Saturday, August 30, 2014
 
Follow sptimesonline on Facebook Follow sptimesonline on Twitter Follow sptimesonline on RSS
MOST READ



PARTNER NEWS



BLOGS



OPINION



WHERE TO GO?

The Romanovs in St. Petersburg

History of St. Petersburg Museum

Small Tragedy, Fatal Passion

Rimsky-Korsakov Apartment Museum

 

  Print this article Print this article

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

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



Times Talk