It took 18 years to do it but Russia was finally admitted to the World Trade Organization today, two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. Besides echoing the final death rattle of its communist past, the entrance into the global commerce club is said to benefit Russia in a number of ways.  "Under the deal, Russians will be able to buy European-made goods at far lower prices and to sell its oil and gas more efficiently," reports the Associated Press. In turn, "the deal is expected to quickly increase EU exports by some euro4 billion ($5.2 billion) a year, EU trade officials say."

So how come it took so long to work out? As The New York Times' David Jolly explains, "Because the organization operates by consensus, Russia had to first reach bilateral agreements with 57 of its current 153 members to secure their support." Unsurprisingly, the nation of Georgia, which Russia went to war with briefly in 2008, had held up Russia's entrance into the organization. "The final breakthrough came in November with an agreement between Russia and Georgia, under which the uneasy neighbors agreed that a Swiss company would monitor trade between them." According to the AP, Russia will officially become a member next year, "30 days after it notifies WTO that the Russian Duma has ratified membership."