New cards in Putin's geopolitical deck
New behavior of Putin’s Russia causes fatigue in the West, as it fails to understand the Kremlin’s ultimate goals and methods to achieve them. This does not mean a higher chance of a new "Russian world" being created within the frame of Putin's logic. Rather, this means a protracted agony of the outgoing world order, which Russia keeps extending by igniting in a short period of time a whole range of regional and global crises. Unfortunately, neither the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, nor the current leaders of major EU powers are willing to start creating a new global security system, effective international institutions, as well as sufficient structures for conflict prevention at least along the perimeter of the “Western world.” Moreover, the U.S. and the European Union all making greater efforts to return to the era before 2014, when Russia was still part of the G8 and the Russian petrodollars were comfortably flowing in the accounts of many western politicians, journalists, experts, lawyers and PR managers.
The cost of failing to recognize the objective reality in international politics will be really high. It is already rising on the example of the EU migration crisis, a new wave of terrorist attacks across Europe, as well as the rise of the European far-right forces. A growing number of Western politicians and diplomats are starting to see ever more clearly the true intentions of Putin's Russia and the EU’s total idleness. For example, the Bulgarian president has told the European Parliament about Putin’s intentions to “destroy” the foundations of the European Union. Or take a statement of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt that the international community has not enough information about Russia’s role in the war in Donbas.
The cost of failing to recognize the objective reality in international politics will be really high
While the West has no clue how to react to the stance of Putin's Russia, the Kremlin holds on to the initiative and pursues its policy of "we first create a problem and then solve it in our own interests." At the same time, Putin and his regime couldn’t care less about the internal cost of implementing such foreign policy because propaganda will always be able to keep the nation from unrest by injecting portions of a geopolitical pill called "Russia getting up off its knees." Let's look at some of Putin's actions on the world stage over the past six months.
We can trace a clear trend of creating new crises - the geopolitical cards, which, if drawn, will let Russia get the long-needed concessions in the old disputes which until then seemed unresolvable. Take Russia’s main activity area – the post-Soviet space. The Kremlin’s ferocity in attacking the countries (regardless of their cultural, economic, ethnic, and other proximity to Russia), which are members of the European Eastern Partnership initiative, is striking. This format is in fact a convenient target for Putin for years to follow unless some of the western leaders dare to stop him.
We can trace a clear trend of creating new crises - the geopolitical cards, which, if drawn, will let Russia get the long-needed concessions in the old disputes which until then seemed unresolvable
Against Ukraine, the Kremlin is waging an active war in Donbas, breaking the Minsk agreements on the daily basis by shelling the Ukrainian troops from large caliber weapons, engaging in subversive actions, mining the area in the eastern regions of the country. In Crimea, Russia is actively pursuing prosecution of the Crimean Tatars, at the same time militarizing the peninsula, turning Crimea into a springboard for future military action.
Much has been written about the destabilizing role of Moscow in Moldova, but the Kremlin’s game in this country is still far from being over. By rocking the situation in Georgia, with a demonstrative seizure by South Ossetia of part of the territory where the Baku – Supsa pipeline is laid, Moscow makes it clear for Tbilisi that at any time, the Russian army could start a military operation against the Georgian State and the Georgian people.
We have already seen the escalation of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016. Here, Russia is killing two birds at once – it retains control over Armenia (where the internal protest is growing) and also shows readiness to destabilize Azerbaijan in order to block the Southern Gas Corridor to the EU, at the same time provoking Turkey. There are reasons to believe that the Kremlin also has a draft plan of a hybrid war against Belarus, whose president has already unlocked his contacts with the West.
A separate story is Russia’s involvement in the destabilization in Kazakhstan. The process is only gaining momentum. It is revealing, in this context, how the pro-Russian experts rushed convincing the public about the involvement of Islamic terrorists as the main organizers of the internal crisis and totally silencing the role of Russia.
A separate story is Russia’s involvement in the destabilization in Kazakhstan. The process is only gaining momentum
If we look wider, Putin has gone as far as the Middle East to create new geopolitical cards to spice up the game. In particular, Russia is now increasingly getting involved in the Syrian confrontation with the West, at the same time trying to play the Caucasus, Turkish and Kurdish games. The temporary withdrawal of the Russian mobile air group from of Syria for the period of "sandstorms" partially succeeded in disorienting the U.S. and EU. Simultaneously, Moscow inflicts more pressure on Tehran aiming to slow down Iran's oil output as a major factor that halts the rise of oil prices. According to the Russian plans, fragmentation of the Middle East – dividing Syria, creating Kurdistan loyal to Moscow, further dividing Saudi Arabia and other measures – all of it is a firm platform for geopolitical bargaining with the West in the near future. It should be understood very clearly that for the purpose of raising the oil prices, Russia is up for a long-term destabilization of the entire Middle East.
Thus, the Kremlin is not going to stop the policy of dismantling the old system of international relations and global security. That’s especially because, at the moment, no one has been firm enough to show any real action to neutralize this policy. Moreover, Putin is creating more hotbeds of destabilization that will accelerate his ultimate defeat in the long term, but at the moment, they are expanding the field for his geopolitical maneuver.
In Ukraine, the Kremlin will continue to bet on a set of measures - deterioration of the situation on the frontline in Donbas, hybrid warfare aimed to destroy the Ukrainian economy and energy grid, bribing politicians and public servants, undermining the security and defense system, and, most importantly, the further massive information campaign on the formation of certain public attitudes of the Ukrainian population.
Since the West has failed to understand the ultimate goals and methods of Putin’s new political course, Ukraine is to rely mainly on its own strength in defending its people and its statehood.