This handy little infographic helps hit the high notes of how much Putin’s stupidity has cost the Russian economy so far.
With the decades of experience in ballot stuffing under his belt, Putin has used this knowledge and experience to falsify another election. The difference this time round is that it’s an election in a foreign country, a country his Army has occupied for the past eight days.
It’s been rather a neat trick that he’s managed to pull off. Firstly, he sends in his commandos, armed to the teeth, minus their battalion insignia or Russian flag usually found sewn onto their uniforms. This crack squad of commandos left their garrisons in Sevastopol and surrounded the Ukrainian naval, army and air force bases across Crimea. The next part of the plan was to push North to dig in defenses preventing any large scale military response from Ukraine – which would have never materialised, given that the Ukrainian military has been under invested for last last five years – and creating a quasi-military border crossing. Then the installation of a puppet government who would do his bidding and force an early referendum on the future of Crimea – with the only options being to join Russia now, or later – was the coup de grâce.
As I write this, the results of the illegal plebiscite are not yet in, yet the Russian press has already announced that 93% of Crimean’s have voted in favour of joining Russia. This clairvoyance regarding the result has been helped enormously by the permittance of Russian citizens being allowed to vote in an election in a country they are not even a citizen of, on a matter that they have no business in getting involved in. It’s akin to letting Mexicans vote in the US Presidential election. It has also been helpful that ballot papers were printed IN RUSSIA with tick marks already marked in the appropriate box – once again a very helpful Russian government helping ordinary Ukrainians making up their mind.
What amazes me though, aside from the sheer arrogance of Putin and his cabinet, is their insolence denying that it is Russian troops on the ground who are surrounding Ukrainian bases and who have orchestrated an invasion of a foreign land. These mysterious “non-Russian” RUSSIAN troops are openly parading in front of TV camera’s, balaclava’s disguising their true identities all the while sitting in Russian military vehicles with Russian military licence plates. It’s so farcical that it reminds me of a Christmas pantomime where the kids shout out to the inept saviour of the panto “Look, he’s BEHIND YOU!”
Only six months ago, Putin decided to write an open letter to the West, addressed to the American people and published in the New York Times. In his letter he decried the intent of the West to use military force against another tin pot regime in Syria. Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people who have risen up against him, and Putin had issues with the West getting involved, in the same way he had with Libya.
His letter in the New York Times made a case for not using force.
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.”
I find it laughable that six months on, Putin’s actions in Crimea directly contravene those same actions which he accused and condemned the US and the West in his open letter. It would appear that poor old “Vovka” is suffering a touch of amnesia. Because he’s completely forgotten all his carefully constructed arguments and only gone and unilaterally invaded and occupied a foreign country. A country whose government was “finding their own way to democracy“. But Ukraine’s path to democracy is the antithesis to what Putin’s concept of democracy looks like. His government and cabinet are nothing more than a kleptocracy. A group of well heeled and well oiled oligarchs who, when in favour of the Kremlin, stand to make a lot of money. When they fall out of favour with the Kremlin, their businesses are stolen and given away to the newly appointed venerates who evangelise the Kremlin’s foreign and domestic policy and hold high Putin as an omnipotent being to whom ordinary Russian’s should worship and adore. A kleptocracy who run scared shitless and the slightest sign of unrest or political activism which could potentially topple their entire way of life. So any political unrest needs to be stopped, even if it’s in a neighbouring country who happens to speak the same language.
Putin was quick to use the same language that civilised democracies refer to in his New York Times letter, with numerous references to following International Law and of following the rules of a civilised society. But when has Russia ever adhered to the rule of law? Russia has long been a country where, for the right price, you can literally buy the judge and the ruling you want. It is Putin’s sheer arrogance that he expects anyone outside of Russia to believe his bullshit about Russia abiding by the rule of law. He certainly never applied the rule of law in cases against Khodorkovsky, Magnitsky and Navalny or during the murder investigation of Anna Politkovskaya. He never applied the rule of law during his last foreign adventure in Georgia. Two provinces of Georgia are still to this day under Russian control. And if Putin is so hell bent on enabling ordinary Crimean’s on their choice of self-determination, then why pray-tell did he send in military hardware and troops to crush an identical effort of Chechens when they sought independence from Russia?
