Eurasian Union to Include Georgia?
By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, November 22Vladimir Putin looks set to make a return to the presidency of the Russian Federation. Before he does this however he is laying the ground to push a new agenda the centre piece of which is the creation of a Eurasian union with Russia as its core. A first step has now been taken. An agreement was signed between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on creating an economic union. It seems clear that on his way to the presidency Putin will be making more efforts in this direction.
Does Russia’s program contain a threat for Georgia? It has not been an issue for discussion seriously for Georgia so far. The topic is partially touched upon here in Georgia by officials however who take it as further proof of Russia’s aggressive plans. Officials claim that billionaire-turned-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili supports Putin's plans. The Russian policy is a useful club to hit Ivanishvili with as the billionaire made most of his money in Russia. Ivanishvili has clearly stated his support for Georgia's western orientation but at the same time saying that regulation of relations with Russia should be a priority for the country.
Representative of the Republican Party, David Berdzenishvili, thinks that the creation of a Eurasian union is part of Putin’s pre-election campaign and that this union has no chance of becoming a viable organization. According to him, Russia or its supporting countries cannot compete with the EU. Russia’s share of the world economy is only 2.5% whereas the EU’s share is 25%. Despite all this, Berzenishvili thinks that Russia's unionist plans create a threat to Georgia.
Georgia should be wary of the proposed Eurasian union. Following the August 2008 invasion of Georgia by Russia joining this union will not be on the current agenda of Georgian politics. However, serious discussions are being held about Armenia’s possible integration into this union. Armenia and Russia do not have a common border, and this fact might prove to be either a threat for Georgia or a lever through which the Georgian leadership can exert influence on both Armenia and Russia. It is not necessary that Georgia joins the union to do this, but Georgian railways would have to be utilized in connecting Russia and Armenia. This issue, which had been a hot topic before war, fell off the agenda. The proposed Eurasian union will bring it back.
A further issue for Georgia is the possibility of the integration into this union of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali or South Ossetia region, which are recognized by Moscow as independent states. If the Kremlin follows this path this will be a challenge not only for Georgia but towards the western countries which consider these territories occupied by Russia and demand the de-occupation of them and the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Rather than dismissing Putin's proposals as mere pipedreams, Georgia should get wise to the fact that over the coming years the restoration of a Putin presidency will see renewed ambition on the part of Russia to control its "near abroad". This will be a critical time as Georgia accelerates its efforts to join the Euro-Atlantic structures. Georgia must think one step ahead of Russia and attempt to foresee future developments currently being worked out in Moscow which will require timely and measured responses.