Kyrgyzstan: A Reluctant Accession to the EEU

Over at The Diplomat, I took a look at Kyrgyzstan's very public, very palpable reluctance in joining the Eurasian Union, set against a backdrop of a looming energy crisis:

Nonetheless, if Moscow was counting on a celebratory mood in sealing Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the EEU – due to come December 23, at latest check – they will likely be disappointed. Kyrgyzstan’s re-export trade with China, a built-in advantage through the country’s World Trade Organization membership, has already seen a significant hit, which only looks set to continue following Kyrgyzstan’s membership. (So long as all extant regulations are enforced – which remains another question entirely.) As Bishkek moves closer to joining the EEU, Kyrgyzstan’s leadership has allowed its distinct lack of enthusiasm slip into its public discourse. According to Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev, the country has “no alternative” but to join the Eurasian Union – and that, given the country’ current dependency on Russia’s economic well-being, “we must prepare for the worst.”

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev was even more blunt. “If we give up the accession to the [Eurasian Union], we can face increased risks,” the president said in late October. “No offense, but we’re choosing the lesser of two evils. We have no other option.”

Indeed, for the time being, it appears that Kyrgyzstan – morphing that much further into a Russian client-state in recent months – doesn’t have any other option than to hope for Russian largesse in return for Eurasian Union membership. Moreover, the country is facing greater pressures than simple geopolitical pull at the moment. In addition to the sudden economic slowdown Russia has engendered through the region, Kyrgyzstan is confronted with an energy crisis unlike any it’s seen in years.