Perhaps the most prickly question about the Eurasian Union -- the new, Russia-centric trade club -- is whether or not its members can bring to this neo-Soviet party their significant others. In other words, associated separatist dependencies.
Like with many Moscow clubs, there is face-control in the Eurasian Union. For now, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have it all to themselves. Disputed breakaway formations like Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though, are also keen for inclusion.
But getting the separatist territories in would cause a wave of bad blood between the Eurasian Union members and the countries (Azerbaijan and Georgia, respectively) who demand these territories back. Leaving them out, in turn, may hamper the territories' ability to get economic sustenance from club-founder Russia and prospective member Armenia.
This is a pain in the neck, in particular, for Armenia, which already has been requested by the club to leave its own protégé, Nagorno Karabakh, in the cloakroom.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev last week quite curtly told his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, that none of the founding members have any desire to aggravate Azerbaijan. You only get in "within the boundaries recognised by the United Nations," he advised at an Astana roundtable.
Sargsyan, a Karabakh native, later said that Armenia never intended to slip the mountainous territory (which Yerevan essentially views as a separate country) into the club.
It may have been a pragmatic response, but now Sargsyan faces criticism both at home and in Karabakh. The Karabakhi separatist de-facto authorities and Armenian Economy Minister Chshmaritian insist there will not be any customs clearance between Armenia and Karabakh.
Some Armenians also pointed out that, quite unfairly, Russia is not entering the club within its own, UN-recognized borders, so why should they? Moscow's bringing along the recently annexed Crimean peninsula.
As yet, no official is saying publicly that this wrangle will cause a delay in Armenia joining the club. The initiation date, however, has again been pushed back; this time to July 1. And, after Nazarbayev's remarks, the chief Armenian negotiator was let go -- for unclear reasons, according to RFE/RL.
Meanwhile, Russia itself has the worry of what to do about its own breakaway charges, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which now also want to go clubbing with the Eurasian three. Belarus and, again, Kazakhstan, which view Georgia as the de-jure owner of both territories, are expected to put the kibosh on such notions, however.
In short, the Eurasian project is looking like a diplomatic cluster-jam. Don't expect customs points to mark its borders without quite a few carefully worded disclaimers.