MOSCOW – With Russia’s 2012 presidential elections effectively over since Vladimir Putin’s decision to reclaim his old Kremlin office, it is time to turn from personalities to policies. Putin plans to stay in the Kremlin for two more presidential terms, another 12 years, as he is enabled to do by the recently-amended constitution. So who will be Russia’s next president is now a certainty; less obvious is what he hopes to achieve.
One issue, however, has now shot to the top of Russia’s political agenda: Eurasian integration. In early October, Putin wrote a newspaper article that proclaimed what appears to be his reigning foreign-policy goal: a Eurasian Union of former Soviet states. Two weeks later, in St. Petersburg, he hosted a meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) prime ministers, eight of whom signed an agreement establishing a free-trade area among their countries. On January 1, 2012, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, which now form a customs union, will join a single economic space.