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What Putin's New Soviet Union Would Look Like

Published: April 28, 2014 (Issue # 1807)




  • Photo: Nwcod.com

As the leaders of the Customs Union are meeting this week in Moscow, the Kremlin's heart may no longer be in it.

President Vladimir Putin is weary of the tortured process of restoring Russia's dominance in the former Soviet Union through economic integration. Efforts to move beyond free trade are resisted by Belarus and Kazakhstan.

After Crimea, Putin has discovered the value of acting boldly in Russia's neighborhood to achieve his strategic objective: restoring an undiminished Russian state. "Polite green men" now trump economic integration.

In Crimea, Putin rejected Russia's terms of the post-Soviet settlement, openly questioning the legality of the Soviet collapse. The chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court argued recently that the Belavezha Accords, which the leaders of three Soviet republics signed in December 1991 to dissolve the Soviet Union, could be voided because of legal irregularities in the agreement.

With all post-Soviet borders up for grabs, the challenge is to determine what should be incorporated and what would be better left out.

The Baltic states, who declared their independence before the Soviet Union collapsed, are safely out.

Southeastern Ukraine is clearly in but doubts remain whether it could be detached without major bloodshed.

Belarus and Kazakhstan are in. Since their leaders have no viable succession options, they are vulnerable to external subversion. Both are frustrated with Putin's audacity but may get an offer they cannot refuse: They can keep their fiefdom for life under Russian rule or face "popular uprisings against tyranny."

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev might get a similar offer but is likely to stay out. With Armenia in, there is little desire to make Nagarno-­Karabakh Russia's internal conflict. Georgia is out without Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Turkmenistan, with its huge energy reserves, small non-Slavic population and a history of brutal treatment of Russians, could be up for "democracy promotion" and "regime change," but would remain a vassal state.

Uzbekistan is out, unless President Islam Karimov's regime unravels and the country succumbs to militant Islamist insurgency. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are already in; half of their people are already in Russia.

It seems that Putin is trying to revisit the Soviet Union's demise to boost Russia's power. He should be careful what he wishes for.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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