Putin’s strengthening geopolitical hand

Putin is deliberately targeting hospitals in Syria, to terrorise civilians into leaving their homes, and to add to the refugee stream that is threatening to buckle the European Union. Fractures in the EU will reassure Putin that Russia’s former vassal states are less likely to drift to the west.

Ask Medecins sans Frontieres

12771919_10154062306645362_937455923332907275_oIt’s not that Putin had the clairvoyance to see all this from years back, but the cards are certainly falling in his favour – for now. Seizing eastern Ukraine not only strengthened Russia’s energy hand and stopped Ukraine sliding smoothly into the EU, but Crimea’s naval facilities gave Putin much more reach into the Med and Syria.

And now these strikes are creating the gravest refugee crisis in Turkey – whom Putin loathes – and only a slightly lesser emergency in the EU. Putin can see the cracks in the western alliance ranged along his borders, and he’s only biding his time before he has a go in the Baltic States, Moldova and so on.

And Putin is wooing the Kurds. The one group in the region that Washington could count on may be their go-to guys no longer. Putin is taking advantage of the fact that the Kurds hate Turkey even more than he does, and seeks to prise them away from the US camp, giving him a strong grip on the Syrian-Turkish border and the potential to develop Russian bases here.

Proving explicit Russian intent to bomb hospitals is hard without a transcript of a commander’s orders, but here’s Médecins Sans Frontières:

The latter article states that ‘The hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan was hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other, according to staff from the hospital.’ Not barrel bombs, and no accident – only one aerial power is credibly responsible – with conscious intent.

A fundamental difference of focus in the way America and Russia have played the Mid East is the divide between a consciously moral view of the world, and the realpolitik view. Obama’s a nice guy, but he and Washington have allowed a warmly fuzzy view of how the world should work to befuddle their every policy in the region. Putin doesn’t make mistakes like this – morality be damned, he has seen much more clearly that the Assads, Saddams and Gaddafis stand between the region and the atomised slaughter that would fill their vacated space. In a way, the US needs a Kissinger right now. But Putin could probably see Kissinger, and raise him.

I have no beef about the EU – very boring, I know, I see pros and cons about the whole project. I’m more interested in how the tensions within the EU play in respect to Putin and the Mid East. Turkey are no saints in the affair, and moreover Putin didn’t clairvoyantly plan all this years ago – but yes, I think Putin is happily conscious of the fact that the refugee tide is fracturing the EU/NATO alliance that lines his western borders, and of whom he is understandably filled with anxiety and loathing.


2 thoughts on “Putin’s strengthening geopolitical hand

  1. I think Baltic states are safer for their obvious disposition. It is so expected it can’t happen. Besides, what would be the use for Russia? I doesn’t have that much extra money to do something just because it could.


  2. Putin is aware of Russia’s economic situation, precariously dependent on energy sales as it is – but his highest calling and aim is to expand Russian hegemony, to retake if possible the old Soviet client states, even if that risks an economic cost. In his heart of hearts he desires the Baltics, the central Asian states, etc.
    Making real moves on the Baltics probably depends on the EU becoming more fractured, over the migrant crisis and so on – if Europe’s house becomes critically divided, yes I think he might make a real play of grabbing the Baltics back.


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