Russia and ex-Soviet Union (English)

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.

Vlad refuses to play by his erstwhile friends' rules and is not afraid to tell them so. Eric Walberg watches the schoolyard antics
18/10/7 -- 9-16 October 2007 was a busy week for Russian President Vladimir Putin. First he had a visit from French President Nicolas Sarkozy 9 October, followed by both United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates 12-13 October, who were in Moscow for talks with their Russian counterparts the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. He then squeezed in a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas prior to departing to Wiesbaden to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then he set off to Tehran to meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, despite reports that suicide terrorists had been trained to assassinate him in Iran.

The cancellation of the CFE treaty by Russia and the tit-for-tat expulsion of Russian and British diplomats -- seemingly unrelated -- have strong parallels in Cold War mythology, according to Eric Walberg

26/7/7 -- The decision in July 2007 by the Russian government to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty negotiated in the dying days of the SU comes as no surprise. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev gave the US the shop, being more concerned about domestic reform and Western aid, convinced that Reagan's US was really a peace-loving sort.

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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