Reluctant Kyrgyzstan Officially Joins EEU

My newest piece with The Diplomat looks at the latest fractures within the Eurasian Union:

What has arisen over the past week, however, is a sudden surge in divergences between the three founding members of the EEU. Relations between Kazakhstan and Russia had already seen a noted downturn in 2014 – and this past week only highlighted trends. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev paid a visit to Kyiv, offering financial and energy-based aid to the struggling Ukrainian government. The visit presents a stark volte face for Astana; Kazakhstan, after all, not only recognized the Crimean annexation earlier this year, but was the only nation besides Russia to refer to the EuroMaidan protests as a “coup.” Such recognitions make Nazarbayev’s recent claims that Kazakhstan supports Ukrainian territorial integrity a bit confusing. (Certain Ukrainian protesters have not forgotten Kazakhstan’s unwillingness to support the protests earlier this year, and publically voiced their opposition last week.) Now, Nazarbayev stakes that “both Ukraine and Russia are equally close to Kazakhstan.” Suffice it to say, Nazarbayev appears to be resuscitating Kazakhstan’s much-weakened multi-vector policy – likely because he recognizes the significant parallels between the Kremlin’s rhetoric surrounding both Kyiv and Astana.

While in Ukraine, Nazarbayev also offered some commentary on the EEU. The union, Nazarbayev said, “is exposed to a major risk.” Rather than citing the Russia-led currency slump or the collapsing intra-EEU trade, however, the Kazakhstani president noted the swell in Russian businesses hampering local commerce. This disadvantage has been accelerated that much more by Kazakhstan nationals crossing the border to take advantage of Russia’s weakened currency.