The further the Soviet Union recedes into the mists of antiquity, the more outlandish its perceived successes become.
For hundreds of years the Russian Empire spent fortunes in blood and treasure to maintain some semblance of control over its vast real estate holdings, putting down Polish rebellions here and Chechen uprisings there. The USSR was just about as lucky, spending local and foreign lives like an Atlantic City casino addict.
Its high was a stretch of 30 years between the death of Stalin and the rise of Gorbachev, half of which is now known as the period of stagnation. This just so happened to be the period of time into which its current ruler Vladimir Putin was born and raised. Putin was born in 1952, which means his worldview is restricted to some kind of glossy, wood-paneled 1970s time capsule. People pore over biographies trying to understand why Putin is the way he is. But there is one simple answer: he's just an old fart.
Hence, the "Eurasian Union," the returning president's "new" idea to rebuild some kind of superpower on the sun-bleached bones of the Soviet corpse. Or as Putin put it in an Izvestiya article, "a great inheritance" of "infrastructure, specialized production facilities, and a common linguistic, scientific and cultural space."
This new union would comprise the Russian Federation at its core, of course, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan, with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan poised to join at a later date. Interesting that more bitter pills to swallow, such as Ukraine, where there are scary nationalists, and Uzbekistan, where there are scary Muslims, were left off the immediate agenda.
Still, according to the once and again president, all of the former CIS countries have "spiritual threads that unite their peoples." Trying to create an entity as glorious as the USSR would be a "naive" attempt to "restore or copy what is already past," he said. The Eurasian alliance instead will be based on "universal principles of integration, as an integral part of greater Europe, united by common values of freedom, democracy and market laws."
Which sounds like complete bullshit to me, but ... who's asking?
The Baltics have been left off the Eurasian Union map for now. Most writers have called the idea of their reorientation from the European Union to the other EU "unimaginable." And, at face value, one could argue that Russia's suggestion could work. Didn't the German-dominated EU make similar overtures to cooperation, democracy, freedom, market laws, peace and understanding when it "enlarged" into Central Europe, the Baltic Rim countries and, especially, the Western Balkans? If Russia was actually a free country with a functioning democracy and obeyed market laws, the Eurasian Union might make some sense. But because it isn't, it only scares people, almost as much as a shot of the old Soviet fart in Siberia with his shirt off.
I'll only remind you that when the Estonian puppet government "applied" for membership in the USSR in 1940, it was done explicitly to protect Estonian independence from the dangers of a Nazi-led, federated Europe. The Estonians would have more freedom within the USSR than outside it, argued its Soviet-picked leaders. According to this line of thinking, a vote to join the USSR was a vote for Estonian independence. Terrific.
I don't know how seriously to take the Eurasian Union. Those who adore the Russian ruler and believe him to embody all good things will likely be warm to this new and brilliant idea -- I mean, what good does a wholly autonomous Tajikistan do anybody, huh? Those who see him as the reincarnation of Stalin, albeit with a mustache-devoid upper lip, will cite it as another example of Putin's power lust and innate evil. Some people just think that the man is trying to seduce Russian voters with big ideas ahead of his reinstatement in March. They're probably right.