Back to the USSR Putin
Back to the USSR? Putin raises fears of return to Cold War days with plans for ‘Eurasian Union’ of former Soviet states
Proposed alliance between Russia and other nations could be ‘one of the poles of the modern world’
By Chris Parsons
Last updated at 7:07 PM on 4th October 2011
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today raised the spectre of a second USSR after he proposed forming a ‘Eurasian Union’ of former Soviet states.
The former president said the proposed alliance could compete for influence with the United States, European Union and Asia.
Russia has already formed stronger economic ties with Belarus and Kazakhstan, but Putin has suggested forming a group seen by some as rebuilding the former Soviet Union.
Prime Minister Putin made the proposal today in the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia, adding that the new group should emerge as ‘one of the poles of the modern world, serving as an efficient link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.’
However, given Putin’s previous views, his current proposal will be seen by many as an indirect attempt to rebuild the Soviet Union.
The single-party socialist state ruled by the Communist Party from 1922 until its collapse 20 years ago gave rise to Joseph Stalin and the Cold War political conflict from 1946 onwards.
During the height of the Soviet Union, the USSR stood alongside the USA as one of the world’s two major superpowers.
Nations of the former USSR included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Russia, and ten other countries.
The Soviet Union spread over an area of more than 22 million square km, with a population in 1991 of over 293 million people.
It expanded its borders by taking some countries by force, as it did in 1956 when Russian troops in 1,000 Soviet tanks poured into Budapest to claim Hungary.
But by the end of the reign of Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, the end of the Cold War and increased nationalist movements among Soviet countries brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Former president Putin has lamented the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’, adding that the new group could be a major global player.
He has remained Russia’s de-facto leader after shifting into the premier’s job due to a term limit, and his protege and successor Dmitry Medvedev proposed last month that Putin run for president.
Putin denied, however, that the proposed alliance would signal a return of a Soviet Union.
He said: ‘There is no talk about rebuilding the USSR in one way or another.
‘It would be naive to try to restore or copy something that belongs to the past, but a close integration based on new values and economic and political foundation is a demand of the present time.’
THE ORIGINAL EURASIAN VISION
The concept of Eurasia, the huge area of land mass comprising Russia and some of its European and North Asian neighbours, was first featured in George Orwell’s dystopian fantasy 1984.
Under Orwell’s vision of a Totalitarian dystopia after the Second World War, the UK falls into civil war and is integrated to Oceania, a society ruled by the dictatorship of ‘the Party’.
At the same time, the USSR annexed continental Europe and created the second superstate of Eurasia.
The novel’s third state, Eastasia is made of large regions of East Asia and Southeast Asia.
The novel describes the story of Winston Smith, who records how the world’s three superstates are constantly fighting for the unconquered lands of the world.
Smith recounts the Atomic Wars fought in western Russia, North America and Europe, and describes how ‘the Party’ referred to the postwar reorganisation of society as ‘the Revolution’.
Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan already have formed an economic alliance that has removed customs barriers in mutual trade during the past summer. They are to introduce unified market rules and regulations starting Jan. 1.
Putin said that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are expected to join the grouping.
‘We aren’t going to stop at that and are putting forward an ambitious task of reaching a new, higher level of integration with the Eurasian Union,’ Putin said.
‘Along with other key players and regional structures, such as the European Union, the United States, China and the Asia Pacific Economic Community, it should ensure stability of global development.’
Russia has long called for stronger co-operation between ex-Soviet nations, but earlier attempts at forging closer ties between them have failed due to sharp economic differences.
Many former Soviet nations have looked westward and remain suspicious of Moscow’s intentions, setting a rocky path to Putin’s ‘Eurasian Union.’
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, considered more Russia-friendly than his pro-Western predecessor, has continued to focus on closer relations with the European Union, shattering Moscow’s hopes for luring Ukraine into its orbit.
Yanukovych complained last month that the Kremlin was trying to coerce Ukraine into joining the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and said that he wouldn’t yield to pressure.
Even Russia’s ties with its closest ally, Belarus, has been marred by tensions.
The Soviet Union’s Red Army, which started out as revolutionary communist combat groups, was one of the biggest armies in history by the 1930s
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whose government is struggling with a spiralling financial crisis, has staunchly resisted Moscow’s push for controlling stake in Belarus’ top state-controlled industrial assets.
Putin’s plan also comes in potential competition with the Eastern Partnership, an initiative launched two years ago by Poland and Sweden.
It aims to deepen European Union integration with six ex-Soviet nations: Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan.