Today the Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty reported about Armenia's decision to enter the Customs Union. The Russian foreign minister praised the move. Putin, the Russian Czar... sorry, we meant... president, promptly added that if Ukraine (an actual Customs Union member) wishes to become an EU member then there will be economic retaliations. Ukraine received a clear message from the Customs Union "do as we say but not as we do".
The Customs Union is an attempt to create a free trade zone roughly encompassing all the nations that used to be under the USSR umbrella first, and then part of a larger zone, the Eurasian Economic Union. A convenient description can be found in Wikipedia - Customs Union.
The US favors free trade agreements for as long as they benefit them. They push unilateral advantages all the while praising and chanting the benefits of what they call free trade. Then, to bias matters even further into their favor, they create treaties and special organizations to handle disputes. And to ensure there will be no unforeseen issues, they either staff or control those organizations with... you guess it... US citizens.
So, the lesson seems to be that free trade is great as long as it works on US's benefit and as long as US exercises some degree of control. For example, in the EU there is quite a fair amount of interference due to NATO's presence as well as the current financial mess for which the endless US dollars printing press seems always ready for action.
But what happens on the other side of the fence? Well, it would seem that entering the Customs Union is great, as long as your product comply with the Technical Regulations... which are controlled by Russia. Are you getting the picture yet?
Getting into a free trade zone is good for you, as long as you don't join the one our competitor's or political enemies are creating.
In other words, free trade is great as long as we control it.
This is, of course, utter stupidity and nonsense but fairly common in the realm of Realpolitiks.
The truth is that free trade is good, irrespective of what you think of you neighbour. Free trade is an economic factor, not a geopolitical or military one.
Anyone making the argument to the contrary does not have your best interests in mind... which is exactly what happens in relationships between countries. Each country has his own best interest in mind... which happens not to be yours.
The good news is that even these broken and "managed" free trade zones are a step forward towards world-wide economic integration and therefore forced coexistence.
Even when the architects of these zones believe they can control them, this is just an illusion. Once a country becomes dependent upon free trade goods and services it is almost impossible to go back without destroying one's own economy. If the economy is destroyed, drastic political change is near. Political change means that politicians will be out of their jobs. Therefore, they will do nothing that may place their so-called jobs in jeopardy.
But there is more good news. Free trade zones bring with them people and ideas. Freer discussions and options. Mind opening concepts and the realization that one has been trapped in a system that is broken down and does not work. Furthermore, the notion that other solutions exist "out there" and that those solutions are not as far fetched as once you thought there were.
The Austro-Libertarian system trickles-in with every new free trade zone. Paradoxically enough, politicians are doing our job for us and they don't even know it. We welcome this great equalizer an you should too!
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.