Kremlin kingpin Vladimir Putin’s pet project to drive former Soviet states back into Moscow’s embrace – via the Customs Union -- is gathering momentum. But the possibility of expansion doesn’t thrill all the union’s current members.
Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are presently expressing varying degrees of interest in joining founding participants Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the union. The prospect of a doubling of the membership is reigniting debate in Kazakhstan about the merits of economic integration with its former colonial master.
Supporters argue that it offers unprecedented opportunities to tap into new markets; opponents counter that Russia is swamping Kazakhstan’s economy – and some are convinced the union is a backdoor bid by Moscow to reestablish Russian regional hegemony.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.