ASTANA, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Former Soviet states' involvement in Eurasian integration does not herald a return to the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Friday.
"We will continue to strive toward our common goal, and I want to stress once again that Eurasian integration, which is proceeding under my personal initiative, has never been, and never will be, a reincarnation of any political union, and particularly of the now-defunct Soviet Union," Nazarbayev said.
Touching on those countries involved in the Customs Union, he stressed that "Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus remain independent states with their own national interests."
Any suspicions about the aims of the Eurasian integration process were groundless, he said, ascribing talk of any creeping “re-Sovietization” to media, experts and politicians who remain stuck in the Cold War era.
Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have since January 1, 2012, been part of a Common Economic Space (EEP), or a Customs Union. It allows free movement of capital, goods and services across the three states’ national borders. Kazakhstan's Central Asian neighbor Kyrgyzstan has applied to join.
Russia views this grouping as a precursor to a broader Eurasian Economic Union, and has even touted membership to Ukraine and Moldova, although Kiev has long harbored ambitions of moving closer to the EU.
Russia has been calling for more CIS countries to join the union, a process regarded with concern by Washington. In December 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the new post-Soviet integration initiative in an address to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“It’s going to be called a Customs Union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it,” Clinton said, branding the move as “re-Sovietization.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by defending these post-Soviet integration initiatives as part of a “natural process” driven by the countries’ mutual economic interests.
“It is strange for me to hear some of our colleagues abroad say that we are moving down the path of integration and that this is the revival of Russia’s ambitions as the former Soviet Union,” he said. “What utter nonsense.”
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).