عنوان مقاله [English]
Introduction: The Eurasian Economic Union is one of the most sophisticated and ambitious international organizations of the post-Soviet space in terms of institutional design and goals. The initiative to achieve regional integration in part of the Central Eurasia is the result of more than two decades of Russian efforts in forming regional institutions and organizations. This time, Russia, gave up the intention of bring all the former Soviet republics under the umbrella of a single regional organization and preferred to choose those with the least political divergence from Russia and the most economic interdependence with it. So the Eurasian Economic Union might be a useful instrument for deep regional integration unlike its predecessors.
Although economic goals and concerns for growth and development have been important throughout all Putin's years, they cannot be considered the only or the most important reason for the emergence of the Eurasian Economic Union. Such an organization, economic functions or at least current economic benefits of which to its most powerful founding member have not yet reached the desired level, is categorically based on a strong intellectual foundation and a long-term vision.
Research Question: This article seeks to answer the question of how the perception of Russia's political elites of their country's worthy position in the international system is reflected in the functions of the Eurasian Economic Union as a regional initiative.
Research Hypothesis: Eurasian Economic Union is one of the most sophisticated projects which has been designed to represent Russian self-concept as a great power.
Methodology (and Theoretical Framework if there are):Given the nature of the subject under discussion, the present study is a qualitative research that has been written using unresponsive methods of data collection and analysis and relying on the existing quantitative and qualitative data.
An analysis of the intellectual roots which have put an impact on the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union has led the author to examine the perception of Russian political elites of their country's appropriate position in the international system and the schools of thought influencing this perception. The formation of regional organizations and integration projects cannot be explained only by examining material and ideational factors and therefore requires using a combination of theoretical approaches.
The concept of "great power" is still widely used to analyze the behavior and foreign policy of certain countries and has not lost its relevance. "Great power" is an identity that, for historical reasons, cannot easily be wiped off from the minds of the political elites of some states even despite their severe loss of material resources of power. Most of the great powers of the contemporary world cannot achieve the status of global hegemon. But most of them claim special rights, privileges and responsibilities in certain geographical areas. Mutual recognition of these spheres of influence by other great powers can put a stabilizing effect on the international system. Declining great powers can institutionalize hierarchical orders in their respective region through initiating regional organizations to maintain their sphere of influence. To realize that goal, they can provide more incentives to encourage smaller countries to stay in that regional order. They also may strengthen regional identity and increase economic interdependence among regional countries to bolster their hegemony in that neighborhood.
Results and discussion: Russia is the most powerful post-Soviet country in terms of size, military power and economic capabilities. It enjoys a special or strategic relationship with most of the so-called near abroad countries. Russia plays the role of a strategic hub in the post-Soviet region. Active engagement in all regional equations of this part of the globe has been an integral feature of Russian foreign policy for nearly all post-Soviet years. After several consecutive years of dealing with the reluctance of the Euro-Atlantic bloc to acknowledge its identity as a great power and the mere regional power in the post-Soviet space, Russia has begun to further consolidate and institutionalize this role in Central Eurasia. The establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union can be analyzed in this context. The ideological underpinning of the Eurasian Union is the Russian-backed vision that seeks to establish a new center of power in a multipolar world. It can be said that this union, despite its problems, is the most effective regional economic projects led by Russia.
As has been emphasized in most theories which explain the role of the great powers in the post-bipolar world, almost none of the great powers can have the chance of achieving global hegemony. But most of them want to remain at the top of the hierarchical order in their traditional sphere of influence, and by maintaining this sphere of influence, they can also play a role in the system of great powers' management at the global level. The power exercised in these spheres of influence today is considerably different from the imperial order and normally does not require reliance on hard power or coercion. The great powers are increasingly encouraging the weaker ones to remain in their sphere of influence by creating and strengthening a regional identity based on shared values and common culture and providing public goods for the small powers in that region. Some great powers have convince other great powers to recognize their position and their rights and responsibilities. Russia has been in such a path in recent years.
Conclusion: Russian elites' and public discourse considers this nation a "great power" whose dominance and leadership in a multipolar world is both an inalienable right and an important means of maintaining and consolidating this position. Thus, the institutionalization of this sphere of influence - especially after the numerous transatlantic encroachments on the traditional backyard or near Russia, as well as the West's efforts to force Russia to renounce any claim to membership in the Club of Great Powers - is more highlighted on the agenda. The establishment of Eurasian Economic Union is a serious step made by Moscow to institutionalize the Russian-led regional integration among a group of Central Eurasian countries which on the one hand, are not economically, politically and culturally divergent from Russia, and on the other hand have been reluctant to join those international institutions formed to balance or contain Russia's regional influence. As we move away from the first years of Putin's presidency, we more and more find a Russia which despite siding with the West on many global issues, is unwilling to compromise its regional hegemony.