Experts close to the Kremlin have put some flesh on a recent project of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to create a "Eurasian Union" made up of Russia and other post-Soviet states.
Putin, who is expected to again become Russia's president next year (see background), outlined his geopolitical ambitions, according to a report in the daily Izvestia.
A roundtable in Moscow, organised by the ruling United Russia part, put flesh on those ideas, the Russian media reported today (17 November).
Apart from countries of the former USSR, the "Eurasian Union" should bring together nations that are historically or culturally close to Russia and that are "loyal to Russia's interests", the experts said.
Russian political scientist Dmitry Orlov indicated that those countries should include Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Mongolia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, as well as two countries not in either Europe or Asia, Cuba and Venezuela.
A representative of United Russia reportedly denied that those countries have been approached. But Boris Grizlov, president of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, said that "instruments and historic arguments" spoke in favour of establishing such a Eurasian project, gathering 250 million people. The population of Russia is of 143 million.
According to Grizlov, one of the "arguments" was the common history of the countries, and as "instruments" he saw the Russian language "as a language for international communication" as well as "economic cooperation". He specified that it was not building a state, but a union of sovereign states.
Russia's ambassdor to NATO Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying that the project was designed "to unite not so much the lands, but rather peoples and the citizens in the name of a common state body".
Rogozin also pleaded in favour of Russia considering with utmost attention the request of the estimated 20,000 Serbs in Kosovo who recently applied for Russian citizenship.
Belgrade sees the move as a sign of disappointment in Moscow over the fate of Kosovo's Serbs who blame Belgrade authorities for not protecting their interests vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian majority in the former Serbian province.
Rogozin also pleaded for Russian to become an official EU language and said he would push this cause forward by gathering a million signatures using the recently launched European Citizens' Initiative (ECI).
Meksat Kunakunov, counsellor to the president of the parliament of Kyrgyzstan, quoted Putin as saying: "Whoever doesn't regret the USSR has no heart. Whoever dreams of bringing back the USSR has no brains". And he added on his own behalf: "Whoever doubts that we will create a new union is just a fool".
The Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy 'People First' argued that the need for the Eurasian Union to be attractive relative to the EU could lead Moscow to institute reforms. "If Russia, in an attempt to compete with the EU, itself becomes more democratic then everyone will win from such developments," it said.
It added that "Probably, as a consequence of this understanding, for example, an MP from the United Russia party recently introduced a draft law offering to oblige the State Duma to consider appeals signed by as little as 10,000 citizens."