Leading Article: The wobbly Russian bear is still standing, with a little help...

BORIS YELTSIN in Cologne yesterday was a metaphor for Russia today: unstable but still standing. He stumbled from the aeroplane, clinging first to his wife and then - sweeping aside the flunkies strategically deployed to prop him up - to Gerhard Schroder, and held him in a bear hug in the manner of a boxer attempting to stay upright.

The binding-in of the loser of the Cold War into the new world order has been an erratic process, with the fear of Russia's rusting nuclear weapons rattling like skeletons in the back of the cupboard. Currently, though, the process is in an "up" phase. The G8 summit put the seal on the fact that Mr Yeltsin had a good war in the Balkans.

In the old Foreign Office phrase designed to put the best gloss on Britain's own decline from the status of world power, Russia is "punching above its weight". Its economy is still a basket case - a fact cruelly underlined by the standard journalistic description of the G8 as "the world's seven richest industrial nations, plus Russia". Yet Mr Yeltsin was able to give his notional ally, Slobodan Milosevic, enough public relations cover to enable him to end the war in Kosovo earlier than he might otherwise have done. The Russian dash to Pristina airport impressed Serb and Russian nationalists alike that their honour had been preserved, but it was just for show - the Russian soldiers are having to rely on British troops for supplies. In return for this easing of Nato's victory, Mr Yeltsin gets the rescheduling of debt which Russia desperately needs.

It is not yet clear whether Western money invested in Russia will disappear into the pockets of gangsters, but it would seem that the worst fears after last year's collapse of the rouble - of a slide into utter chaos - have not been realised. The assumption must be, then, that it is worth trying to support the Russian economy.

The G8 summit has made progress in writing off the oppressive debt burden on really poor countries. Writing off Russia's debt is different, because Russia is one of the countries at the top table - even if its seat is the folding chair by the door. But then Russia does possess nuclear weapons, and if Western investment will help secure liberal democratic values it should be promoted.

That is not the only motive for helping Russia. It is pointless to speculate about what might happen a long time into the future, so why not speculate? Suppose all the states of central and eastern Europe joined the EU; that Belorussia threw off its Slavic chauvinism; that the Ukraine became a liberal democracy; and that Russia managed to use Western investment to promote prosperity and political stability. Suppose all that, and then imagine an economic and political union that stretched from Ireland to Siberia and from Norway to Turkey. It is only a vision, but it is worth working towards it.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015