The benefits of Russian entry, on one hand, are very positive. Moscow has agreed to phase out most of its export tariffs, including timber, which will certainly benefit the European community as a whole. Russia has also agreed to waive flyover royalties that it has imposed on international airlines for passing through Siberia en route to East Asia. Although this is a minor concession, it will still put an additional $400 million back in the hands of European carriers instead of the archaic Russian national airline Aeroflot.
On the other hand, Russia will eventually have to face other WTO members’ geopolitical concerns before accession. First off, Georgia will demand Russian withdrawal and cessation of support for breakaway provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The 2008 War and Russia’s ongoing occupation of the territories in question will inevitably be a major topic of debate.
Another concern, in addition to Russia’s forceful reassertion over its traditional sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, is Russia’s ability or willingness to counter corruption in its government and business community. If China’s integration into the WTO since 2001 has been of any guidance, Russia’s entry should build anti-corruption measures and promote the international system’s benefits and openness to the Russian people. WTO membership is surely opposed by the more nefarious economic powers within Russia – admission to the organization will lead to more oversight and honest competition for services and products.