The EU Is Naive About Russia

The Russian economy is a catastrophe.  They used to talk of the BRICs, the rising economies of Brazil, India, China and Russia, but sadly the last of these has demonstrated that it is no longer capable of fulfilling such optimism.  Under Putin, democracy has been crushed.  The free press too, with the murder of critical journalists a regular event.  Corruption has increased to the point where ordinary businesses, doing nicely three or four years ago, are closing, with shocking levels of unemployment and poverty becoming the norm.

Russia was a one trick pony.  As long as oil was high in price and rising, Putin was sure he could rebuild the country’s economy.  Gas too.  The gas price was $14 at its peak, now under $4.  Oil fell from $140 to the current $75, and there is every chance it could fall again.  The recession which is hurting the USA, and the EU is creating noting short of catastrophe in Russia, where population is falling and peoples’ lives are reaching an appalling level of hopelessness.  
Europe should remember that totalitarian states usually emerge from economic misery with aggressive military postures.  Putin might have parked his tanks in Georgia for now.  They are literally still parked where they stopped, according to an eyewitness I spoke to recently, who works in the oil industry.  Yet there is no long term picture of security being created, no political progress, just a pause in the real picture – of latent Russian aggression.
In the political void, people are all guessing at Putin’s intentions, and mighty naive those guesses seem.  In a speech given by Liam Fox two years ago, the real situation was described.  Russia has withdrawn unilaterally from the Treaty limiting the numbers of conventional weapons in Europe.  Her rearming is going ahead, building 1000 new tanks and thousands of military planes of various types, and a new submarine fleet.
These are not toys.
It would be quite conceivable that Putin intends to lull the west into a false sense of security by acting out various pretences of friendship to the west, while he gets himself ready for his real ambition, a sudden and shocking land grab seizing back many of the countries which were former Soviet satellites, up to and including The Balkans, and maybe beyond.
He is busy issuing Russian passports to people of Russian origin living in Ukraine, especially in The Crimea, which is the home of Russia’s mediterranean fleet, and only warm water port. Russian-speaking Transniestra has withdrawn from Moldova, confident of political support from Putin.  Any attempt to prevent their effective secession could invite trouble, including the sending of troops.

Such a plan might seem crazy to anyone in the west, but for Putin and the Russians facing economic humiliation, such desperate measures might seem more than appealing.  The feelings of humiliation by Russians, and the Russian military, at the loss of their empire, and the anger at the whole country at Gorbachev’s betrayal, which is how the events are seen universally in Russia, is never mentioned.  I visited Russia for a month before the latest collapse in the economy, and my hosts, who were ordinary businessmen, shared this view.  It would not be difficult for Putin to convert these feelings into delight at the reversal of the process.    

Their spies are active, maybe being responsible for the recent assassination of Britain’s top codebreaker, Gareth Williams in London.  Her planes are regularly invading Britain’s airspace, and Russian planes are being based in Iceland in an allegedly commercial operation for training pilots.  It would be quite possible to visualise Russian military planning, catching a western europe that is virtually disarmed on the hop entirely, smashing Britain’s tiny navy and air defences as well as rolling tanks over Germany and France.  The US might find her military capabilities temporarily eliminated through the use of electromagnetic surge knocking out all their electronic weapons systems.  History shows that the surreptitious aggressor has all the advantages in the early stages of a conflict, long prepared for.
The writings in the media such as in the Wall Street Journal below, give a good example of the kind of naivety that pervades in the West about Russia.  The only thing not mentioned is Russia’s rearmament and potential future military ambitions.  After seventy years of European peace, war is completely unthinkable.  When passing a war memorial next, it’s worth thinking that wars of the past were unforeseeable, and that the aggressors didn’t take out advertising announcing their intentions.  There were signs to read, but most preferred not to think about it.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704505804575483451995018566.html?mod=WSJEUROPE_hpp_MIDDLESecondNews

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.
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