How Putin turned Russia into a superpower | The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018 | GULF NEWS

0
Wednesday January 31, 2018 - 16:08:01 in Maqaallo by nur yare
  • Visits: 117
  • (Rating 0.0/5 Stars) Total Votes: 0
  • 0 0
  • Share via Social Media

    How Putin turned Russia into a superpower | The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018 | GULF NEWS

    Moscow wants to see Europe's dependency on its energy to grow. In the long-term they know exactly what they are doing

    Share on Twitter Share on facebook Share on Digg Share on Stumbleupon Share on Delicious Share on Google Plus

Moscow wants to see Europe's dependency on its energy to grow. In the long-term they know exactly what they are doing

In a bid to persuade the British Treasury to cough up more for his department, Gavin Williamson, the new Defence Secretary, painted a nightmare scenario last week. As world leaders gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos, he asserted that Russia was in a position to launch an attack on the UK critical national infrastructure (CNI) that could claim many thousands of British lives.

Williamson correctly identified that Russia is back with a vengeance on the global strategic stage. Indeed, Moscow has all but eclipsed the West in Syria and he is undoubtedly right in assuming that Russia has the capability of attacking our CNI — that is the networked structures which underpins our utilities, telecoms, transport and financial systems. Yet the minister does not fully grasp Russia’s strategic priorities in Europe. It doesn’t seek to kill the golden goose — it wants to see it fat, indolent and weak. In essence, Russia wants to see Europe and the UK’s dependency on its oil and gas grow. It currently supplies a third of the EU’s gas and oil imports, including a growing proportion of Britain’s.

 

 

Moscow is determined to push through this economic priority in Europe, despite the extensive financial and commercial sanctions imposed by the EU and the US since the Ukrainian crisis began in 2014. It knows very well that Germany and Italy are especially dependent on Russian energy and their business communities are continuing to push for a relaxation of sanctions.

So, by holding his nerve, Putin can relax and enjoy how the world looks through the windows of the Kremlin. Certainly, neither he nor his most senior colleagues felt it necessary to join the cavalcade of presidents and prime ministers making their way up the Magic Mountain in Davos.

And why would they? Russia is confidently dictating the course of European and Middle Eastern geopolitics. At every turn, Moscow is outmanoeuvring the West and becoming a real threat to our stability. Yet remarkably, it is doing this despite a lamentably weak economy. In 2017, the Russian economy was a tenth of the size of the US economy and only half that of Britain’s. Russia’s defence budget is six times smaller than the US’s and a tenth of Nato’s. Yet, for all this, its global and military influence is rising inexorably. How has this happened?

When I was researching McMafia, my book about the globalisation of organised crime, I visited Moscow and St Petersburg several times from 2004 to 2006. I noticed that officials, whether policemen, customs or FSB personnel, had regained some of the swagger that I knew well from Soviet times. Putin’s determination to restore a degree of authoritarianism in Russia was not unpopular. The Nineties had seen the economic certainties of the Soviet system replaced by the volatile and violent rollercoaster of gangster capitalism. 
In order to restore the authority of the FSB, Putin flipped all this on its head. In a series of carefully choreographed moves, the state re-established its authority of the oligarchs and gangsters. They would now do Putin and the FSB’s bidding — not the other way around. This strategy involved building on anti-western sentiment.

If the Nineties left the Russian military in an atrocious state; humiliated in Chechnya, riddled with corruption and criminality, and ill-suited to the strategic challenges of the 21st century, the past decade has been one of renewed strength and a sense of power and purpose. Russian defence planners have not been idle. In a landmark assessment of Russia’s capability last year, the US Defence Intelligence Agency noted how the Ukraine conflict in 2014 had made Nato sit up and think: "The operation gave the world its first look at a military that appeared surprisingly disciplined and well-equipped ... Ukrainian forces have stressed the capabilities of the Russian units.” A year earlier, Russia’s top general, Valery Gerasimov, had formulated what became known as the Gerasimov doctrine. The commander was frank that Russia could not maintain parity in conventional weapons, or in AI and robotics, with the West. Somehow Russia had to compensate. "The role of non-military means has exceeded the power of the force of weapons,” he said, adding that Russia would now have to focus on "military means of a concealed character, including implementation of informational conflict.”

Gerasimov identified vulnerabilities in western defences. But these were political and not military. So, for relatively little investment, Russia supported movements that could potentially destabilise the West — in hacking groups like Fancy Bears, responsible for breaking into the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s email; or through bot nets supporting populism movements; or, in the case of France’s Front National, by loaning them money.

This has all contributed to a sense of political chaos and confusion in the US and the EU, at very little cost. The last thing Putin and his friends need is to go to Switzerland merely to hear lectures from the West about Russia’s perfidious behaviour.

Instead, the Kremlin is letting others talk, while Russia continues to fashion Syria’s future on the ground. President Bashar Al Assad is now closing in on victory, thanks to sustained Russian military assistance. Meanwhile, the weakness of the US and its allies are repeatedly exposed.

Vladimir Putin may be a ruthless KGB officer who uses the full might of the Russian state to remain in power, but as a practitioner of global statecraft, he has no current equal. Even Angela Merkel, who understands Putin like no other western leader, is struggling to stay afloat politically.

While the Russians said that Gavin Williamson had lost his "grasp on reason” over his claim of an attack threat, he was right in saying that they have the power to influence the world in an entirely novel way. And they know what they are doing.




Leave a comment

  Tip

  Tip

  Tip

  Tip

  Tip