Greater Eurasian co-operation

| July 6, 2019 | 0 Comments
Russian Ambassador Alexander Darchiev says the Eurasian Economic Union — made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan (shown above) and Kyrgyzstan — is a natural partner for the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and will be a security and economic driver for the region. (Photo: Ken and Nyetta)

Russian Ambassador Alexander Darchiev says the Eurasian Economic Union — made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan (shown above) and Kyrgyzstan — is a natural partner for the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and will be a security and economic driver for the region. (Photo: Ken and Nyetta)

The modern world is facing fundamental geopolitical transformation. International free trade and the very notion of globalization are being challenged by the comeback of protectionism and nationalism, with arbitrarily imposed barriers and tariffs. All of this makes integration in Greater Eurasia, pragmatically connecting the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other regional economic and trade projects, a real alternative to this destructive trend.
Unlike the “America First” agenda, aimed at regaining dominance in the military-political sphere and world economy by resorting to 19th-Century policies such as those of “big sticks” and gunboats, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vision of a greater Eurasian partnership takes a completely different approach, one that works in the 21st Century. It includes strong adherence to multilateralism as an antithesis to unilateral dictate, while promoting recognition of national interests and mutual respect in interstate relations. Preserving WTO agreements and principles and providing guarantees for non-discriminatory free trade and investment are an imperative.
The EEU, currently made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, took its present form by a treaty signed in 2014. It was the culmination of the integration process that included several transition stages, including the Eurasian Economic Community of 2000 and Eurasian Customs Union of 2010. The EEU is now a natural partner to the BRI, which promotes multidimensional engagement in various spheres, including transportation, infrastructure development, telecommunications and energy. Russia and China are major security and economic drivers for making Greater Eurasia a territory of dialogue and co-operation.
The EEU is a key player and key integrator of resources, industry, agriculture and science — from Kaliningrad on the Baltic to Vladivostok on the Pacific, and from the port of Sabetta in the Arctic to the Kazakh city of Almaty. Teamed up with the BRI, it could be a promised land for international investors. Inside the union, there are no language barriers and labour and capital flow freely. Further, the EEU is now intensively working to fine-tune supranational bodies and national legislation so businesses operating in one member country will have free access to the markets of other members. In addition to the already existing free-trade zone with Vietnam, new free-trade agreements are being negotiated with Egypt, Israel, India, Iran, Serbia and Singapore.
Having a valuable advantage to learn from others’ mistakes — including the European Union’s experience with Brexit — the EEU respects sovereignty and does not impose political obligations on its members. With a single market of 183 million people, the EEU had a combined GDP of more than US$5 trillion (by purchasing power parity) in 2018, which boasted more than two-per-cent growth last year. According to the World Bank’s recent Ease of Doing Business Index, the Eurasian Economic Union moved up from 40th in 2017 to 31st last year, among the world’s 190 economies.
Being an integral part of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, the EEU provides a vital transportation corridor from Europe through Russia and China to North America, where the port of Vancouver, as a potential sister city of Russia’s Vladivostok, could become the “Golden Gate” for Trans-Pacific trade routes. Commercial traffic between Europe and Asia is securely connected via the historic Trans-Siberian Railway which, at nearly 9,300 kilometres from Moscow to Vladivostok, is the longest railroad in the world. It is also the crucial link to the Russian Far East, which is now accounting for more than a quarter of all direct foreign investments in Russia.
New windows of opportunity are also opening in the Arctic through the Greater Eurasian Partnership. An example of that is the recently built LNG hub at the port of Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula, north of the 70th latitude. It is the internationally financed investment project jointly run by Russia’s Novatek natural gas company, which owns 50 per cent of the shares, China’s National Petroleum Corporation, which owns 20 per cent, the Silk Road Fund from China, which owns 10 per cent, and French Total Inc., which controls the remaining 20 per cent. Recently, the aforementioned Chinese and French companies also decided to expand their investment in the new Arctic LNG-2 project worth US$25.5 billion by purchasing a 30-per-cent stake.
Russia and the EEU are welcoming bilateral and multilateral infrastructure projects linking economies and markets, especially a far-reaching initiative to create an energy super ring that will connect the electric grids of Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Mongolia with Japan’s Hokkaido Island, which is to be linked to Russia’s Sakhalin Island by undersea power cable.
All prerequisites are there to succeed in trade, investment and mutually beneficial co-operation in Greater Eurasia by fusing integration initiatives and projects in the framework of WTO rules, respect and acceptance of each country’s chosen path of development and cultural traditions. It should also be clear that neither Russia nor China ever bows to outside pressure or yields to bulldozer cowboy policies. The Greater Eurasian partnership is being built not against someone, but for common prosperity on a “win-win” basis. The underlying idea is security and stability for all, a fair and just system where global players come to mutually agreed-upon terms and voluntarily follow them.

Alexander Darchiev is the ambassador of Russia to Canada. Reach him at or (613) 235-4341.

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