacity to do so. Rather, integration prospects are better examined in a global context in which Russia – as recognized by the authorities themselves – is one of the players, and not even a major one. Pursuing integration strategies vis-à-vis the emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific region primarily requires a reorientation of the domestic priorities in favour of the Russian territories beyond the Urals. These are geographically part of Asia while still rather impermeable to trade and joint ventures with China, the most attractive economy of the Asia-Pacific region.
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