Russia is to become the World Trade Organization\'s 156th member on August 22, the international trade arbiter said on Wednesday, capping almost two decades of entry talks. The announcement comes after the Geneva-based organisation received the so-called instruments of ratification from Russia on July 23. These come into force after 30 days in accordance with WTO rules, a spokesman said. Two days later, on August 24, Vanuatu becomes the 157th WTO member, after it fulfilled its membership requirements on Wednesday. Between now and the end of the year the WTO hopes to welcome two other new member states into the fold, Laos and Yemen. Economists have long argued that Russia needed to join the WTO as it was the only major economy outside the body following China\'s membership in 2001. Negotiations for Russian WTO membership began in 1993 and were marked by frequent rows with Western partners and a sometimes lukewarm attitude on the part of the Russian leadership. But President Vladimir Putin is now openly championing modernisation of the economy to wean Russia off its dependence on oil and gas exports and officials warned progress is not possible without WTO membership. Import tariff reduction was a key condition for Russia entering the WTO and they will fall from a current average level of 9.5 percent to 7.4 percent in 2013, 6.9 percent in 2014 and 6.0 percent in 2015.