The Reunion of Soviet Socialist Republics?
For Russians, the transition from superpower to supplicant has been wrenching. Over the past five years, millions of Russians experienced their country's disintegration as well as a drastic decline in their living standards.
Increasingly, the dismay and disappointment with capitalism and democracy manifest themselves in a wistful nostalgia over the Soviet Union. That accounts in part for the resurgent popularity of the Communist Party - and for the growing support among the public and politicians for a "reunion" with former republics.
The dreams of resurrecting the past are mostly that - dreams. The Russian parliament may pass aggressive resolutions declaring illegal the 1991 agreement that led to the Soviet Union's break-up, but for now at least that's political posturing because Russia clearly lacks the military muscle and the economic resources to force a new union. As important, the now-independent republics of the Soviet Union generally reject closer ties with Russia. There's no way, for instance, that the Baltic countries wish to enter Russia's orbit. Indeed, if some sort of integration were on most of the former republics' agenda, a mechanism already exists to facilitate it: the Commonwealth of Independent States, the institutional figleaf manufactured to soften the utter collapse of the Soviet Union. The CIS remains moribund for good reason. Still, some former republics have not fared all that well in the brave new world of free markets and free elections. Belarus, in particular, is pursuing deeper engagement with Russia with perhaps more ardor than the Russians. …