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Moscow denies plans to 're-Sovietize'

  |   Dec. 7, 2012 at 3:30 AM
DUBLIN, Ireland, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Moscow denied it is seeking to "re-Sovietize" Eastern Europe and Central Asia, saying U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertion was totally misguided.

Clinton's comments reflected "a completely wrong understanding" of Russian integration efforts among its neighbors, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying.

"What we see on the territory of the ex-Soviet Union is a new type of integration, based only on economic integration," he said. "Any other type of integration is totally impossible in today's world."

Clinton told civil society advocates on the sidelines of an international human rights conference at Ireland's Dublin City University Tuesday Washington was trying to stop Russia from creating a new version of the Soviet Union under the guise of economic integration.

"There is a move to re-Sovietize the region," she said. "It's not going to be called that. It's going to be called a Customs Union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that.

"But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it," she said hours before meeting with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss the escalating Syrian crisis.

Putin proposed a Eurasian Union in October 2011 in the Russian daily Izvestia, which was a Soviet newspaper of record until the Soviet Union's dissolution in December 1991. Putin was prime minister at the time of the article and was preparing to return to the Kremlin for the second time as president the following May.

Putin said in the article the new union would build on an existing Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. That union brought partial economic unity to the three countries this year by removing all barriers to trade, capital and labor movement.

"We are not going to stop there and are setting an ambitious goal -- to achieve an even higher integration level in the Eurasian Union," Putin wrote in Izvestia.

He suggested a union similar to the 27-nation European Union -- which is intended to be economic and political -- for Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and other Eurasian countries, in particular the post-Soviet states.

"There is no talk of re-forming the USSR in some form," Putin said at the time. "It would be naive to try to restore or copy what has been abandoned in the past. But close integration, on the basis of new values, politics and economy, is an imperative of our times."

A month after his article, Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russia's president at the time and is now its prime minister, said the new Eurasian Union would build on the Soviet Union's best values.

Supranational bodies created this year among former Soviet satellite states include the Eurasian Economic Commission, modeled after the European Commission, and the Eurasian Economic Court.

In addition, regional organizations linking Russia with its neighbors include the Union State of Russia and Belarus; the Eurasian Economic Community of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan; the Collective Security Treaty Organization, an intergovernmental military alliance among Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and the Commonwealth of Independent States comprising most post-Soviet countries.

Putin told the Russian Parliament in April 2005 the Soviet collapse was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century," leaving "tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen ... beyond the fringes of Russian territory."

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