No Putin, you haven’t got me fooled. Nor have you got the West. Back in the good old days, someone would have probably put a bullet in your head already. Whereas these days, our lily livered elected Heads of State and our governments in Europe and America are more afraid of oligarchs no longer spending any more of their ill gotten gains in the likes of Harrod’s and Knightsbridge to do anything about it. The French are worried that the €1.2bn order for aircraft carriers might get cancelled. Ze Germans are worried about their direct gas supply being cut-off and the Dutch are afraid that their Royal Family won’t be able to cosy up to a megalomanical President anymore, as they have been able to do this past year in the Netherlands, Moscow and Sochi….heavens forbid!
Putin right now, has nothing to lose. And the West have still yet to grow a pair of balls and announce sanctions that are even meaningful. Preventing a few Russian cabinet members from entering the EU is not going to worry Putin in the slightest, not will it do anything to cripple Russia’s economy and destabilise Russian domestic affairs.
Putin’s next steps, as I see it today, are to continue along the path of sending bus loads of released criminals and provocateurs into Eastern Ukraine in order to provide him with enough excuse to use the 25,000 troops he’s built up on the Ukrainian border. After that, the next two countries his army will be paying a visit to will be Moldova and Serbia. Two countries who have traditionally been aligned with Russia, but who have seen the benefits of their neighbours recent EU membership with their own eyes. And they want EU membership more that they want ties with Moscow.
Moscow has already tried to strong arm Moldova, unsuccessfully. And Serbia is too broke to NOT want EU membership. Ukraine is on its knees. Economically, militarily and emotionally. She has made her choice. To move away from Moscow’s sphere of influence and make her own way in the world. Putin’s words of fraternal love of Ukraine are just that….words. Putin wants a weak Ukraine, because it’s in HIS best interests. A weakened Ukraine means that he can force his will on Kiev, thereby protecting his megalomaniacal power on his own subjects in Russia, avoiding any home-grown dissent. A vociferous and rambunctious nation as a neighbour who forces kleptocratic presidents such as Yanukovich to flee with their tail between their legs does not bode well for a dictator hell-bent on holding on to power.
The simple truth is that it’s paid-for thugs from Russia driving across the border stirring up the violence in Ukraine. It is Russian soldiers on the ground surrounding the ill equipped Ukrainian bases and it Russian paid puppets who have forced an illegal referendum and blocked Ukrainian news channels for ordinary citizens to get an full view of the state of play in their home country. Russian’s are used to not having an open and free press.
Sadly Crimeans think that by choosing Russia over Ukraine, they are going to be better off under Russia’s wings. They think that Russia will invest in Crimea and that the streets will be lined with gold. Well, if you think that having no free press, no freedom of expression, no open and transparent judiciary, a police force that doesn’t believe in one of the fundamental legal doctrines of habeas corpus, and a government that hasn’t invested in any other province in Russia other than Moscow and St. Petersburg is OK, then sure…..go ahead and side with Russia. But if they have, until now, never invested in a single penny in any of the other poorer regions of Russia, what makes you think they would care about Crimea. They might spend a little while the TV camera’s are around, but once they’re gone, documenting the next world crisis and the spotlight has shifted away from Crimea, you’ll be back washing your clothes in a wash-tub, scraping a measly existence as before, only this time when you go to complain about Putin, you’ll get your ass through into a Siberian gulag.
“Bigbird” the pelican stumbled ashore after a storm and was taken in by the staff of Greystoke Mahale in Tanzania. He was nursed back to health and then began to limber up and begin to fly again. With a tiny GoPro attached to his beak, we can get a sense of what it feels like for Bigbird when he’s flying. As a pilot myself, I always marvel at how simple birds make the process of flying look. Simply amazing!
As you read this, things have really begun to heat up in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is on high alert, begging for help from the West, whilst Putin’s troops occupy Crimea and surround several Ukrainian army and air force basis stationed in Crimea. With 6,000 Russian troops already on the ground in Crimea, and approval from his senate to send in a lot more, Lili-Putin is sitting happy in the Kremlin, sipping his tea and quietly congratulating himself on having orchestrated yet another destabilising manoeuvre that has caught the West off-guard. But what annoys me is that everyone should have seen this coming. I know I did. Let me explain it for you step-by-step.
