Russia’s Putin Says Wants To Build “Eurasian Union”

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he wants to bring ex-Soviet states into a “Eurasian Union” in an article which outlined his first foreign policy initiative as he prepares to return to the Kremlin as the country’s next president.

Putin said the new union would build on an existing Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan which from next year will remove all barriers to trade, capital and labor movement between the three countries.

“We are not going to stop there and are setting an ambitious goal — to achieve an even higher integration level in the Eurasian Union,” Putin wrote in an article which will be published in Izvestia newspaper on October 4.

Putin said last month he would run in the March 2012 presidential election and his current public approval ratings show that he is set to win.

Putin’s initiative comes as Russia nears the end of its 18-year-old negotiations to join the World Trade Organization. In the article Putin made no secret of his skepticism about the global trade watchdog.

“The process of finding new post-crisis global development models is moving forward with difficulty. For example, the Doha round (of international trade talks) has practically stopped. There are objective difficulties inside the WTO,” he wrote.

In 2009, Putin threw Russia’s bid to join the WTO into disarray, saying Russia would instead form the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. The new initiative will have to be explained to WTO members.

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