Eurasian Union: Birth of a Superpower

In September of last year, I wrote an article -- Eurasian Union: Superpower-in-Waiting -- in which I predicted that the Kremlin would be willing to wage a "soft-war" against anyone willing to stand in the way of plans to expand Russia's sphere of influence. I further speculated that Eurasian Union blueprints relied on: "the nostalgia of unity, and the subtle threat of destabilization."

If those calculations seemed at-the-time pessimistic, perhaps they were a bit optimistic. Anyone who has received an invitation to join the Eurasian Union has also just received confirmation that failure to accept will bring destabilization by Kremlin-identified "neo-Nazis" and, in the best possible scenario, a bloodless invasion.

RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev
In an amazing article for Politico  -- Why Russia No Longer Fears the West -- Ben Judah highlights the change in perception that over two decades of post-Soviet dealings with Europe have brought for the Kremlin: "Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes."

And indeed, the Europeans have been unwilling to heavily protest Russia's latest intervention in yet-another country in their backyard. Yesterday, The New York Times laid out exactly what Judah could see: "Without European backing, American officials worry that economic sanctions may not carry enough bite to persuade President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to reverse course in Ukraine. By itself, the United States is not even among Russia’s top 10 trading partners, with no more than $40 billion in exports and imports exchanged between the two each year. By contrast, Europe does about $460 billion in business with Russia, giving it far more potential clout, but also exposing it to far more potential risk."

The United States just recently announced that it is shrinking its military to pre-WWII levels. Though the US still far outspends Russia, it is apparent that the US is drained after more than a decade of war, perhaps in the same way that Russia was tired after it left Afghanistan;  the US is but a declining superpower in Putin's eyes.

By invading Crimea, Russia stands to lose in economic ways, but not enough to heavily damage its economy. If tensions with the US should worsen, it appears to be something that Russia prefers over total loss of Ukraine. A complete European shift by Ukraine would have represented a full destruction of Putin's dream for the Eurasian Union.

In the 1990s, Ukraine, Russia, the US, and the UK signed the "Budapest Memorandum." In exchange for nuclear disarmament, Ukraine was promised sovereignty and territorial dignity. It appears that the UK is unwilling to take on Russia in a manner that would do justice to the Budapest Memorandum, damaging international nuclear d├ętente. 

In his quest for a Eurasian Union, Putin is not only willing to deal a blow to nuclear disarmament, he was is willing to reignite a new Cold War. If it becomes apparent that Ukraine disarmed yet was invaded with no one coming to its aid, Japan will most likely decide that it can no longer maintain a pacifist constitution in the face of perceived Chinese aggression in the Senkaku Islands. 

China just recently expressed support for Russia's actions in Crimea, sending a direct message to Japan. The year is 2014, but it feels like 1952. Though it felt as if a unipolar world led by the US was to be the norm, it appears that a bipolar world is the natural order when it comes to declining and rising powers.