It has become increas­ingly clear in the past few years that Russia has no inten­tion to relax its grip over the former Soviet bloc. Ukraine has recently become a good case in point. Although Moscow is clearly pre­oc­cu­pied with keeping its western bor­ders and geopo­lit­ical inter­ests safe, it has not for­gotten about the East.

Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s polit­ical project to pull former Soviet republics of Cen­tral Asia into the Kremlin’s orbit via the Cus­toms Union, is part of a larger plan to bring Russia back to manage one fifth of the world’s largest land­mass. Since the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has sought, through var­ious eco­nomic treaties, to re-​​establish its con­trol over the Cen­tral Asian republics.

The first one, and most well-​​known, the Com­mon­wealth of Inde­pen­dent States (CIS) included 12 of the newly inde­pen­dent republics and was formed in late 1991. Russia then pro­posed the idea of an Eco­nomic Union in 1993 and after two years in Jan­uary 1995, Russia signed a treaty on the for­ma­tion of the Eurasian Cus­toms Union with Belarus and Kaza­khstan, which were later joined by Kyr­gyzstan and Tajikistan.

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