The Financial Times reported today that Russia is set to cut off natural gas supplies to the former Soviet satellite countries of Belarus and Georgia, unless these countries agree to pay significantly higher prices for their needed energy. Ending Russian gas sales to Georgia should surprise no one. After all, it was only a few years ago they staged their "Rose Revolution" which succeeded in bringing the country out of the dark recesses of communism and into the light of transparent government and free market economics. Needless to say, this further encouraged an already growing rift between Russia and Georgia.
However, Russia's threat to end gas supplies to Belarus is somewhat unprecedented. As the Financial Times realized, Belarus "has been happy to remain in Moscow's orbit." However, "Analysts see the demand [a four-fold price increase for natural gas] as punishment for the failure....to deliver on promises of closer integration with Russia."
Russian actions should be a wake up call to the West. As more and more former satellite countries rebel against the motherland, Moscow is doing everything within its power to consolidate its rule and retain its influence over other regional political entities. A candid examination of Russian domestic and foreign policy will tell us a significant amount of information on where the country is headed.
Whether or not Putin was directly responsible for the death of Alexander Litvinenko, there is little doubt that his poisoning was carried out by the KGB remnants in Russia. The intrigue surrounding Litvinenko is indicative of the political situation in Russia. Dissidents are being jailed and thousands of Chechnians have vanished in the past decade.
Other freedoms are also being curtailed by the Russian government. As reprehensible as the movie "Borat" may be, we in America have the freedom to go see whatever movie we wish. Interestingly enough, the movie was recently banned by the Russian government, even though the movie does not criticize Russia in any way. Furthermore, Russia has given stringent guidelines and threatened to evict all NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) from the nation.
Freedom and governmental transparency in Russia is in dire straits. With the election of Boris Yelstin following the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 90s, the Soviet Union was religated to the anals of history. However, recent events make me wonder if the USSR will rise from the pages of history textbooks an even stronger nemesis than before.