Regaining the Sphere of Influence

Time Magazine ponders today the growing influence of Russia in former Soviet states that had made concrete steps towards breaking away in recent years, such as Georgia, which is thought to have less support from Obama now than it had from the Bush administration, Kyrgyzstan, whose new government relies heavily on Russia, and Ukraine, whose scuppered economy relies on Russia’s even-handedness in questions of energy prices.  
A biased position for sure, but Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s comment that ‘Russia is asking the U.S. to give back the Soviet sphere of influence‘ will ring true with many observers.  Meanwhile, The Economist wonders just how much of a perceived reconciliation between Russia and Poland is genuine, and how much is a surface fix based on the need to secure gas reserves.  

Away from the backbiting world of domestic politics, the immediate question is whether Poland’s relations with Russia have been genuinely transformed or if the changes are just cosmetic. Some see realpolitik at work, assuming that Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, considers it worth making minor concessions over historical questions in order to fix relations with its large western neighbour, particularly given growing awareness of Poland’s potential gas reserves. As for the Polish business lobby, profits in Russia loom larger than fiddly questions about history and justice.