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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, July 24


Liliana Modiliani, a well-known Russian stylist, will talk about choosing clothes that fit during her lecture at 7 p.m. at the Pryamoy Efir art club, 13 Viborgskoe Shosse.



Friday, July 25


Discuss Russia’s economic and political prospects for 2014 during a Business Breakfast organized by SPIBA at 9.30 a.m. in the Bank Saint-Petersburg office at 64


Malookhtinsky Prospekt.


Start your weekend with adorable miniature pigs at the Squealing Pig festival at 7 p.m. this evening in the Karl & Friedrich restaurant, 15 Iozhnaya doroga, on Krestovsky Island.



Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in today’s SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of today’s Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Don’t miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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