Mr. Putin's Neighborhood by J.Diel.
Belarus has been given a target date of Jan. 1, 2005, for adopting
the Russian ruble as its currency, part of a Putin-sponsored plan to
reincorporate the country into a new union ruled from the Kremlin...
[Putin] would probably move from the Russian presidency to the
presidency of the union in 2008, lead its expansion into other
countries and consolidate "a post-Soviet space."
Russian troops are also remaining on station in Moldova. There, Putin
is demanding that the elected government scrap its constitution and
agree to a "federal" union with the breakaway province of Trans-
Dniester, which is ruled by an ethnic Russian criminal mafia backed
The Bush administration also has been lukewarm, at best, about the
sporadic attempts of Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia to fend off Moscow
by linking up with Western institutions such as NATO. As in the case
of Khodorkovsky, Bush's aides are quick to say they don't like what
Putin is up to in his neighborhood. They'll also concede that, at
least for now, they aren't prepared to do more than talk about it.