A few months ago, I posed the question – was Putin’s Eurasian Uniona pre-electoral sideshow, or a fully-fledged quest for renewed empire? I believe this question has been answered beyond a reasonable doubt in recent days. But should that surprise anyone? Since 1991, maintaining control over its ‘Near Abroad’ has clearly been part of Russia’s core interests. Even while the Kremlin paid lip service to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of ‘its’ former Soviet Republics, it countered any attempt by them to join Euro-Atlantic structures with subversion, and, in Georgia’s case, successful provocation and open military intervention. Dimitri Medvedev – once supposedly the ‘friendly’, Westernised face of the Putin regime – publicly declared this policy when he referred to Russia’s ‘sphere of privileged interests’ during the Georgian-Russian war of 2008. And even under Boris Yeltsin, Western policymakers knew perfectly well that inviting former Soviet Republics to join NATO would have been inviting mischief; they had enough trouble convincing the Russians to accept any form of eastwards expansion, full stop.