Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Concept of Eurasia - Part II

The question of the realisation of “Eurasia” requires an analysis of the order of priority of this geopolitical interest. From this point of view, “Eurasia” is an ambitious goal for both Europe and Russia; it is a geopolitical interest of a high order, far from the basic interest of national defence and security.

However, “Eurasia” is a more important geopolitical interest to realise for Russia than for Europe. Russia considers, naturally, that one of its fundamental geopolitical interests is to exercise some form of control of what it calls its “nearer abroad.”[1] Europe's motivation for realising its own version of “Eurasia” does not have as high priority, for a number of reasons, one being the existence of security agreements with the USA. It is not surprising, therefore, that Russia's realisation of its view of “Eurasia” is in a far more advanced state compared to the European one, which is at the moment only an idea. Europe has not yet fully managed to bring Ukraine into its fold, whereas the customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is now called the Eurasian Economic Union, and Russia has successfully convinced Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to join as members in 2015.[2] In other words, Russia is in the process of adding economic integration to a military integration that has largely taken place already between these countries. 

Some of the types of coercive methods that are available for the realisation of geopolitical interests are used in the case of “Eurasia”. Being the more powerful nation, Russia is naturally using many such means in order to incite, or force, other nations into its sphere of influence. This has been the case with Armenia, and other nations that will adhere to the Eurasian Economic Union which Russia will lead. Europe has also been trying to use some of these coercive foreign policy tools in order to get Russia to show more interest in an integration with Europe.[3] This has been evident not only in the EU's hitherto inconclusive approach towards Ukraine, but also in its interaction with Russia, such as the latest sanctions show.[4] The European Union considers, rightly, that the biggest obstacle to the realisation of its concept of “Eurasia,” is the Russian government. But coercive methods are far more useful and effective when stronger nations use them on decidedly weaker ones. Therefore, while Russia can use coercive methods to realise its view of “Eurasia,” Europe can only realise its own version of “Eurasia” by consensual means. 

There are two conditions for consensual realisation of geopolitical interests; firstly, the “Eurasian” interests should be complementary between Europe and Russia. This is certainly not the case, since the two parties do not even define “Eurasia” in the same way. In fact, the European and Russian definitions of “Eurasia” cannot both be realised at the same time. Further, Europe and Russia are currently opposed in several important geopolitical areas, the most important of which being the struggle for the control of Ukraine.[5] This is not the kind of environment in which the European definition of “Eurasia” can be realised. The Russian view of “Eurasia,” on the other hand, has more probability of success since it does not depend on Europe (with the exception of Ukraine, which will remain problematic for Russia in the future). 

The second condition, which must also be fulfilled in order to realise “Eurasia” by consensual agreement, requires that there is no third party with the capability and interest in thwarting these efforts. Here is another strong reason why “Eurasia” cannot be realised by Europe: the interest of the United States is in conflict with these “Eurasian” interests. Though the USA and Europe are close allies, the USA opposes the European view of “Eurasia” and cannot allow it to happen. For the US, as Brzezinski wrote, “it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America.”[6] Currently, Washington easily realises this interest, given the political influence they have over Europe.[7] The US uses its system of military allegiance (NATO) in order to both dominate Europe and contain Russian geopolitical expansion.[8] Regarding the Russian “Eurasia,” though the US may not be able to prevent it from becoming reality, the US is also more tolerant to it. The United States is not much concerned about Russia's realisation of this interest, since it understands that Russia will never be a challenger for global hegemony unless it has integrated with a major economy.[9] This is the reason the US is carefully monitoring the current rapprochement that is taking place between Russia and China.[10] In many ways, the strategic and economic synergies between Russia and China are greater in the long term than the ones between Russia and Europe.[11] 

It is clear, therefore, that the realisation of a geopolitical interest like “Eurasia” greatly depends on the national perspective. This post and the previous one have shown that a geopolitical interest and the ways to realise this interest require radically different approaches. The third and final post on this topic of “Eurasia” will concern the necessary distinction between state and people. In other words, the question that must be asked is to what respect do the people really have an “interest” in “Eurasia”?


