Russia and ex-Soviet Union (English)

The line in the sand has been drawn on Georgia and NATO. Beware pushing the limits of Russia's patience too far, worries Eric Walberg

8/5/8 -- While Georgians see themselves as part of Europe, "the whole history of Georgia is of Georgian kings writing to Western kings for help, or for understanding. And sometimes not even getting a response," said its thoroughly Westernised president, Mikheil Saakashvili, in a recent interview. "Not just being an isolated, faraway country, but part of something bigger."

With a population of 4.7 million, this beautiful land, noted for its dozen or so hot-blooded independent-minded peoples, is surrounded by at best indifferent neighbours Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and of course Russia.

The West and Russia are continuing their worn-out Cold War dance routine, argues Eric Walberg

17/3/8 -- As antagonists United States President George W Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin both begin ceding power to others, one would expect new political horizons to open up. Bush already looks more like a footnote than a leader, with the US focussing on McCain vs Clinton/Obama, leaving the failed president a classic lame duck. Putin is introducing his successor Dmitri Medvedev to the subtleties of power politics, with Western analysts slavering over hints in his biography of liberalism and even a rejection of Putin's clear anti-imperialist foreign politics. But this appearance of change belies the reality.

The handover of power in Russia is confounding one and all. Eric Walberg looks into the crystal ball
6/3/8 -- As expected, the Russian presidential elections went smoothly, with Dmitri Medvedev reaping a comfortable 70 per cent of the vote, with a robust turnout of 70 per cent, virtually tied with President Vladimir Putin's 71 per cent in 2004. The Communists garnered a surprising 18 per cent, despite what both they and foreign observers claimed were clear violations of procedure in some districts. However, even the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe concluded it reflected the will of the people.

Time's Man of the Year will have the world hanging on his every move in 2008, muses Eric Walberg

24/1/8 -- There are several irons in the East-West fire these days -- Kosovo, Poland, NATO, pipeline routes through Eastern Europe, to name just the most obvious bones of superpower contention.

Recent elections were either a triumph of the will or a confirmation that Russia has found itself, writes Eric Walberg
6/12/7 -- If Time magazine had a "country of the year", in 2007 it would surely have been Russia, despite its colourful competition, Iran and Venezuela. All three dominated headlines, tripping up the United States in its 21st century drive for world hegemony. Venezuela held a referendum 2 December which failed by a whisker, while Russia held parliamentary elections the same day confirming its transformation from a weak kleptocracy, servile to US wishes, into a vigorous and confident opponent of the US.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here