May 23rd, 2011 • No Comments
The Warsaw Pact was the document that bound the Soviet satellite states permanently to the USSR. It was created in response to NATO, and the political borders of the Warsaw states signified exactly where the Iron Curtain fell across Europe. Although the Soviet Union let go of its influence over many nations in the two years before its dissolution, there are still areas of the Russian Federation that are trying to become autonomous. The infighting that has occurred as provinces attempt to become their own countries has slowed the Russian economy, and in trying to rectify this problem the Russian government has become more centralized and undemocratic. In contrast to Russia, many of the other states that were bound by the Warsaw Pact have become more democratic and ‘westernized’. East Germany not only became part of the West but rejoined its other half to constitute a Greater Germany well in tune with the West. Romania, which has never been a completely democratic country, has also become more European, having their first open elections ever in 1989. While the Warsaw states have moved forward with great zeal, the fate of Russia has been to stumble at every turn.
Russia has not had a smooth ride since the Soviet Union dissolved December 26, 1991 and was replaced by the Russian Federation along with 14 other republics. Twice since the Russian Federation formed has there been an attempt at a coup d’etat, both of which have failed miserably. This goes to show how disorganized the opposition has been in Russia. The first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, tried to completely reform the country constitutionally and economically. In order to receive international funding the government had to liberalize the economy, which plunged Russia into hyperinflation as the government tried to squeeze all of the built up pressure in the economy out. This would intensely polarize the population, creating a class of very rich oligarchs who controlled 13% of the country’s GDP while wiping out many people’s life savings and pushing them into poverty. There is still not a very big middle class in Russia.
Control of these economic reforms created a standoff between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament in 1993, at which point he tried to dissolve the parliament (a power he did not have). The aftermath of all the political and physical fighting was Yeltsin remaining president, the ban of political leftist and nationalist parties, a new constitution was pushed through the parliament making the presidency stronger by giving it the power to issue decrees and dismiss the prime minister.Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin has centralized the government even more. With the creation of the FSB to replace the KGB, Russia has become a veritable police state. Russia now has a hierarchical, pyramid government, with the electoral politics favoring the incumbent heads of government. As time goes on Russia is reverting back to a highly centralized quasi-dictatorship.
East Germany was simultaneously the closest and farthest Warsaw state to the West. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, movement between East Germany and the West was finally free of restrictions. This allowed Germans it see completely how much they did not have living behind the Iron Curtain. The first election after the Wall fell determined what the East German population wanted in terms of the West. In March 1990 the CDU won 45% of the vote, and progressed forward with plans to join with Western Germany. This came in the form of Helmut Kohl’s five point plan (which later became the ten point plan). East Germany adopted the West German deutschmark, as the East German currency was worthless. Wages, rents, and interest were exchanged at a 1:1 ratio, which dramatically increased the amount of consumer spending in East Germany, as before there had been essentially none with any real currency to exchange for goods. East Germany transferred financial policy to the West, and in turn investments and subsidies flew into the East.
East Germany was absorbed into the parliamentary system of government that the West had already created. On the day that the East and West were reunified, the German Democratic Republic simply ceased to exist. This granted the citizens that had previously been part of East Germany citizenship to a country that was part of NATO, the United Nations, and the European Communities. The constitution was rewritten to reflect the unification, and Basic Law was now the judicial system that was used in the East. In essence East Germany just ceased to exist.
Romania has not faired quite as well as East Germany but has still come a long way from where it was released from the Warsaw Pact. Romania was completely run down and economically exhausted by the time the Soviet Union collapsed. This was in part due to the Communist leader Ceauşescu, who in the 1980s was obsessed with paying back all the loans from the West that Romania had, creating a heavy industrial sector, and building a massive ‘Palace of the People’. Despite the fact that there was an abundance of food in Romania the population was put on rations to increase exports. The food that was left in Romania was more often than not unacceptable for export. Rations also existed in fuels and electricity, as everything that could be was directed into heavy industry. This left Romania with a bloated heavy industry, lack of light industrial goods and massive amounts of pollution. Ceauşescu was executed on Christmas Day, 1989, by the National Salvation Front which had taken power during the revolution.
While the FSN at first allowed political parties, they sought to discredit their leaders through state controlled media. The new government that was elected was mostly former Communist officials. They used miners to oppress anti-communist demonstrations instead of the army in what are called mineriads. From its inception as a democratic state, Romania has always had the goal of joining the European Union. The European Union and the West as a whole helped Romania to reform so that it could join. One of the ways this was done was through the signing of the Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related Aspects between the EU and Romania in 1993, which created joint institutions to allow for direct communication between the two. After that all Romanian laws and institutions were formed with the goal of European integration in mind to the point that no laws could be passed by parliament until they were sure that the law complied with EU standards. The EU also provided much of the funding for this project to work properly. Romania was admitted into NATO as well as the European Union in 2004, only 9 years after its formal application was made.
Russia has fared far worse democratically than any of its previous satellites. Order has come in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it has been at the expense of any sort of democratic reforms. While Russia is theoretically democratic, it is truthfully controlled by the oligarchs and a very powerful executive. East Germany ceased to exist, but the area it used to occupy is now part of one of the most democratic government systems in Europe. Romania, while never having much in the way of democratic traditions has emerged from the 20th century as a thoroughly democratic, European country. In their eagerness to get out from under the shadow of the USSR the Warsaw states fled for the sanctuary of democracy, no matter what the costs.
March 15th, 2009 • No Comments
Yelena Baturina, the richest woman in Russia, and mastermind of the Norman Foster-designed complex, “Project Orange,” aiming to design a complex shaped like slices of fruit which would lay a light orange tint over the Moscow River. Continue reading ‘Yelena Baturina Applies for $1.4 Billion Aid.’
March 7th, 2009 • No Comments
Today has been a day first and foremost about friendship; the United States is currently going steady both with Iran and with Russia, that is, provided the pillow talk revolves primarily around the situation in Afghanistan. What earlier this week started out as an “innocent” exchange of letters from one world leader to another has fast become a unified front to tackle the situation of insurgents in the country. Continue reading ‘Strictly Plutonic.’
March 7th, 2009 • No Comments
Following the decision to renew ties with Russia made at the NATO conference this week, correspondence has resumed in full swing. With the current nuclear worries on the world stage, it is also no surprise that today Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a new strategic arms pact with the US. Continue reading ‘Russia and US Discuss Nuclear Situation.’