Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Putin's Soviet nostalgia

Vladimir Putin has made a speech proposing a new Soviet, Eurasian Union for the countries of the former USSR. He suggests that working together will enhance the prosperity of all the countries of the region. Perhaps it will but, as usual, Vlad the Bad gets important details really wrong.

The European Union was constructed by states that were previously bitter enemies. As a result it insists on strict adherence to democratic values and forms. The so-called Copenhagen criteria include a deep commitment to the rule of law and human rights.

The Eurasian Union would be constructed by countries with little or no adherence to the rule of law and little or no respect for human rights. With the sole exceptions of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia all of the putative members of the Union are rated Not Free by Freedom House, and are some of the most brutal tyrannies on the planet,

The fact is that having undermined human rights and democracy in Russia, Mr. Putin seems to be seeking to impose his will on the rest of the former Soviet Empire. In fact, as we know from his previous speeches, Mr. Putin deeply laments the passing of the former Soviet Empire.

Yet Russia lacks the capacity to impose its will inside its own borders, still less in other states that have been getting used to making decisions without reference to Moscow. As the upheaval in the North Caucasus grows, the outlook is not that Russian power will straddle new borders, but that it will shrink even inside the current Russian borders.

The reason is not hard to find: you can see it in the London High Court this week, where two of the more egregious criminals among the Russian Oligarchs are fighting it out. The fact is that the Russian regime is based upon a network of patronage and almost complete disrespect for law. The government and the oligarchs are the same people, while the lack of an viable opposition renders the regime incompetent and increasingly unstable.

The Russian veto of sanctions against the murderous Syrian regime reminds me that we should judge a man by his friends, and Putinista allies tend to be precisely such illegitimate regimes as Bashir-al-Assad, or Muamar Gaddafi, Islam Karimov, Robert Mugabe or Hugo Chavez. In the end, like them, he is building the foundations of his regime on very sandy foundations.

We can not say that we have not been warned: Vlad is an enemy of everything that the democratic West stands for and those such as Gerhard Schroder, Jacques Chirac, or Silvio Berlusconi who have been so accommodating to Russia should be regarded with dark suspicions.

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