Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed, Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, may not, as is sometimes alleged, be trying to recreate it. But he is pursuing a different project – to build a “quasi-European Union” out of former Soviet states.
A customs union he launched a year ago between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan has already removed tariffs and customs controls along the three states’ internal borders.
Come January this is due to expand into a “common economic space”, ensuring free movement of goods, services and capital across a single market of 165m people – 60 per cent of the former Soviet population.
At a Moscow summit this month, prime ministers of the three states set an even more ambitious target – turning the grouping into a “Eurasian economic union” by 2013. There is even talk, down the line, of a common currency.