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13 Oct, 2010 14:52

The Times’ babushka gets response from Moscow

As any Russian babushka knows, the idea of restoring the USSR is absurd, said Putin’s spokesman in response to a warning, in The Times, against a desire Russia has of restoring its influence on the post-soviet space.

Speaking on behalf of an abstract babushka (or grandma), The Times’ Richard Beeston claimed Vladimir Putin has his sights set on creating “a giant empire from the Baltic to the Pacific that straddles the Caucasus and Central Asia.” Beeston cautioned Putin “be careful what you wish for”, as it would be “time-consuming and expensive.”

Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, had his say on the issue.

“Ever since the Cold War, it has been a favorite pastime for analysts to invent sinister ploys and attribute them to Russia,” Peskov said, commenting on the article entitled ‘Babushka may have a word of caution for Putin’.

The Russian Prime Minister’s spokesperson assured the reporter that his advice was “heeded a very long time ago” and “any notion of restoring the Soviet Union is, of course, an absurdity”.

According to Beeston, Moscow’s influence is seen even in the Baltic states. He recalled the Latvian election held earlier this month, in which the pro-Russian Harmony Center Party, “campaigning on disillusionment with the European Union, managed to come second in the polls.”

Peskov wondered if the author really believes that “Russia questions the sovereignty of the Baltic states.”

The British journalist recalled that Putin had said that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” With that in mind, Beeston went on, “the former KGB officer, through persuasion, intimidation, violence, trade, money and old-fashioned diplomacy… succeeded in re-establishing Russian influence over many of the 15 republics that comprised the Soviet Union.”

Peskov noted that Beeston’s enthusiasm for Russian folklore was “adorable.” However, he pointed out, any babushka would tell him that the collapse of the Soviet Union “was indeed…a catastrophe, abruptly severing social and economic ties between entire nations that were once closely united.”

But what Russia sought, the premier’s spokesman stressed in a letter published by the British newspaper, is to gradually restore these ties and establishing deeper cooperation with its neighbors.

“What is so wrong about that?” Peskov wondered. The Russian premier’s spokesman stressed that the Customs Union that Russia established with Kazakhstan “and eventually a single market with a single currency, are precisely that, nothing more.”

He went on to say that “seeing the economic and monetary union as a veiled threat to national sovereignty” is a “very British view.” Meanwhile, Russia’s view is that such integration would only benefit all its participants.

“While it is perhaps forgivable to believe that economically Britain is an island, for Russia it is not an option,” he added.