Russia’s Putin Battles For His Eurasian Dream

Putin says Russia will expand its Arctic presence, restore Soviet-era military base

If either Baku or Tbilisi joins the Customs Union and Eurasian Union, it would signal the end of European access to Central Asia,” Zaur Shiriyev, a research fellow in the Foreign Policy Analysis Department of the Center for Strategic Studies in Azerbaijan, told Al Jazeera. The World Bank seems to think so too. Its report ,published in February 2013, said “the [Customs Union]creates an opportunity for Russia to expand its exports and its presence in Central Asia at the expense of exports from other countries, such as the European Union and China”. Shiriyev suggested the only way for eastern European countries to avoid more pressure from Russia is to increase integration with the European Union and strengthen relations with the United States. Who will benefit? According to the World Bank analysis , evidence suggests that Russia has been the main beneficiary in the short term of the Customs Union (launched on January 1, 2010 with Kazakhstan and Belarus), and this is also expected to be the case once the organisation grows into a larger Eurasian Union. However, there are some benefits to be gained by Central Asian member states in the medium to long term, as Russia is their most significant trading partner. Border controls within the union are removed for goods passing through, and all member states impose the same tariff on imports from outside the union. The economic benefits have lured at least one more Central Asian post-Soviet country – Kyrgyzstan – to the union. It’s not a member state yet, but it has committed to doing so. “By joining the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union, [the] Kyrgyz Republic would get access to a very large common market, which would attract investments and new technologies,” said Talant Sultanov, director at the National Institute for Strategic Studies of Kyrgyzstan. According to Sultanov, the negotiations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan regarding its integration in the Customs Union and wider Eurasian Union “are going in a very constructive manner”,unlike the situation with Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries. Because Kyrgyzstan’s trade with the EU and US is already limited, Sultanov does not think its move will have much of an impact on its trade relations with the West. At what cost?

Sonny Weems’ plan to make it back to NBA from Russia

But even after a decent year in Lithuania, which ended late in the season with a badly sprained ankle, there was minimal interest in Weems from NBA teams. So he signed with CSKA Moscow in the 2012 offseason and helped CSKA to a Russian title and third-place finish in the Euroleague last season. Playing for respected Italian coach Ettore Messina, who spent the 2011-12 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Weems averaged 12.1 points and shot 42.1% on three-pointers for CSKA. He was the Euroleague player of the month in October last season, averaging 20.3 point in three games. He scored 29 of his 61 points in the fourth quarter and overtime that month. “Once I got used to the European game, my game went to another level. I became more of half-court player and learned how to use the pick-and-rolls, and not just a run-and shoot guy,” Weems said. Weems has adapted to life in Europe though he admits his Russian “is terrible. Probably the worst ever.” Through high-tech devices, Weems watches American TV in his Moscow condo. He just finished Breaking Bad and was anticipating the return of Scandal and Vikings, along with his next travel adventure. “When I was younger, I didn’t care about getting a passport,” Weems said.

CAPTION By Associated Press, MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin pledged Thursday that Russia will expand its presence in the Arctic, adding that work is underway to restore a major Soviet-era military base there. Speaking at a meeting with activists of the main Kremlin party, United Russia, Putin said the Arctic region is essential for Russias economic and security interests. Deadly violence in Egypt as nation celebrates its military Abigail Hauslohner At least 40 people are killed and hundreds injured in violence across the country, most of them in Cairo. Russia welcomes Olympic flame Will Englund President Vladimir Putin helps roll out the red carpet for the flame, but Kremlin winds are not so kind. Juan Forero and Marina Villeneuve Uribe relentlessly bashes Santos on Twitter, raising eyebrows with his warnings against the negotiations. Abdi Guled, Jason Straziuso and Associated Press Predawn strike, aimed at high-profile targets, comes two weeks after militants attack on Nairobi mall. Putin said the Russian military has been restoring a Soviet-era military base on the New Siberian Islands that was shut down after the Soviet collapse. He added that the facility is key for protecting shipping routes that link Europe with the Pacific region across the Arctic Ocean. Last month, a Russian navy squadron led by the flagship of Russias Northern Fleet, nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, visited the archipelago, which occupies a strategic position on the Arctic shipping route. Putin said that the military has already re-established a permanent garrison there and will restore an airfield and other facilities. He angrily dismissed suggestions that the Arctic should be placed under the jurisdiction of the international community.