Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sometimes a trade deal is just a trade deal

In the discussion over the current crisis in Ukraine, there are a number of references to an article by Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books. The article indeed provides a nice discussion of the complex character of the protests as well as the (former) government's strategy for portraying them. But things get a bit odder when Snyder presents what he sees as a real agenda of Russia in the broader game in the region:

The course of the protest has very much been influenced by the presence of a rival project, based in Moscow, called the Eurasian Union. This is an international commercial and political union that does not yet exist but that is to come into being in January 2015. The Eurasian Union, unlike the European Union, is not based on the principles of the equality and democracy of member states, the rule of law, or human rights. On the contrary, it is a hierarchical organization, which by its nature seems unlikely to admit any members that are democracies with the rule of law and human rights. Any democracy within the Eurasian Union would pose a threat to Putin’s rule in Russia. Putin wants Ukraine in his Eurasian Union, which means that Ukraine must be authoritarian, which means that the Maidan must be crushed ... The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is useful from both fascism and Stalinism.

If true, this combination of fascism and Stalinism has chosen the ultimate Trojan horse for its conquest: a customs union. Or put another way, if you want a vision of a Eurasian future, imagine a customs man stomping "cleared" on a crate of Chinese goods at the Kazakh border -- forever. Because right now, that's all the Eurasian Union is: a 3 country customs union that has some cool geographic features (goods can move freely from the Chinese border to the EU border by rail). And even the people directly involved in it have a fairly cautious view of its scope:

The Customs Union’s website, for example, openly explains that it drafted its rules for economic integration with an eye on the practices of the European Union, and officials cite Nafta and other groupings as models. Using this approach, the Customs Union has achieved modest success increasing trade between member states since its inception, a study by the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies found. “Everybody is looking for at least regional regulation of these large markets,” Ms. Valovaya said. “We in Eurasia are doing it, South Americans are doing it, and the United States is doing it.”

Alien and Predator uniting against the rest of us, it ain't.