Did you know that a couple of weeks ago the Russians sent two bombers (one nuclear carrying) over to the UK? They were met by RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft of course but carefully kept themselves just outside British airspace, over the Channel no less. Normally when Russia sends threatening planes as an airspace testing parry-thrust towards the UK, they are intercepted a long way off and then simply turn back – not recently and certainly not this time though.
Don’t be under any illusion – this was a serious intimidation provocative act by Russia against the West and NATO, and it was intended to demonstrably show that we could be under nuclear attack by them at any time. It was also not a coincidence either that this happened at the time of the inquiry into the strongly suspected Russian’s cruel London murder by radioactivity of ex-KGB agent and dissident Alexander Yakovenko.
It has a lot to do with Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin – in fact ‘everything’ to do with Ukraine and Putin, hasn’t it? A year ago the population of Ukraine (which borders Russia) deposed their President and looked to the West for their future, and Russia was very concerned – not least because its nuclear submarine base was located at a seaport in Crimea, part of Ukraine. Putin quickly grabbed Crimea for the Russian Federation, making it the first such annexation in mainland Europe since WW2.
But that wasn’t enough for Russia was it? No, Putin needed a land route through eastern Ukraine to service their nuclear base, so they surreptitiously sent in their troops in a stealth invasion to destabilise the area and create a mini civil war there. In the military terror, some five thousand have been killed, ten thousand injured and one and a half million displaced or relocated, in this Russian engineered conflict. Indeed even a Malaysian civilian jet airliner has been surface-to-air missile ‘d out of the sky last July, murdering three hundred passengers including eighty under eighteen children [Aviation investigation reports by the Dutch are not expected until this summer].
Has Putin got away with it all? Perhaps – perhaps not. The (weak?) response of the West has been to invoke sanctions on Russia – initially starting with ridiculously soft travel restrictions on a few people, but then escalating later as the situation developed, into financial sanctions and asset freezing that can be seen to now be badly hurting the Russian economy. That is why Putin is rattling his sabres and making threatening noises – to deter the use of sanctions and force the Western powers to let Russia get away with their aggression, and so avoid military conflict. Will that work then? Probably not. Russia had seemingly got away with Crimea but has blatantly reneged on all peace deals for east Ukraine, and has now thwarted recent Moscow diplomacy efforts by France & Germany – to the unbridled ire of the US.
Despite European reservations, you can be confident that when further talks fail, the Americans will then supply major arms to Ukraine – and that will be a precursor for military intervention by NATO within a few years. New sanctions from the EU could even follow as well, but German Chancellor Merkel will control that button, won’t she?
[“Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe. Because that’s exactly what they are doing” (John Kerry, Secretary of State, & Joe Biden Vice President, US: February 2015)].
What is Putin up to do you think? Perhaps you might consider that he has managed to circumvent his country’s constitution to remain in power for a long fifteen years (four years pretending to be only Prime Minister), and he will no doubt be plotting to carry on for another decade? Traditionally tyrannical oligarchs, like say Hitler, retain their power and control over the population by using the military and identifying an oppressive enemy before convicting their people of being the only defence against a massive threat to their country’s very existence – has Putin successfully indicted the West for that role? Certainly his popularity has only increased as he has picked this massive fight and brought his countrymen & countrywomen an increasingly failing economy.
Oh yes, President Putin and his supporters remain confident of facing down the Western powers, so they continue to talk rough and demand that there are no ultimatums about Ukraine. They believe that the EU is weak about supporting sanctions, that the UN is ineffective, and that the US doesn’t really have the stomach for the fight under President Obama. We will all have to wait and see if they are right won’t we?
[At the end of all this will Russia and Vladimir Putin really get away with it? He certainly got away before with Chechnya and Georgia didn’t he?].