International Institutions

Two international institutions that have been in the news these days are the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Union State of Russia and Belarus (USRB). The IMF, created by America after World War II and run by Europe, is in the process of turning the financial crisis into an opportunity, forcing market reforms and increased openness in exchange for large government loans. The USRB, a relic of Yeltsin’s foreign policy, seems to exist only to show the destruction that Vladimir Putin has done to Russia’s power in the world.

Consider, for example, Belarus going to the IMF for a loan, after empty talk of Russia bailout out Iceland was shown as just another of Putin’s bizarre stunts. (Iceland went to the IMF, too.)

Or that the Republic of Kosovo, sliced out of Russia’s former client Serbia, will also join the IMF. Or that all Russia could do to help its Union State partner Belarus was to suspend collections of natural gas payments.

It pays to have friends. Russia’s nemesis Georgia will get $200 billion from Japan. And Kosovo is getting rule-of-law assistance.

Talk of a “new cold war” is so laughable, because Russia’s in no position to fight one. During its heyday, Russia was able to prevent Poland and Czechoslovakia from joining the Marshall plan. Now half of the consistuent members of the USRB are going to the IMF. Putin may be Saddam with nukes, but Russia’s is also just an exceptionally beligerent Portugal. Like a driveway that collects ice, Russia’s a real danger to those who live in Europe. Russia must not be ignored, and Europe should take steps (such as increasing nuclear power and photovoltaics) to limit the danger. But there’s no need to hyperventilate about Russia, either.

Time is our friend. Russia’s demographic collapse is now compounding: the baby bust of the fall of the Soviet Union leads to an even greater baby bust now. Meanwhile, Chinese and Muslims increase as a fraction of Russia’s population. Russia is essentially a central Asian state, and the sooner it falls into China’s orbit (with the rest of the khanates), the better.

The IMF grows in influence. The Union State of Russia and Belarus is split. The Core grows, and the ability of the Gap to cause trouble shrinks.

Update: Russia slaps sanctions on Belarus, while Belarus pushes for a Belarus-EU Free Trade Area. Belarus increasingly looks like a “Seam State,” bordering New Core (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia), Seam (Ukraine), and Gap (Russia) states and being able to work in any of those environments.

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