Against this background, modern Russia is perceived in post-Soviet states, unfortunately, not in the best way. In the best case, Russia is perceived by its closest neighbors as a market for migrant labor, as a potential source of cheap energy and as a counterbalance for maintaining the military-political balance in the region. In the worst case, it is perceived as an authoritarian power and a large unpredictable neighbor who, for political reasons, manipulates gas prices or the rules of importing food products.
Moreover, despite the fact that the president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, was the first to come up with the idea of Eurasian integration, that all member states have an equal voice and decisions are made by consensus in the interstate bodies of the bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union by other member states and other CIS countries is still perceived in many ways precisely as a Russian and even Russo-centric integration project.
On the one hand, this perception is due to objective reasons: firstly
, by the size of Russia's
population (146.8 million people or 80.1% of the population of the EAEU), its GDP (1267 billion US dollars or 86% of the GDP of the EAEU) and territory (17 thousand km2 or 84.5% of the territory of the EAEU). Russia objectively prevails in comparison with other countries of the region. Secondly
, mutual trade in the Eurasian Economic Union is fixated on Russia, which is an important market for its partners. In fact, the EAEU members trade mainly with Russia, but not with each other. For example, Russia is Belarus's
main foreign trade partner. It accounts for 39.2% of the republic's exports and 59% of its imports. Thirdly
, over the past 300 years, it was Russia that initiated the large territorial "integration initiatives" of the Eurasian space (Russian Empire, Soviet Union). There is no cunning intent of Moscow that the Russian Federation naturally "dominates" the EAEU by its weight. A similar situation is observed in other integration organizations of the world: NAFTA (from 2018 it became USMECA), the South African Customs Union, MERCOSUR and others.
On the other hand, Western and pro-Western post-Soviet think tanks are trying to present the natural predominance of Russia in the EAEU as alleged "neo-imperial ambitions of the Kremlin".
Citizens of the post-Soviet countries still perceive the Eurasian Economic Union as a Russian project. Despite the fact that on average 76% of the respondents in the CIS countries (except for Ukraine and Georgia) call Russia their most friendly country, it is difficult for Moscow to win the public relations competition with the EU-USA, China and radical Islam.