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Produced by Think-Tanks’TV.
EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
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The establishment of the EEU is a powerful manifestation of the EU’s soft power – an attempt by Moscow to gain status and recognition by mimicking the institutions and structure of the EU. It offers engagement on the EU’s terms – through trade and economic links rather than military competition.
Although its roots are geopolitical, the EEU has the advantage of being inclusive, not articulated in the language of Russia’s ethnic nationalism, and it is founded on the principle of economic interdependence.
As Russia has been turning away from Europe, the EEU is the kind of project that Brussels might have invented if it had not already existed. It should be attractive to the EU, not because it will be successful but because this is the only project capable of diverting Russia away from the politics of military pressure and nationalistic rhetoric.
But instead of recognizing its own stamp on the EEU, Brussels took umbrage at the imitation and missed the opportunity to moderate the coming conflict with Russia.
The EEU may be the EU’s best chance to shift the competition between Russia and the West back onto an economic field rather than a military one. Moreover, the EEU is an interesting entry point because it involves at least some restraints on Russia’s policy making and Kremlin’s power. Indeed, all of its members (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and in the future probably Armenia and Kyrgyzstan) have a veto over any joint policy.
Furthermore, the EU’s recognition and cooperation with the EEU will enable the EU to develop relationships with Kazakhstan and Belarus. The EEU could be a start towards negotiating a new European institutional order to fill the vacuum left by broken institutions.