Vladimir Putin is on a roll. Last month, he revealed he was all set to return to the Russian presidency next year, possibly for as long as twelve years.
And on Tuesday, he disclosed he was in the process of creating a new global power bloc, the ‘Eurasian Union,’ on the bones of what used to be the Soviet Union.
His dream would see Russia again dominating about one fifth of the earth’s surface with an internal market of almost 300 million people.
The new union would include authoritarian Kazakhstan and Belarus to begin with before expanding to take in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and then, Mr Putin hopes, other former Soviet republics. Mr Putin did not say so but it is known that he would dearly like to see Ukraine sign up to his master plan.
His is a bold idea and one that immediately and unsurprisingly drew admiration from Russian nationalists. Older Russians, who hark after the paternalism and stability of the defunct Soviet Union, are also likely to appreciate the plan. Mr Putin was at pains to say however that his mission was not to recreate the Soviet Union.
That though is somewhat misleading.
A ‘Eurasian Union’ based on the territory of the former Soviet Union whose creation and development is being pushed by Mr Putin and Russia would have much in common with the USSR. Authoritarianism would replace Communism as the overriding ideology, and yes membership would be voluntary, but geopolitically, and in many other ways, it would be remarkably similar.
Of course, Mr Putin will never succeed in uniting all the 15 republics that once made up the Soviet Union. The Baltic states – Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – are already members of the European Union, and Georgia, which lost twenty percent of its territory in a war with Russia in 2008, is hardly likely to acquiesce.
Yet other countries ruled by strong men like Mr Putin may well see the idea as a good one. They will of course fight to minimise Russian dominance in the new union. But ultimately they may see the new power bloc as a way of enhancing their marginal voices on the global stage and as a mechanism to shore up their authoritarian regimes at a time when dictators are nervously looking over their shoulders.
For Mr Putin though, it is about booking his place in history. His supporters already see him as the man who saved Russia from disintegration after the chaotic 1990s. Creating a pseudo-Soviet Union in the teeth of encroaching Chinese and American influence would see him hailed as the man who clawed back the Russian Empire.