Two weeks ago, Russia announced that it intended to join the World Trade Organisation not on its own but as part of a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. It was a classic Russian initiative, combining brutal power politics with a healthy dose of surrealism.
For at the time of the announcement, Moscow was in the middle of a trade war with its two neighbours, banning imports of Belarusan dairy products and Kazakh meat. Russia was also in the process of freezing a $500m credit for Belarus, which in turn was imposing new customs controls on Russian goods. Acrimonious disputes of this nature do not usually precede the establishment of friendly arrangements such as customs unions. Read more