Eurasian Regionalism: Specifics, Problems, and Prospects

Eurasian Regionalism: Specifics, Problems, and Prospects

Ekaterina Mikhaylenko (Ural Federal University, Russia) and Valeriy Mikhaylenko (Ural Federal University, Russia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1950-9.ch002
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The term ‘Eurasia' is an ambiguous concept that includes in different studies: ‘Greater Eurasia', which is associated with the Eurasian continent; ‘Central Eurasia' as a post-Soviet space; and the term Eurasia can be associated with specific integration projects in Eurasia, such as Eurasian Economic Union. This chapter defines Eurasian regionalism and prospects for its development. Authors analyze modern scientific discourse around Eurasian integration and Eurasian regionalism. They examine modern approaches to regionalism and identify some of the distinctive features of the construction of regions.
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Eurasian regionalism is certainly amongst the most complex phenomena to study (Obydenkova & Libman, 2019). A large number of works are dedicated to Eurasia and the processes of integration within it. ‘Eurasian regionalism’ is a term usually used in the English-language scientific discourse (Molchanov, 2005; Aris, 2011; Gast, 2017; Kavalski, 2012; Obydenkova & Libman, 2019). These authors apply the term ‘Eurasian regionalism’ to completely different integration projects: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). In Russian discourse, authors predominantly apply terms such as ‘integration in the post-Soviet space’ and ‘integration projects in Eurasia’ (Zhiltsov, 2016; Zinoviev & Troitskij, 2016; Vasilieva & Lagutina, 2017; Lagutina, 2017). Nevertheless, the terms ‘integration’ and ‘regionalism’ are quite different from each other. Integration can be viewed either as a unification process in world politics, which is used by different countries in order to effectively solve global and regional problems—the ‘challenges’ of globalisation (Lagutina, 2018)—or as a model of conscious and active participation by a group of countries in the process of global stratification of the world (Butorina, 2011).

The term ‘Eurasia’ is an ambiguous concept which manifests in different studies as ‘Greater Eurasia’ associated with the Eurasian continent; ‘Central Eurasia’ as a post-Soviet space; and finally, the term ‘Eurasia’ can also be associated with specific integration projects in Eurasia, such as the Eurasian Economic Union.

An analysis of contemporary Russian scientific discourse demonstrates that researchers practically do not apply the concept of Eurasian regionalism. Eurasian regionalism is often synonymous with Eurasian integration, which is considered either as a project of the Russian Federation aimed at building macro-regional/trans-regional integration (Vinokurov & Libman, 2012a), or as a process of building integration organisations in Eurasia.

In this study, the authors set an ambitious task to determine what Eurasian regionalism is and what the prospects for its development are, by applying a regionalism-based approach. Regionalism is a complex concept that explains the process of political regional integration as a process of building a ‘relatively independent subsystem of interstate relations, united primarily in order to solve the concrete political problems, which are specific to this particular region’ (Voskresensky, 2012). However, it also explains the processes by which regions are made and unmade, i.e., regionalisation and region-building (Söderbaum, 2016).

The logic of the paper follows this structure: in the first part of the study, the authors will analyse the modern scientific discourse around Eurasian integration and Eurasian regionalism and determine the main concepts used in the study; in the second part, the authors will analyse modern approaches to regionalism and identify some of the distinctive features of the construction of regions at the present stage; the third part of the paper will analyse the distinctive features of modern Eurasian regionalism, challenges and the prospects for its development. AT the end of the chapter, there will be some recommendations for the development of Eurasian regionalism.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): An international organisation (international treaty) designed to regulate relations of cooperation between states formerly part of the USSR. The CIS was founded by the heads of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine by signing the “Agreement on the Creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States” on December 8, 1991 in Viskuly (Belovezhskaya Pushcha).

Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU): An international organisation for regional economic integration that has international legal personality and is established by the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union.

Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC): A regional organisation between 2000 and 2014, which aimed for the economic integration of its member states. The organisation originated from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on 29 March 1996, with the treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Community signed on 10 October 2000 in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana by Presidents Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan. Uzbekistan joined the community on 7 October 2005; however, it later withdrew on 16 October 2008.

One Belt, One Road (OBOR), or ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI): The Chinese infrastructure mega-project which aimed for connectivity with Europe via Central Asia to increase trade between the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) and Europe. It consists of two components: the land transportation infrastructure (known as Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) or the One Belt), mostly via high-speed trains and the sea transportation infrastructure (known as the Maritime Silk Road), via trans-ocean ships.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): A permanent intergovernmental international organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.

Greater Eurasian Partnership: The current Eurasian strategy of Russia, aimed at the formation of a complex, multi-level system of multilateral cooperation with the participation of the EAEU, ASEAN, APEC and SCO countries.

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