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UN Vote: Putin Plans a Return to Cold War Atmosphere

The sudden praise for Brezhnev and plans for a 'Eurasian Union' in the former Soviet space are part of renewed Russian authoritarianism.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/6/2011, 8:22 AM

This week at the UN left the distinct feeling of Cold War deיja vu. Russia and China were arrayed against the United States and Western Europe in blocking an anti-Syrian resolution at the UN.

Even Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations and the main advocate within the administration of running things through the United Nations, walked out in frustration. Rice claimed that the veto by Russia and China constituted a slap in the face to the Syrian people.

The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the defeated resolution as one that fomented tension, and "contained one-sided accusations against Damascus and an ultimatum-like threat of sanctions against the Syrian authorities.”

China attacked to resolution on the grounds of state sovereignty: " Non-interference is one of the fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter and also included in the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Intervention in a sovereign country's internal affairs is detrimental to the peaceful settlement of its problems".

Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, approvingly quoted the Syrian ambassador who claimed that the US and the Western Europeans "are undermining international legality and they are leading the whole world into a new colonial era and military adventures that are bound and doomed to failure."

Back in Russia, Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov found an original way to combat comparisons between his employer and Communist Party boss and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union for 18 years after ousting Nikita Khrushchev in 1964.

The press secretary called Brezhnev a "plus" for his country.

The Press Secretary also announced that one of president soon-to-be-elected Putin's major priorities was to establish a Eurasian union that would effectively encompass the countries that formerly constituted part of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic states who are members of the EU and NATO and Georgia that is on the outs with Moscow.

During the perestroika era of Mikhail Gorbachev, Brezhnev's tenure was rejected as a period of stagnation as well as official corruption. There are, however, aspects of the Brezhnev era that Vladimir Putin wants to emulate.

Under Brezhnev, the Soviet Union appeared to achieve parity, at least in the strategic realm, with the United States.

Brezhnev, during most of his tenure, was able to provide Soviet citizens with a social contract where in return for political quiescence their material situation would continue to improve. This bountiful state policy was sustained by high oil prices during the 1970s at a time that the United States and Western Europe were reeling under oil price hikes and the Soviet Union appeared to be a rock of economic stability and growth.

The Eurasian Union proposed by Putin reflects his belief that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy and the Soviet Humpty Dumpty can to a large extent be reconstituted. As before, such a grouping would appear to offer greater economic safety than economically troubled Western Europe and the United States.