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Post-Soviet Integration : Conclusions

To conclude our analysis, it seems interesting to focus on three questions in particular: What can Soviet and post-Soviet integration teach us about the theory of integration? How can we conceive of the evolution of integration in the post-Soviet space? And how can we imagine relations between the EU and the EEU in the future?

  • Lessons from Soviet integration

For the first question, it is possible to draw several lessons from the analysis of the integration of the Soviet and post-Soviet space. The first is of course the issue of model incompatibility. The EEU claims to follow the model of European integration, while limiting certain aspects of its model and continuing to pursue an authoritarian policy within most member states. Indeed, it seems clear that it is impossible to integrate at the regional level using trade liberalization tools when national societies are not liberal. In other words, there is no point in having freedom of movement or trade facilitation at the regional level if national economies are not sufficiently developed and not free enough. The national economies of the EEU member states, as we have seen, are not competitive enough to cope with external competitive pressures and are too crushed under Russian domination. Moreover, the political weight of Russia prevents favorable growth of the whole because either it dictates its will to its partners, or it refuses to play the treaty game. The European Union is certainly not perfect, but it remains consistent with regard to its methods of integration and its objectives. It represents a Union of liberal States wishing for better economic integration, and which therefore play the game of institutions. This is, moreover, the whole meaning of the ordinary legislative procedure, which requires the adoption of acts of secondary legislation not unanimously but by qualified majority. The EEU is a Union of small states anchored to Russian hegemony, which are not liberal states. They only seem to fit reluctantly into an international organization that struggles to enforce its liberal principles in the absence of real economic stimulus.

The Soviet Union was at least consistent with its ideology. Faithful to the Marxist-Leninist theory, it imposed an internationalist vision of the world via a federal system and an authoritarian policy capable of playing the revolutionary vanguard. The failure of the USSR comes above all from its economic model and its authoritarian political model. But the EEU wants to play an impossible double game: to remain authoritarian on the inside while playing liberal on the outside.

The other element that interests us in this comparison is the role of national issues. We have indeed seen how the Soviet policy was contradictory vis-à-vis its ideology and its institutions. The repression of national identities had the effect of placing a ticking time bomb in Soviet construction, which exploded at the time of the collapse of its economy. We can therefore deduce two things: to preserve a Union, we need a policy of respect for national identities and an efficient economy (according to a functionalist approach : citizens will tolerate a Union better if it achieves its objectives). The European Union in this sense manages rather well to maintain the balance. No Member State wishes to leave the Union for fear of losing all the advantages resulting from economic integration and at the same time, the EU is truly respectful of national identities and national policies. This is also obvious given that the EU is the product of the will of the States and therefore it is they who set the limits of its action. But this assumption can change. Indeed, the Union is beginning to take decisions and political postures that go against certain national tendencies and is therefore experienced as an oppressor by some inhabitants. This feeling is often taken up by populist movements which chant slogans wishing for a return of their sovereignty in the face of the “diktat from Brussels”. We see with this example that if the dynamics are different, they are nevertheless comparable. What happened to the Soviet Union is a risk for the European Union. It will therefore always be necessary to keep an eye on the balance between economic interest and respect for Nations to avoid a collapse based on national resistance.

  • Possible Evolution of the EEU

With regard to the future development of the post-Soviet space, it should first be pointed out that the EEU is a recent international organization (it has only existed since 2015) and that thinking about its future remains essentially speculation. But if we keep in mind the problem of the incompatibility of models, it seems clear that Eurasian integration is at a standstill. The former Baltic States, integrated into the EU, will not join the EEU for sure. But this is also the case for other states that Russia would like to see reintegrated into its sphere of influence. Thus Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia will probably not join the organization. Azerbaijan also has no interest in joining the EEU and will necessarily be opposed by Armenia if it files an application. The only growth prospect for the EEU remains Asian: the states of Central Asia. But these are small states and have underdeveloped economies. But apart from that, the EEU already seems to be in disintegration given the lack of interest given to it by member states and commentators. This could change if Russia just became liberal.

As an engine of integration, if Russia succeeds in rebuilding itself from within to have a dynamic and creative economy, it will be able to irrigate the growth of the other member states of the organization via the EEU. Thus the EEU would become attractive and interesting. The problem of the incompatibility of models would be settled because a liberal Russia at the heart of an international organization of regional integration would give back to the EEU all its meaning. It would of course be necessary to amend the Treaty of Astana to introduce, for example, qualified majority or the reference for a preliminary ruling. This perspective is possible. The irony is that it depends a lot on the internal Russian evolution.

  • Possible relations between the EU and the EEU

As for the evolution of relations between Europe and the EEU, it must be said that once again, everything depends on the internal Russian evolution. One of the objectives of the EEU is to constitute a transit point between Europe and Asia, so in theory Russia would have everything to gain by seeking to bring the two together. But its recent policy casts doubt on its intentions. Indeed, Russia supports popular parties in EU member states, which are most often Eurosceptic. This may come from a rejection of liberal values ​​by the Kremlin, which also seeks to legitimize its revenge on what it perceives to be a humiliation (we are talking here about the fall of the USSR). Thus, the EEU is built more to oppose the EU than to draw closer to it. Moreover, one of the strangest aspects of the interaction between the two spaces is the question of how to organize the States at the border of the two spaces. What if, for example, an EU member state wants to remain a member of the EU and at the same time join the EEU? This is a legitimate question when you know the ties that unite certain EU member countries to Russia (such as Hungary, for example). There would be here an extraordinary contradiction between two regional groups which claim the primacy of their legal norms over any other, including therefore that of the other group...

But one thing can give cause for optimism: the prospects for change in Russia. Because if Russia becomes liberal, it is possible that the rapprochement with Europe would allow the EU to increase its outlets on a geographically close and developing market, while the EEU would finally find the dynamic it lacked until now. It's all about posture. If Russia and the EEU stubbornly maintain a provocative posture, nothing can change. If, on the other hand, the reforms are taken in Russia and in the countries of the EEU, a hope for development can be born for the two entities that are the EU and the EEU. This is, moreover, one of the theoretical questions that we can ask ourselves about what the state of the world would have been if Gorbachev's projects had succeeded... If the USSR had been maintained and its integration safeguarded, what would have been its economic prospects and possibilities for cooperation with the EU? If Gorbachev had won his bet to liberalize the USSR, both politically and economically, and if his policy of rapprochement with the West had succeeded, what would have been the dynamics of the two groups today? Endowed with substantial economic and industrial assets, the USSR would have constituted an essential pole of economic and political development. But instead, the post-Soviet space has become an underdeveloped region, full of tensions and contradictions. At the mercy of its neighbors and subject to Russia's revanchist tendencies. The creation of the EEU did not change the situation.

In the end, the dynamic set in motion by the Mongol invasions continues its course. The space inherited from the Russian Empire and the disintegration of the USSR continues to favor authoritarianism and the plunder of its economic resources. Refusing reforms and considering liberalism as an existential danger. The foreigner is always conceived as a threat to the way of life of the region, and this “external danger” is instrumentalized by the powers in place to justify their own existence. The future will tell us how relations between Europe and the post-Soviet space will unfold. But it is clear that many things will be decided according to the internal Russian evolution. Only Russia can reform. And only if it reforms, will the EEU have a chance to truly follow the European lead.


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