Russia to Ratify Customs Union with Kazakhstan, Belarus

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan announced that they will ratify the Eurasian Economic Union Treat during this coming fall. The four counties have all been the objects of considerable attention from the Kremlin as it seeks to develop a union similar to that of the European Union in its own backyard. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been particularly vocal in his advocacy for the union, and has sought to draw other former Soviet states, such as Kyrgyzstan, into his orbit.

The treaty’s implementation is set to roll out gradually, with the hopes being that the union will go into full effect starting on January 1, 2015. The breadth of the deal is still to be determined, though most agree that the primary goal of the deal is to move toward better cohesion in the spaces of oil, petroleum products and gas by 2025, a year that has also been fixed as the goal for the union’s capital, to be seated in Astana, Kazakhstan to become fully operation.

Question surrounding duties on oil and petroleum products are sure to be the source of debate among the three nations, as will the question of economic regulation. Putin has declared openly his beliefs on the matter, stating that the European Economic Union should also occupy the role of economic regulator within the Customs Union states.

News Briefs:

  • Ukraine’s new president has declared a one-week ceasefire with separatists in the East. The Kremlin responded by sending troops to the Ukrainian border once again to “enforce the peace.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the cease-fire on a visit to Sviatohirsk, near the Donetsk region inside the sphere of influence of separatist stronghold Slovyansk. According the him, his plans call for insurgents to lay down their weapons and offers widespread amnesty – as well as limiting his own power and allowing for a more decentralized system, granting more autonomy to the eastern regions.
  • The Afghan IEC (Independent Election Commission) has postponed the collection of votes in second round of runoff elections to decide the presidency, on account of allegations of extensive fraud by candidate Abdullah Abdullah. Current president Hamid Karzai decided to intervene in the deadlock by opting for mediation by the United Nations that some saw as a tacit support to Abdullah’s claim that fraud indeed took place. UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, issued a statement saying that two candidates reserve the right to fully re-engage in the electoral process.
  • Less than a month remains before the six month deal to allow nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers. Thus far, the talks have yielded possible frameworks, but with little time remaining and diplomatic statements still vague about the prospects for a deal, it is unclear if both sides are still invested in the outcomes. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani voiced optimism on June 14: “I believe the July 20 deadline can be met despite remaining disputes…if not, we can continue the talks for a month or more.” Lead US Negotiator Wendy Sherman was more skeptical, stating: “What is still unclear is whether Iran is really ready and willing to take all of the steps necessary to assure the world that its nuclear program is, and will remain, peaceful.”
  • Chinese police officers in Xinjiang shot 13 attackers dead in an assault on the main police station of Yecheng County, with three wounded. Yecheng County has a large population of Uighurs, whose actions against the Chinese government have been on the rise, with attacks in Kunming and Urumqi increasing regularly. Other attacks throughout China, but particularly concentrated in the western province of Xinjiang, are attributed to Uighur separatists by the Chinese state media.
  • Royal Dutch Shell is putting its Ukrainian projects on hold, blaming air strikes and security based uncertainty, but this may have provided them with a convenient excuse to cut its losses in what was fast becoming a failed shale oil facility. Economic viability of the Ukrainian shale deposits and a $410 million letter of intent to the government before the crisis had committed the company to exploit what were set to be large reserves, but by claiming security issues, Shell can “freeze” its involvement in the initiative while minimizing financial loss.
  • Four USAF Predator drones over Afghanistan have disappeared over the course of the war, reports the Washington Post, never to be seen again. In each case, the technicians piloting the aircraft by remote control lost communications via satellite – simultaneously with the drones’ transponders malfunctioning they were unable to be located by radar. The only plausible explanation is a sudden and complete loss in electrical power – but even this disregards pre-programmed controls to return to its point of origin in the event of a loss of navigational control. Read more here.
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