Putin turns the tables
Allow me to look over the fence with this editorial, away from the local concerns of our own back yards, and summarize a few developments in the wider world. I haven’t seen media analysts making the following observations.
Two or three years ago, it seemed that Russia had been backed into a corner by the West – from the Sochi Olympics to NATO’s forces stationed along Russia’s borders, including the very provocative NATO move to rotate warships continually through the Black Sea, along the coasts of Russia and Iran. NATO was negotiating for use of what used to be Russia’s largest naval base in the south, Sevastopol in the Crimea. Russia was under fire for intervention in Syria and had its main exports (oil and natural gas) crushed by the sudden abundance of fracked petroleum in the West. Things did not look good for Putin, who, our leaders claimed, had been intent on re-establishing the borders of the Soviet Union. He wasn’t going anywhere now, Obama and our leaders chanted.
This New Year’s, we noticed a game underway which we’d failed to see begin.
Russia had annexed its old territory of Crimea, ending NATO’s dreams of a base in the Black Sea. And today NATO itself is shaky, under threat from within, with Trump’s ascendancy.
Russia’s intervention in Syria helped flood Europe with refugees, prompting a huge backlash, crippling the governments of almost every EU state. Suddenly, Europe was a non-combatant in the new Cool War.
The Russian fleet moved into the Mediterranean, sidestepping NATO. Assad reasserted control in much of Syria, thanks to the Russians. The Yanks (NATO) were left with a gang of Islamicists, jihadists, and mercenaries to carry their banners in Syria.
Then the Russians (so we’re told) manipulated the US election, via hacking, fake news sites, and anti-Clinton leaks, leading to the US falling into the hands of a pro-Russian cabal, November 8. Is Trump a Russian Trojan Horse, or is that Trump’s Slavic wife? The Russia faction is now in control of the Executive and Congress, with the added horsepower of Obama’s enhanced security apparatus (drones, internet spying, etc), complete with nuclear launch codes.
Within six months, once-cornered Putin had turned the tables – and the Americans hardly noticed. Mr Trump is talking of dismantling NATO. Europe suddenly remembered its absolute dependence upon Russian oil and gas, and is still grappling with a Trump-like alliance of neo-nazis and nationalists; Europe’s now too preoccupied at home to listen to American neo-conservatives beat the drums for a crusade against Russia.
The pro-Russia faction in Washington will make sure the US is embroiled in internal disputes and confrontations for at least the next four years – guaranteed, as Trump puts the screws to the environmental movement, public schools, unions, and minority-rights campaigners.
Putin has carefully and profoundly turned the tables on his foes.
Anyone who sees Putin as merely a tin-pot dictator may find 2017 a difficult and disturbing year.