Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, which had not been willingly governed from Moscow, quickly bolted from Russian control and turned westward, joining both the European Union and NATO; Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic also turned away from Russia in favor of the EU and NATO. Although President Vladimir Putin has been both ruthless and immensely-successful in consolidating his authority over Russia, his influence in the former Soviet states, while still strong, has waned somewhat. Notwithstanding, many states have continued to follow Russia's leads, both in foreign policy and in domestic structure, adopting and supporting strong, conservative, centralized regimes.
Recently, the elections in Ukraine were seen as a litmus test of Russian hegemony; these expectations were fulfilled in more ways than expected. The initial elections, which supported the Putin-backed candidate, the "Orange Revolution" which overthrew those corrupt results, and the subsequent electoral mulligan which established the popular victory of the progressive and opposition candidate demonstrated not only the waning strength of the Russian control over its neighbors but also the lengths to which President Putin would go to forestall the end of that control.
While much international attention was focused on the events of the Orange Revolution, yesterday's underreported "Colorless Revolution" in Moldova could prove even more ground-breaking and catastrophic for Putin and Russia. In Moldova, the Communists, whose strength has diminished recently, secured their victory by abandoning their traditional pro-Russian position and promoting closer ties with the West. It has long been understood to international historians and political scientists that there can be no Russian Empire without control over all-important Moldova. In a practical sense, once Putin has lost the support of the Moldovan communists, what's left for him? You heard it here first: Putin is finished and should resign now.
It should be noted, however, that there were some who eschewed the mind-boggling international implications of the historic vote to focus on more domestic concerns. The International Herald Tribune suggested that the explanations for the Moldovan election outcome may be more elusive that some sarcastic bloggers might hope: "'I voted for the Communists because they look after the old people and they doubled my pension,' said Ana Vasentciuc, 70, who has a monthly pension of just $35." Truly, the popular will in Moldova defies tidy explanations.
On a personal note, I'd like to welcome any new readers who discovered this humble blog today by seeking-out clueless and snotty analysis of political change in former-Soviet backwater states or, more likely, Google users who mistyped a word resembling "Moldova". Thanks for reading!