The leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus signed a potentially game-changing treaty in Astana on May 29, establishing a Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). If the union develops as envisioned, it could transform the geopolitical architecture of the post-Soviet region. But lots of hurdles still need to be cleared for that to happen.
The signing ceremony in the Kazakhstani capital Astana was set against a backdrop of heightened regional tension stoked by the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine. In the weeks leading up to the event, the three signatories squabbled over the shape of the union, amid ill-concealed concerns among Kazakhstani and Belarusian officials that Russia seeks to dominate the union. In Kazakhstan, authorities are also trying to stifle protests by a small but vocal minority that asserts Astana is signing away the country’s sovereignty.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.