Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Is this good news?

The Kremlin is happy these days.

Two key former Soviet states - Belarus and Ukraine - head into elections this month amid dramatic accusations of planned coups, state coercion, and vote-fixing. But Moscow isn't worried.

Instead, there is a sense of calm and fresh confidence here that contrasts sharply with the Kremlin's panicky reactions to the surge of "colored revolts" that swept through the region in recent years. That revolutionary wave - which began with Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution and continued with Ukraine's Orange Revolution - seemed unstoppable just a year ago, when Krygyz President Askar Akayev was

But the inability of new leaders to fulfill revolutionary pledges, together with the failure of popular pressure to effect change in other Soviet satellite states, has opened the way for Moscow to reassert its influence in the region.

"Those upsurges were the response of people to bad governance and worsening conditions, and the new leaders that came in have shown themselves unable to offer improvements," says Gennady Chuffrin, deputy director of the official Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. "Ukraine could even see a reversal of what happened a year ago. Obviously the Kremlin would like to see a weakening of [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko, and I think that's what's going to happen.

"Ukraine's economic decline and disillusionment have propelled the pro-Moscow opposition party into first place in opinion surveys for parliamentary elections on March 26. In an ironic twist, the opposition leader Mr. Yanukovych, who was forced out of power after being accused of rigging Ukraine's 2004 presidential election in his favor, claims the authorities are preparing to steal the polls. "The orange team can only remain in power through massive falsifications, and this is what they are doing," he said last week.

Hey, guys, they got it this time for a whole lot less than $300 million--like, how about, basically, for free.

The fact is that Russian business fared worse under Kuchma/Yanukovych than it has under Yuschenko. But business in Russia has been brought to heel to do the Kremlin's bidding so this is of no concern to them. Power is of interest to them.

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