Kazakhstan’s president yesterday criticized the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and appeared to caution against political integration between its members.

The meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council that took place on May 25 was attended by heads of the EAEU member nations, including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

The talks began with a restricted attendance meeting that included President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, and Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission Board Mikhail Myasnikovich.

The talks in the expanded format were joined, via videoconference, by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev (Uzbekistan is an EAEU observer nation).  

Besides, the CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev, and SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming attended the meeting.

Media reports say that speaking at EAEU plenary session in Moscow, Tokayev said Kazakhstan sees the union as an exclusively economic bloc.

“This is precisely what is stipulated in the 2015 treaty,” Tokayev said, addressing his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.  “Any other areas of integration should only be considered “through the prism of the economy.”

At the same time, he noted that economic integration within the EAEU was in a “delicate spot,” with the union effectively divided into two parts.

“We have a Union State in the EAEU,” Tokayev said, referring to Russia and Belarus.  “The creation of a state according to the formula ‘Two countries, one state,’ with a single political, legal, military, economic, monetary, cultural and humanitarian space, with a single union government and a single union parliament."

The countries in the second part — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia — share a different level of integration, he said.

“We have to deal with this reality.  How will we work in these conditions?  This is a conceptual issue.  I think we need to discuss this problem at this economic forum,” he said.

Tokayev then said that economic integration within the EAEU is taking place in contradiction to the bloc’s founding agreements and goals.

Kazakhstan, which has traditionally been Moscow’s closest ally in Central Asia, has been shaken by the invasion of Ukraine that sparked fears about Russia’s geopolitical ambitions.