In 1992, Francis Fukuyama argued in The End of History and the Last Man that Western liberal democracy had become, in effect, the capstone of human socio-political evolution. Europe in 2000 ought perhaps to be Exhibit A for this thesis. The rapid collapse of communism in eastern Europe (1989–91), culminated in the reunification of Germany and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The rest of the decade witnessed the gradual, if blood-soaked, resolution of ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia. By 2000, the former Soviet Bloc had been transformed into functioning or aspiring liberal democracies, the weapons of their (benign) subjugation the accession criteria of the EU bureaucrat. Sixteen countries joined the European Union from 1986–2004. Meanwhile Russia, after the turbulence and financial crises of Yeltsin’s rule, seemed set to follow the path of its former European cohorts under Yeltsin’s less colourful, more managerial successor: Vladimir Putin.
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