Staunton, April 20 – On October 1, 2019, Vladimir Putin gave an interview to Russia-1. Normally, such things are broadcast immediately. But intriguingly what he said then about the future of relations among the former Soviet republics was not. It has been broadcast only today (ria.ru/20200419/1570265003.html).
That raises questions as to why it wasn’t reported then and why it is being reported now. The media provide no clear answers, but two do suggest themselves: On the one hand, Putin may want to stress his regional leadership role at a time when almost everyone is focusing exclusively on the coronavirus and his inability to do much about it.
And on the other, because in his remark last fall he dismissed as “phobias” the fears of some that any moves toward cooperation among the post-Soviet states suggest he wants to restore the USSR, the Kremlin leader may want to undercut resistance to cooperation between the non-Russian countries and Moscow that has only intensified during the crisis.
Putin said in what the media are reporting now that the post-Soviet countries share a common language – “the residents of all these countries speak Russian” – and also share much common infrastructure left over from Soviet times. They only benefit from cooperation, something the Kremlin leader said “all participants” in this process “feel.”
He said that resistance to such cooperation comes not so much from the countries themselves as from “the resistance of Western colleagues” who are afraid of the competition they would face if the Eurasian Economic Community develops and expands. But he stressed that “this is not a military or political union but an economic one.”