About Those Candidates for the Eurasian Union

How quickly they move on. After months and months of discussing the role Ukraine can play in the forthcoming Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), it may be that the powers-that-be in Moscow may have finally come to terms with the fact that Ukraine won’t be joining the Russian-led club of former colonies.

There are certainly strains of hope within the Kremlin that, at some point down the line, the sway once maintained over Kyiv can return. (Stranger things have happened.) But Ukraine’s gone. The EEU will be moving on – dragging on, stumbling on – without Kyiv.

This is neither the time nor the place to analyze how the EEU lost Ukraine, but a recent report in TASS – the Soviet-era Kremlin mouthpiece – helped drive this point home last week. Lauding the EEU’s “free movement of goods, services, capital and workforce,” the piece noted the fraternity running through the member-states.

But the attached graphic, posted below, was notable not for its information and organization, but for a distinct absence. While TASS attempted to collate some of the confusion around the post-Soviet supra-national structures, the important information can be found in the bottom left, listing the “candidate states” for the Customs Union. This Customs Union serves as the basis for the soon-to-be EEU, which will come into being on 1 Jan 2015. And the roster is as bizarre as it is revealing:


Kyrgyzstan’s leadership had already positioned Bishkek toward the Eurasian Union, with the country’s president recently calling membership the “lesser of two evils.” (There’s an enthusiastic reaction.) Tajikistan, however, has only noted that it’s only “examining conditions” for joining, rather than bundling a formal application.

These two, however, are the logical routes for EEU expansion. Both house external Russian military hardware, and both rely heavily on remittances from migrant labor in Russia. Neither would provide much substantive geopolitical sway for the EEU, but, hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

And then things turn a bit strange. Syria stands listed as a candidate state – and has, indeed, expressed interest in potentially joining in the “near future.” But the likelihood of Damascus latching on to the Russian-led union – let alone gaining the approval of non-Russian member states – stands about the same as the prospect of seeing Egypt join, as it’s purportedly pledged. The reasons barely necessitate mentioning, self-evident as they are. Ongoing war, economic implosion, lack of goods access, etc. To be fair, the Eurasian Union is already watered-down enough that Syrian (or Egyptian) accession remain possible. But if and when they join, the union’s pointlessness becomes that much more blinding.

Then there are the statelets. Abkhazia and South Ossetia – recognized as independent entities by a grand sum of four nations – have made certain noise about hitching on to the Eurasian Union. But as I’ve previously covered, their potential membership presents hitch upon hitch. Toss in the potential membership of the “Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic” – the folks at TASS were too lazy to translate to Transdnistria? – and half the potential “candidate states” are composed of Russian-backed outposts lacking both recognition and any form of economic salience.

The “candidate states” list, much like the economics of the EEU, stands laughable. And the absence of Ukraine drives this point that much further. Ukraine, as ever, stands as the linchpin within the EEU’s viability – and it’s now so far removed from potential membership that Kremlin media won’t even list it as a potential member-state. (Nor have they yet listed the Mafiosi behind “Novorossiya,” thankfully.)

Client states, sinking economics, civil wars, and unrecognized statelets – this is the future of the Eurasian Union. Some organization, huh?