Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. REUTERS/RIA Novosti

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed forming a Eurasian Union of former Soviet nations, saying that the bloc could become a major global player to rival America, Asia, and the European Union.

The plan would ally Russia with ex-Soviet nations including Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, and would also come into competition with the Eastern Partnership, an initiative launched two years ago by Poland and Sweden.

Putin, who has said that the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest goepolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, is all but certain to reclaim the presidency in March's election, after current president Dmitry Medvedev announced his intention to step down.

Putin denied that he was attempting to rebuild the USSR, arguing that it would be naive to try to restore or copy something that belongs to the past.

He said in an article published this morning in Izvestia, a Russian daily, however, that a new alliance could emerge as one of the poles of the modern world, serving as an efficient link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.

Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan already formed an economic alliance last summer that removed customs barriers in mutual trade. They are set to introduce unified market rules and regulations starting Jan. 1, and Putin has said that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are expected to join the group.

Russia has long called for stronger cooperation between ex-Soviet nations, but earlier attempts to forge ties have failed. Many former satellite states look westward, and remain suspicious of Moscow's intentions.

Ukraine, one of the more powerful Eastern European states economically, has continued to focus its attentions on the Soviet Union, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych complained last month that the Kremlin was trying to coerce Ukraine into joining the collective.

Even Belarus, one of Russia's closest allies, has been the cause of a recent rift. President Alexander Lukashenko, whose government is struggling with financial crisis, has resisted Moscow's attempts to control stake in Belarus' top state-controlled industrial assets.

Putin, however, continues to stand by his plan. A close integration based on new values and economic and political foundation is a demand of the present time, he said, [and] should ensure the stability of global development.