Putin’s Grand Strategy: The Greater Eurasia Project
Putin uses SPIEF 2016 to outline a gigantic project to unite the whole Eurasian continent and pleads with the Europeans to take part.
The main theme of SPIEF 2016 was that it provided the Russians with an opportunity to explain their foreign policy to the Europeans.
One of the most sterile debates that goes on in certain sections of the Anglophone media is on whether Putin is a strategist or just a tactician. There are any number of articles that debate the question with the answer usually given that he is just a tactician.
The correct answer to the question is that Putin or more correctly the Russian leadership most definitely do have a strategy, though the Anglophone media commentators who debate the question can be forgiven for always giving the wrong answer because – as their articles all too clearly show – they haven’t the least idea of what this strategy actually is. This is very surprising because Putin has explained it on many occasions. With large numbers of Europeans in the audience at SPIEF 2016 he took the opportunity to do so again, emphasising this time the key role Europe – and specifically the European Union – plays in it.
Here is what Putin said:
“In 2011, with Belarus and Kazakhstan, and relying on the dense network of cooperative relationships we inherited from the Soviet Union, we formed a common customs space, and then upgraded it to the Eurasian Economic Union.
As early as June we, along with our Chinese colleagues, are planning to start official talks on the formation of comprehensive trade and economic partnership in Eurasia with the participation of the European Union states and China. I expect that this will become one of the first steps toward the formation of a major Eurasian partnership.
Friends, the project I have just mentioned – the “greater Eurasia” project – is, of course, open for Europe, and I am convinced that such cooperation may be mutually beneficial. Despite all of the well-known problems in our relations, the European Union remains Russia’s key trade and economic partner. It is our next-door neighbour and we are not indifferent to what is happening in the lives of our neighbours, European countries and the European economy.
Let me repeat that we are interested in Europeans joining the project for a major Eurasian partnership. In this context we welcome the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan on holding consultations between the Eurasian Economic Union and the EU. Yesterday we discussed this issue at the meeting with the President of the European Commission.”
This is not only a strategy; it is a hugely ambitious – even grandiose – strategy. It aims to link the two sides of the Eurasian continent into a single economic space with Russia at the centre, acting as the link and bridge. It is a proposal not for a “Eurasia” but for a “Greater Eurasia”: a single colossal economic unit extending all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Moreover it is quite clear this project is fully supported by the Chinese leadership, China of course being the eastern half of the project. Indeed it is a certainty the Chinese had a hand in making it and that their Silk Road project is part of it.