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Putin forms ex-Soviet trading bloc

Thursday, May 29 11:54:07

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty with his counterparts from Kazakhstan and Belarus creating a trading bloc of more than 170 million people to challenge the U.S. and European Union.

The formal creation of the Eurasian Economic Union in the Kazakh capital Astana marks the culmination of more than two decades of talks between former Soviet republics. Kyrgyzstan and Armenia are seeking to join the union by the end of the year, the countries’ leaders said at the signing ceremony today.

Putin, facing sanctions from the U.S. and EU for his annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, said Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus will "gradually align" their currencies and monetary policies to facilitate trade and minimalize risks. Putin has pushed for Ukrainian membership in the union.

"The Eurasian Union is a realisation of Putin's geopolitical dream," said Nikolay Petrov, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center research group. "The Eurasian Union is a demonstration that Russia is not alone." (Bloomberg)