Developments in Russian Foreign Policy: Implications of Vladimir Putins Article: “A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making”
Essay 2011 8 Pages
On October 4 Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Prime minister and most likely future President published an article in which he praised the Common Economic Space (CES) which will be established in 2012.Putin has declared that Russia’s intention is to further pursue regional integration which would eventually lead to the Establishment of a Eurasian Union.
The CES will consist of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will join later. It will enable goods, services and labor to flow freely between the member states. Putin stresses that the CES will promote growth and competition and give the members a stronger voice when dealing with the European Union and other major global powers. This will ultimately facilitate and improve the lives of its citizens. Furthermore, the CES will contribute to the stability and prosperity of the global economy as the ongoing global financial crisis requires stronger multilateral approaches and institutions to be effectively dealt with. According to Putin, together with other regional organizations, the Russian-Belorussian Union State, the Customs Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization among others, will eventually lead to the establishment of a Eurasian Union which he compares to today’s European Union. 
What can the article tell us about Russia’s foreign policy in the future? By studying it we will be able to draw conclusions about Russia’s foreign policy in the future.
Securing Russia’s sphere of influence
The CES and the proposed Eurasian Union can be seen as an attempt by Moscow to secure its proclaimed sphere of influence. Russia has in the past continually tried to foster regional integration in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Earlier attempts are numerous and include the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. These approaches are regarded as not being as successful as many officials in Moscow and elsewhere would have wished. The CIS is rather toothless due to, among other things, a lack of supranational powers and the customs union is not able to compete with closer cooperation with the EU. One reason why Ukraine did not join the Customs Union is that economic benefits which would be achieved through joining the CU amount to 9 Billion dollars compared to 30 Billion dollars which would be gained through a free trade agreement with the EU. The fact that a major source of political and economic support for Ukraine’s current president Viktor Yanukovich are the countries’ export industries, insures that their economic interests are not dominated by potential political calculations.
Since the launch of the EUs Eastern Partnership Program in 2009, Russia sees itself confronted with increased European competition for influence in countries that lay traditionally in Russia’s sphere of influence. Notably, the Customs Union and the CES consist only of countries that do not have the immediate opportunity to cooperate with the EU. Belarus’ president Lukashenka is unwilling to cooperate with the EU as this would very likely eventually lead to his removal from power. Kazakhstan is simply not considered part of Europe by the EU and the unwillingness to promote further expansion by most of its members together with the fear that mere cooperation makes expansion more likely (a fear that also came up during the Eastern Partnership negotiations) means that closer cooperation with Kazakhstan in unlikely.
With the creation of the CES, Russia offers an alternative to those countries which are for political or geographical reasons exempt from closer cooperation with the European Union. This how ever does not mean that all of these countries will eventually join the CES or similar organizations, many in fact choose not to join even though they do not have the alternative of EU cooperation. One reason for this could be that the soviet successor states are still worried about Russian dominance in the region.
Expanding cooperation and integration to more states might also be a reaction to the fact that some of Russia’s traditional allies, namely Belarus, due to the evolvement of Belarus’ government and its worsening relations with Russia, become increasingly hard to deal with. 
Image and Approval Ratings
Another way to look at Putin’s article is to see it in the context of Putin’s approval ratings and the rulings elite in general. Polls and approval ratings play a big role in Putin’s politics and a lot off his public appearances can be regarded as marketing events for his person.
One could argue that as Putin faces polls in five months, he is eager to boost his approval ratings using the nostalgic feelings towards Russia’s imperial past that still exist in parts of the population. Furthermore Putin dedicates a large part of his article praising the achievements of current integration politics which are a result of his foreign policy. Putin is under pressure to boost his and United Russia’s declining approval ratings, which stand at a still impressive 70 percent for Putin himself and at a comparatively much weaker 40 per cent for his United Russia party. This is especially worrying as he can no longer count on appeasing the more critical part of the population with an allegedly more modern and reformist Medvedev. Since the announcement that Putin will run for the next presidential election and that this decision has been made a very long time ago by him and Medvedev, the latter’s supporters seem disillusioned about possible modernization.
Stagnation and Reform
As there is widespread commentary about a looming stagnation in Russia, which is repeatedly compared to the stagnation in the Brezhnev era in the 1980s, the CES could be an attempt to improve Russia’s economic prospects while avoiding stronger integration with the west. A large part of Putin’s article is about the achievements of Russia’s customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus and the future economic benefits of the CES and greater regional integration. However, he does not connect economic progress with a more open political system or society. The CES can be seen as an attempt to foster Russia’s economic development without making it more democratic, which many western analysts consider, extremely hard if not impossible. As almost all of the future members of the CES and the proposed Eurasian Union are authoritarian Regimes, Russia’s ruling elite does not have to fear demands for greater press freedom and fairer competition in elections.
 see Putin V. 2011
 see Sushko 2004, P. 130
 see Reuters 2011(a)
 see ITAR-TASS 2011
 see Inayeh A. 2011
see Gomart T.
 see Barry E. 2011
 see Balforth T. 2011
 see Reuters 2011 (b)