With the Russian economy starting to creak under the weight of Western economic sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis, a question is being posed in Kazakhstan: will the Kremlin’s aggressive geopolitical agenda cause Astana excessive economic pain?
A diamond deal that gives Armenia duty-free access to rough diamonds from Russia could offer Alrosa, the semi-government-owned Russian diamond company that provides roughly 27 percent of the world’s rough-diamond supplies, a dodge from potential European-Union sanctions, Armenian diamond-industry professionals believe.
It appears Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imperial ambitions aren’t limited to economics and politics. The master of the Kremlin also wants to advance his agenda via sports, namely with the creation of a new football super league comprising leading teams from Russia and other formerly Soviet republics.
Victory Day on May 9 was an occasion for Russians to indulge in patriotic flag waving in Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin used the previous day to muster a show of diplomatic support for his efforts to bring formerly Soviet states closer together.
On a hillside in northeastern Kazakhstan, south of the Russian border, a simple and stark slogan looms over the city of Oskemen: “Kazakhstan,” reads the message in giant white letters arrayed across the green slope.
After offering a coldly efficient example in Ukraine of the use of hard power, Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin is turning his attention to shoring up Moscow’s soft power capabilities, namely keeping his vision for Eurasian unification on track. There are signs, however, that his Eurasian aspirations will be more difficult to fulfill than his Crimean land-grab.
After 26 years of frustration over its start-and-stop bid to join the European Union, would Turkey ever consider joining a rival regional bloc led by the Kremlin? Few observers believe it likely, but it’s not completely out of the question.
Now that Vladimir Putin has dispensed with the formalities of reclaiming presidential authority, Kremlinologists can focus on the more substantive question of how Russia’s paramount leader intends to define his third term. In particular, many are wondering how he will proceed with his pet project -- the creation of a Eurasian Union.