File - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, talks with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev during the Eurasian Economic Union summit in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/ Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
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The Eurasian Economic Union, a trade bloc of former Soviet states, expanded to four nations Friday when Armenia formally joined, a day after the union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan began. The Russian-dominated bloc has been politically controversial and its early days are being overshadowed by the sharp deterioration of Russia's economy in recent months.A look at the bloc, its implications and its prospects:WHY CREATE A UNION?The union aims to create a single integrated market for the free movement of goods and services over a total population of more than 180 million people, something like the 28-nation European Union. Armenia's economy is comparatively underdeveloped and the benefits it can derive from the trade bloc may be undercut by the fact it is not contiguous with the other members.IN THE BLOCBoth Kazakhstan and Belarus appear worried about Russia's dominance of the trade bloc for political reasons.
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