Oranges and lemons perturb Putin
By Jeremy Page
February 19, 2005

A MAP of the former Soviet Union must be a troubling, if not colourful, sight for a former KGB officer such as Vladimir Putin as he prepares for a summit with President Bush next week.

Since Mr Putin became President of Russia in 2000, the United States has relentlessly encroached on Moscow’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. First the conflict in Afghanistan brought

US troops to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Then the Rose Revolution swept a Western-minded liberal into power in Georgia in 2003. Within a few months the US was training Georgian special forces.

Next Nato fighter jets arrived in the former Soviet republic of Lithuania after its accession to the alliance in 2004. And late last year Russia lost its foothold in Ukraine when the Western-leaning liberal Viktor Yushchenko came to power.

But the erosion of Russia’s strategic orbit does not stop there, analysts say. They are predicting a series of copycat “revolutions” in Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Armenia and, possibly, Kazakhstan that will dash for good Mr Putin’s aspirations to reassert Moscow’s influence over its former empire.

The Russian media have even come up with names for future revolutions: grape for Moldova; apricot for Armenia; aubergine for Azerbaijan; and amber for the tiny Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

One of the places they are not predicting revolution is in Russia itself, where Mr Putin recently abolished direct elections for regional governors.