PETROGRAD, 8 February (WASP) - The Republic of Petrograd and Novgorod has expressed the desire to join the Baltic League. This is, in short, the chief message of a long speech delivered by president Denis Arapov to the parliament of the republic.
Since the Russian Empire fell apart in 1991, the RPN has drawn the attention of the world in two ways: for its fierce attempts to turn the Russian Federation into a Western democracy with a market economy, and for its constant state of rivalry with the more conservative Republic of Muscovy over the leading role within the federation. Since he started his first term as president in 1997, Arapov has fully committed himself to both, and he became one of the most successful reformers of post-snorist Russia. Nevertheless, his last move comes as a total surprise.
Referring to the RPN's location along the shore of the Baltic Sea and to its long history of cooperation with other members of the League, Arapov challenged his audience: "Our country has maintained close ties with individual members of the Baltic League for centuries. Petrograd has the largest sea port of the Eastern Baltic, and the city of Novgorod has traditionally been part of the Hansa. Could any of you please tell me, ladies and gentlemen, why our republic should be denied membership of the League?" After short deliberations, the parliament accepted the president's proposal with a majority of 62 %.
During Arapov's speech, which lasted three hours and twenty minutes, several members of the opposition ostentatively fell asleep; a member of the post-snorist party "Vozrozhdeniye" was reported snoring and had to be called to order by the chairman. After the vote, the leader of the same party, Aleksandr Ostrovsky, cried out: "This is ridiculous!", and called the president a traitor. He had to be removed by security guards, upon which the remaining 46 members of his caucus demonstratively left the building. After this incident, Arapov announced that the RPN will submit a formal request for membership of the Baltic League to its headquarters in Danzig within half a month.
Both the RTC and the Baltic League seem largely overwhelmed by the RPN's application. Foreign minister Piniatyk only said: "This is an interesting proposal that needs further investigation", and refused any further comments. From the other member states of the League, only Latvia has come with an official reaction. By mouth of foreign minister Raivis Špons, the Latvian government welcomed the application of the RPN: "This is a major step forward. For the first time in history, all countries around the Baltic Sea are united in one body. I can't see why we or any of our partners should have anything against that".
However, prof. Onute Staniszkiene, director of the Institute for International Relations of the WiLASz and a chief advisor of the government, has a different opinion: "Evidently, this move was inspired by the Belarusian application for membership of the League, two weeks ago. Arapov must have thought: if they won't turn Kotau down, they won't turn me down either. It is sad, but we can of course never honour his request, at least not within the next twenty years. The case of Belarus is difficult enough, with an economy that is still very dependent on Russia; but the Republic of Petrograd and Novgorod ís Russia! They may call themselves independent, but the truth is that they are using the same rubles that circulate in Moscow, Jekaterinograd and Vladivostok. Besides, the central authorities in Moscow would never allow this to happen. No, despite my great respect for Mr. Arapov's achievements, I really think he has finally lost it. Unless he is simply trying to stir up a fight."
What the real chances for membership or candidate-membership of the League are for both Belarus and the RPN will probably become clear only in april; then, a special summit will be held in Skuoda, during which several important issues for the future will be resolved, undoubtedly including the possibility of new states entering the League.