Blog: The Revolution is dead, long live the USSR

The respective orange, rose and tulip revolutions of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan have wilted less than six years since they first blossomed.

The 2005 Tulip Revolution, which overthrew the government of President Askar Akayev in Kyrgyzstan, did not transform this Central Asian republic into a blooming garden. The same is true of Georgia and Ukraine, which experienced similar revolutions in November 2003 and December 2004, respectively.

Western hope that popular agitation for democratic change would ripple throughout the former Soviet Union lies in tatters. In fact, the fortunes of many Soviet states have turned so badly that they now have gone  cap in hand to the Motherland for sovereign bailouts.

Russia is now in a position where it can leverage its economic clout to put together another USSR, or at least claw back much of the influence it lost to Nato and the West since the early 1990s.

Kyrgyzstan has been lent $2bn and has reciprocated by shutting down its US air base. Near-neighbour Belarus is looking for $2bn as well and is toying with further integration with Russia over IMF aid. Armenia is getting $500m and its quid pro quo could be its entry into a mooted ‘rouble-zone’.  Even Western-oriented Ukraine has approached the Kremlin looking for a $5bn loan. Its mooted payback could be some sort of integration by Moscow of Ukraine’s ethnically-Russian Crimea and Sevastopol regions.

It’s highly unlikely that Georgia’s current president Mikheil Saakashvili will be queuing up for Kremlin aid following his country’s disastrous five-day conflict with Russia last year. Saakashvili is facing growing discontent in his country where his government is considering to be sliding to towards authoritarianism. A successor to Saakashvili could in theory turn his back on NATO and EU in favour of a return to old fold in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Prime Minister Putin is still riding high in the polls having protected his country from the worst ravages of the global financial crisis. The rebound in oil prices and the recent stability of the rouble point to a rosier outlook than in many Western markets.

Russia’s territory now includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia – the two breakaway regions of Georgia effectively absorbed by Moscow this summer. Further integration of former USSR states is not thought to be imminent but closer trade and fiscal cooperation is probably inevitable.

Putin famously said in 2005 that the collapse of the Soviet empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Economic upheaval and political chaos may be his chance to right that calamity.

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