After offering a coldly efficient example in Ukraine of the use of hard power, Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin is turning his attention to shoring up Moscow’s soft power capabilities, namely keeping his vision for Eurasian unification on track. There are signs, however, that his Eurasian aspirations will be more difficult to fulfill than his Crimean land-grab.
Putin on March 5 convened a snap summit in Moscow, also attended by Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarus’ Alexandr Lukashenko. The meeting’s aim was perhaps more propagandistic than substantive, designed mainly as a show of diplomatic support amid Western efforts to isolate and punish Russia for what critics see as its de facto occupation of the Crimean peninsula. At the same time, it provided Putin an opportunity to test his cohorts’ resolve to press ahead with integration. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are currently co-joined in a customs union.
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