Firstly you need to understand Putin and what he stands for. Aside from his little PR stunt of freeing a bunch of prisoners prior to the Winter Olympics, his main aim has always been about command and control, a psychotic need to retain power and an extreme hatred for what the West stands for. He’s felt threatened by any ex-Soviet state looking at NATO membership – Georgia (suffered an embarrassing defeat after a 5-day war in 2008), Armenia and Ukraine, to name but three. And values of an open and transparent judicial and political systems in combinations with an open and free press that EU membership would afford, scares him as it relinquishes the command and control style he requires to maintain power. Since the Winter Olympics, he has returned to the offensive at home and arrested several protesters both in Moscow and Sochi, and put Navalny under house arrest again. So he’s returned to his old ways.
His anti-American stance has remained unchanged ever since his appearance at the staged rally for his candidacy at the Luzhniki stadium, for which tens of thousands came (with many reportedly having been coerced), Putin kept referring to an ongoing “battle for Russia” against external enemies. “We won’t allow anybody to meddle in our domestic affairs. We won’t allow anybody to deny our will!” he shouted to screaming supporters. “The battle for Russia continues and we will win!”
When he was re-elected as President for the 3rd time, his inauguration speech was again peppered with language that should have had the West worrying. He threw down a gauntlet to the West, defiantly challenging what he believes to be Western meddling in a hemisphere that has traditionally been Russia’s back yard and whom no-one, save for the Russian president, should have a say.
These coming years will be crucial for shaping Russia’s future in the decades to come. We must all understand that the life of our future generations and our prospects as a country and nation depend on us today and on our real achievements in building a new economy and developing modern living standards, on our efforts to look after our people and support our families, on our determination in developing our vast expanses from the Baltic to the Pacific, and on our ability to become a leader and centre of gravity for the whole of Eurasia. – Putin’s Inaugural Speech, Kremlin 2012
Ukraine is a Foreign Policy disaster for Putin. Yanukovych was, for a time, his own man. It’s no secret that Yanukovych has stolen and pillaged Ukraine and her resources for himself, lining his own pockets, building exquisite mansions and all the trappings typically found in the home of an Oligarch. But for a time, he did not always do Putin’s bidding and on a few occasions even told Putin where to go. However, on that faithful November weekend last year, a few weeks before the planned signing of the EU association agreement, he was paid a visit by Lili-Putin. Accounts of Putin opening up a file and laying down threats and an ultimatum to Yanukovych abound. Granted they are hearsay, but it’s not by coincidence that the agreement was never signed. Which sounded the death knell for Yanukovych. But why force Ukraine towards Russia?
There are a few reasons. Firstly, Putin can no longer reliably depend on a rising standard of living in Russia to secure his people’s affection. Moreover, in the long term the emergence of the United States as a natural gas exporter likely spells the end of Gazprom’s role as the guarantor of Russia’s internal stability. As the standard of living among Russia’s middle-class withers, resentment of the Kremlin elites’ corruption, wealth and autocracy will inevitably boil. Putin’s sudden turn to matters of national identity, the Russian soul and the Russian family suggests that he is effectively adopting a compensatory ideology that can sustain his rule. Ultra Nationalism in Russia is now rife. And Lili-Putin has always identified with and admired Stalin. By recreating a quasi nouveau-Soviet Union, in a way appeals to Putin’s ego.
Secondly, Ukraine, as a foreign policy in and of itself, has never been a stable one. To begin with, you have a nation that is, and always has been, slightly dis-jointed. There are two languages, there are ideological divisions, even as recently as World War II. Eastern Ukrainians rallied against the Nazi’s, Western Ukrainians fought with the Nazi’s in the hope they could oust Stalin. The Tatar’s in Crimea – a Muslim minority who were deported and scattered across the Soviet Union by Stalin – revile Russia and want nothing to do with her.
