Current President Almazbek Atambayev has made it clear he sees the fate of Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a U.S. air base that acts as a crucial transportation hub for military operations in Afghanistan, as very much tied to Russia.
Neighboring Tajikistan, whose long and porous border with Afghanistan keeps many a security analyst awake at night, has proven a more recalcitrant partner and was recently embroiled in an unseemly diplomatic spat with Russia. But with more than an estimated 1 million Tajik migrants currently working in Russia, the lure of a border-free future could be too compelling to refuse.
Other potential members of the Eurasian Union in the Kremlin’s sights appear more wary about what this means for their sovereignty.
Ukraine, which has flirted uncertainly with membership, fears it could further jeopardize its future economic and political engagement with Western Europe. Others, such as Armenia, have proven positively cool on the idea, while Georgia under President Mikheil Saakashvili will likely always be hostile to anything coming out of Moscow.
Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, cautioned against talking up the prospect of the Eurasian Union as a political project.
“I see no absolutely no wish on behalf of the Kazakhstani leadership to give up their sovereignty, and I see the Belarusian people not wishing to become part of Russia,” he said.
Still, Russia’s neighbors may have reason to fear Kremlin attempts to restore political domination.
Shortly after Putin came to power, the Foreign Ministry spelled out Russia’s strategic vision in no uncertain terms. The document, which dates back to 2000, argues for promoting policies that “best serve the interests of Russia as a great power and as one of the most influential centers in the modern world.”
The theme was recently reprised in campaign literature for Putin’s United Russia party, which claimed that the “new union will allow our country to become another pole of influence in the modern, multipolar world.”
“That’s fine, but it doesn’t make you a powerhouse,” he said.