Is it really easier to work in groups or is it just a way to shift responsibility?
This question is relevant after the recent summit in Pittsburgh, where the G-8 has sort of transformed into the G-20. And even though the G-8 will be still meeting annually as well as the new G-20 format, the world leaders have announced that G-8 is not capable to solve world economic problems alone anymore. Maybe there is a similar reason for Russia to insist on joining the WTO as a union with Belarus and Kazakhstan? It is still not clear why Russia has taken this course of action.
It looks like WTO membership is an Achilles’ heel for Russia. And recently, the Russian government appears to be searching for new WTO membership obstacles. In June, Prime Minister Putin declared that entering the WTO for Russia is possible only if it were to enter as a trade union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. He pointed out that partnership with neighboring countries has been much more important for Russia than WTO membership. In September, President Medvedev said that his colleague Mr. Putin was misunderstood. Of course, there is no need to enter the WTO as a union.
Whether Russia will ever join the WTO is still a big question. But it is certain that the customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus will take effect in July 2011, which was announced earlier this week.