And Ukrainians have a way of being Russia’s proverbial fly in the ointment when it comes to usurping ones plans of total hemispherical political dominance because of the fact that Ukrainians are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. Unlike their Russian counterparts whose Anti-Putin protests fizzled out after Putin enacted harsh draconian laws to lock them up or shut them up, Ukrainians on the other-hand stayed in Maidan Square all throughout the harsh Winter and actually achieved one of their objectives – to remove Yanukovych from office. All Ukrainians want peace, economic stability and an end to corruption. Which is exactly what the average Russian wanted and demonstrated for, but instead lost the drive and commitment to stay true to course. So Putin has seen this Ukrainian revolt as a thorn in his side and something which he needed to stamp out in case it fanned the flames of revolt in Russia.
His original plan to use Yanukovych and force him not to sign the agreement with the EU would have seen Ukraine move closer to Russia. We’ve all seen what the results of that have become. So his next plan of action was a stroke of Machiavellian genius. You see, the Russian constitution includes an article which states that Russia reserves the right to use force to protect her citizens in the event that they threatened, harmed or killed. The language, in the way it’s constructed, means that in theory, Russian could invade “Little Odessa” in New York if they felt that Russian passport holders there felt threatened. And here’s the genius part…..by giving everyone in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine a Russian passport, he can now use these newly minted “Russians” as justification to invade. The fact that they have their Black Sea fleet stationed in Sevastopol just means any plan to annex Crimea is met with extra expediency.
This invasion of Crimea will only serve to further destabilise the current and fragile Ukrainian interim government. Which will mean that the likelihood of any of these political players getting re-elected diminishes every passing day that this crisis continues. And once an invasion occurs, it could very well further destabilise the country so much that an all out civil war kicks-off. Once the dust has settled, it will mean that Putin can place his new (as yet unknown) puppet as President of Ukraine, eventually getting what he wants.
Additional benefits include a consolidation of his power and approval ratings at home, which will help transfer the spotlight from a slowing Russian economy, and increase the fervent pro-Russian nationalism that is on the rise. Any global instability resulting from Russia’s invasion of Crimea will also cause oil prices to increase, directly benefitting the Russian exchequer. It’s a given that threat of war means a hike in oil prices.
In addition, annexing Crimea to Russia means that the economic stranglehold on Ukraine vis-a-vis gas imports remains, as the new gas fields found off the coast of Crimea, which could have weaned Ukraine off Russian gas supplies, are now annexed and stolen by Russia. And finally, it becomes yet another foreign policy win over the West, who are railing after the more recent Russian win regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons and Russia’s ability to avoid a Western incursion and aerial strikes.
Putin’s near silence up until this weekend should have served notice to the West that he was up to something. The shear fact that low-level MP’s from Russia’s Duma were sent to meet with the locals meant that his intent on invasion was already a done deal. And the total and utter bullshit emanating from his mouthpiece “Russia Today” further compounds the Kremlin’s stance. To call “Russia Today” journalism is an affront to proper real journalism which takes place every day across the world. Their reports that the current Ukrainian government is nothing more than a bunch of Neo-Nazi’s and that Russia has a right to invade a foreign country, a declaration of war anywhere else.
My biggest fear is for our family in Ukraine. Herself has her Mum and brother still there. The first sign of anything happening they will be on the first train, plane or car out of there. But sadly that will not be the case for many others.
It’s high time that the West stops sitting on the fence, puts down their coffee cups and their constant “strategic” meetings and does something, something meaningful.
For starters, ban all Russian’s from travelling. Put the screws on them economically and play fire with fire. The “up and coming” affluent Russian is the only thing keeping Putin in power. And they like to live the high life, spending their money in Europe and the US. Ban them from travelling here, piss them off to create a discontented Russian middle class.
Stop importing oil and gas from Russia. I don’t mind if it gets more expensive here. We can invest in alternative energy, take the train to work, eat local and seasonal foods. Freeze every asset of Russian’s abroad. I don’t care if they are ordinary Russian’s or oligarch Russian MP’s. Freezing their assets and blocking them from travelling to the EU and US will go a long way to putting the screws on them. And then maybe as a final solution, treat Putin like the terrorist he truly is…..Find him, Fix him, and Finish him.