Sam Gordon Webb
Naked Politics Blogger
Vladamir Putin doesn’t know his own constitution. Luckily for him, Olga Misik knows hers.
The 17 year old teenager sat crossed legged in front of Moscow’s notoriously violent police force and read it out in one of the most powerful acts of resistance in Russian history. Article 31 of the Russian Constitution clearly states that citizens have a right to gather peacefully. Russia has made it seem as though that this is nothing more than a pipe dream.
Putin showed this week that he is indeed a devil in all but name. He rules Russia with a totalitarian fist and his tactics are to spread chaos and confusion everywhere. He poisons, imprisons and bans his critics from entering public office. He degrades his people and subjugates them to low employment rates and rapidly declining living standards. For a man with a supposed net worth of $200 billion, that is unpardonable. And yet no one is truly able to tell it how it is. Why not?
Winston Churchill was dead right when he said that “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. Understanding Russia’s politics is an almost impossible task. The Kremlin is locked and secrets are kept out of reach for everyone outside.
The lack of action by the West is thus based on diplomatic grounds. Britain’s reliance on Russia oil is too great to risk especially when we lose access to the Internal Energy Market of Europe after Brexit. Our ability to store our own supply of oil is also dropping , making suppliers like Russia even more important.
Russia is a global player. Through the Salisbury attack, Russia’s intervention in Syria, and by meddling in the elections proceedings of America and Europe , Russia undermines democracy and propagates lies for its own benefit. But secretly, Europe’s elites are more anxious about upsetting Russia than standing up for the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the vast majority of westerners.
The Prussian statement Otto Von Bismark put it well when he said, “ The secret to politics? Make a good treaty with Russia.”. It would seem that much of Europe still believes that.
But being friends with a bully is never a good idea, instead a worrying sign that the West no longer sees its role as upstanding democracy, instead motivated by economic and social gain.
Data by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES) has also shown that UK gas import demand is currently largely met by pipeline imports from Norway and LNG imports from Qatar. Russia also has a track record of exporting contaminated oil to European markets. Oil supplied by Druzbha- the longest oil pipeline in the world- has shown to be contaminated with organic chlorides according Reuters. We don’t need Russian oil, and we certainly don’t want it.
Russia is much more vulnerable than people think. Military posturing by China in the region of Tajikistan has prompted Putin into action in the guise of a friendly partner. But given that China’s GDP is 6 times larger than Russia’s, this would seem far fetched. Instead, Putin is desperately creating an image of this nation as an important global player, if not the most important one China has. But the bad news for him is that he’s far less important to the Chinese than Russia’s arch nemesis, America.
The lack of national identity adds to Russia’s woes. In 1917 Valdamir Lenin issued the Declaration of the Rights of the People of Russia which created a series of autonomous ethnic republics with rights to self determination.
Today there are 22 in total with only 2 containing a majority of Russian speakers. Putin’s state is without a core identity, making it doomed to fail anyway.
Some are beginning to act. After suspicions were raised that it was using a new type of missile, President Trump withdrew America from the nuclear pact made after the Cold War as a means to protect relations between both. It’s finance minister Anton Siluanov responded by claiming that Russia’s financial market will cope just fine to the decision.
But that is simply not the case. The Russian ruble headed for its weakest close in two months, and borrowing costs have increased. It’s leaders have also decided to soften its refusal to issue visas to teachers at a Moscow school run by US, British and Canadian embassies in the last few days, a sign of increased fear about losing an important friend in the West.
And who could forget the Salsbury attacks of 2016 in which two of Russia’s citizens- Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia- were poisoned by Kremlin hitmen. The reaction has been so far measured yet effective. Trump reacted this week by imposing fresh sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act after it was deemed that it used the nerve agent Novichok in the attack on the Skripals. He then signed an executive order preventing international financial institutions from lending money to countries under sanction in the US for use of chemical weapons, including Russia. Humanitarian missions such as the US helping Russia tackle wildfires in Siberia are important to present America as a moral agent to the rest of the world. It’s taken some time though, some two years after the poisoning actually took place.
Britain chose to expel 23 diplomats from the Russian Embassy, brought in tougher controls on Russians flying in on private jets and tougher searches on the goods they bring. More is being done to uncover the role played by GIU- Moscow’s opaque spying network- in the Skripal poisonings thanks to information from Downing Street. The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters in 2018 that “we are sharing the information with our allies and we will step up our efforts to disrupt and dismantle their networks.”
Collaboration is important and harsher sanctions are clearly needed. So far, action has been limited to several diplomatic banishments and some bitter exchanges over the telephone. That’s simply not good enough. Nothing justifies Putin and nothing justifies doing nothing about him. Russia is getting away with murder. Quite literally.