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Donald Henderson
 
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The Russian Bear strides on to centre stage

27 March 2014, 07:11


The Ukrainian crisis has stirred old rivalries in Europe and fears of a return to the “cold war” days of subterfuge, spies and all-things secret. But what has been hyped in the West's media as a crisis should now turn out to be no more than a realigning of geographical reality accompanied by lots of hollow threats and sabre rattling.

With Putin firmly in control of Crimea, for centuries a Russian enclave, following the popular revolution in the west of Ukraine, and his troops massed along the border of eastern Ukraine there is little more reason for the former KGB man to upset world economics with further actions. Presently he is flexing his new-found political muscles and seemingly enjoying every minute of it. The question remains, though, why he employed troops without uniforms and allowed Russian-speaking thugs to join in the takeover.

Putin has, however, achieved more than he could have expected with his lightning action to reclaim Crimea and secure Russia's vital port in the Black Sea. Without that port Russia's huge naval fleet would be confined to the freezing ports to the north or Vladivostok in the Far East, making its influence less effective in the West. Now, however, Russia will not feel ostracised as a second-rate super power. Now, when important matters crop up, the opinion of Russia will be listened to.

And he has claimed several personal victories along the way. He will no longer have to attract attention by being a bare-backed horse rider as he is now the darling of Moscow and Russia as a whole with a home support which is the envy of all world leaders as he drags the country to centre stage on world politics.

The West has been exposed as too weak to react to anything other than militarily defenceless and politically inept countries when it is displeased. Its usual underhand methods of subterfuge were evident in the recent revolution in Ukraine, which is in Russia's back yard. Remember Cuba? Now all the huff and puff of dire consequences should Russia not withdraw from Crimea has turned out to be no more than big-mouth halitosis from world bullies. Sanctions on a dozen individuals in Moscow is an ineffective slap on the wrist. Russia's billionaires mostly live in London, anyway. And being sidelined from the Group of Eight, an economic get-together coffee morning by select bombastic leaders, has been dismissed in Moscow. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on hearing the news, said: “So be it.”

President Barrack Obama of the US is said to be displeased with his friends in Europe for not imposing strong economic sanctions. But, as the EU is slowly pulling itself out of a major financial crisis and with major investments in Russia, there was little interest in more sanctions. It would be tantamount to cutting off their noses to spite their faces, they argued. Their economic links with Russia are strong.

No matter, Russia is not impressed and will feel that its actions, to date, have been fully justified. Putin will know that he has strengthened his voice on world issues such as Iran, Syria – President Assad of Syria will be positively glowing at the news – Afghanistan and the Middle East in general.

The message from Russia is clear: Don't mess with our neighbours; that's our area of influence.

The West has aroused the Russian Bear and has been exposed as a paper tiger.

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