[1] In Russian : “ближнее зарубежье” 

[2] Armenia decided in September 2013 to join the “Eurasia” Customs Union. See “Russia Cancels Export Duties for Gas and Diamonds to Armenia” from Ria Novosti, at: 

[3] See for instance, “The EU has accused Russia of implementing protectionist measures in contravention of the WTO rules. The European Commission, meanwhile, is expected to shortly unveil a number of anti-trust charges against Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom.” See article, EU-Russia talks downgraded amid tensions over Ukraine, The Irish Times, January 28, 2014. 

[4] For information on European sanctions against Russia, see for instance, “Russia hints at tit-for-tat response to EU sanctions over Crimea”, The Guardian, Saturday 22 March 2014. Source: 
Regarding Ukraine, see for instance, article by Finian Cunningham, “Ukraine and the Bigger Picture of US and European Assault on Russia’s Sphere of Influence”, Dec 6 2013. Also, by the same author: “Ukraine: Imagine Western Interference in Reverse… That Would Be An Impossible European Dream”, Dec 16, 2013. Sources at: 

[5] See for instance the following analysis: “The EU Agreement [for Ukraine] excludes simultaneous membership in a Russian-led customs union and would thus cut off Ukraine from its main trading partner, with which Ukraine’s industry and transport routes are closely connected. The abolition of customs duties on European goods would also mean bankruptcy for many Ukrainian industries.
The terms of the agreement, which include the introduction of EU rules for labor market deregulation, the privatization of state enterprises and a reduction in the public debt, would have a social impact similar to the EU austerity programs imposed on Greece, Romania and other countries. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is already denying Ukraine a much-needed credit because the government refuses to hike the price of gas by 40 percent—a move that would inevitably result in the death of many unemployed people and pensioners unable to pay their heating bills.
The Association Agreement would turn the country into an extended workbench for German and European companies, which could produce at lower wage rates than those in China. At the same time, the country’s natural resources, its vast and fertile landmass, and its domestic market of 46 million inhabitants make Ukraine a mouthwatering prospect for German and European businesses.
The agreement would also strengthen the EU’s hand against Russia. A customs union or Eurasian Union comprising Russia and the Ukraine would have had a significantly stronger position in trade negotiations with the EU than an isolated Russia. 
Germany, the EU and the US are pursuing not only economic, but also geopolitical, objectives in Ukraine. Given Russia’s loss of influence in Eastern Europe since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the incorporation of Ukraine into the EU would push Russia off to the edge of Europe.” from “The Struggle for Ukraine”, from World Socialist Web Site, Dec 6, 2013. ( 

[6] Z. Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard (Basic Books), p. xiv. This is the same view that George Friedman has: “The United States doesn’t need to win wars. It needs to simply disrupt things so the other side can’t build up sufficient strength to challenge it.” The Next 100 Years, p58. (Doubleday). Source: 

[7] It is well known that though the US and Europe have different geopolitical interests, the US is the stronger party and often uses Europe as a proxy for its dealings in “Eurasia.” European governments and institutions are so dominated politically and militarily by the United States, that those European leaders who support this concept of “Eurasia” cannot be fully sincere, whether they realise this or not. A real possibility for European version of “Eurasia” can only come if and when Europe manages to completely get rid of this US dominance which has existed since the end of WWII. However, as long as European companies have significant commercial interests in the US, this is not likely to happen. And this certainly cannot happen with the NATO policy as it is today.

[8] For information on NATO's aggressive military positioning next to Russia's borders (see for instance 

[9] Another possibility might be to make its own economy globally competitive, but this is not likely to happen even in the long term.

[10] “Eurasia” is no longer the most important geopolitical goal in the 21st century for the United States: it is Asia, and in particular, China. US now has a “Pivot to Asia” strategy. See article in The Atlantic “What Exactly Does it Mean That the US is Pivoting to Asia?”, by Matt Schiavenza, April 15, 2013. Source: 

[11] Russia is turning its attention to the East, and in particular to China (the Law changing the Russian time zones is one example, bringing Moscow 4 hours from both London and Beijing). China has a strong need for the Russian natural resources lying in relative proximity. The trade between the two countries is expected to soon reach $100Bln per year. From 2012 to 2013, China's FDI into Russia was multiplied by 6. Further, China has now declared a certain preference for the Russian rouble, and recently Russia and China have declared that they have a “strategic relationship”. A new deal concerning gas delivery over 30 years has just been signed. See following sources:

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