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If left unchallenged, Putin will attempt to create a new Russian empire

3 March 2014

In Ukraine, the West has played—quite disastrously—into Vladimir Putin’s hands. The mistakes go back almost a decade. But the most recent one occurred when protesters took to the streets to oppose the Yanukovych government.

The West, by which I mean Nato and the European Union, should have made clear that whatever sympathies they had with the protesters’ aims, the right way to change the government was by the ballot box. The failure to do that has provided Putin with the pretext he needed to have Russian forces seize control of Crimea.

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Putin’s motivating factor is his desire to avenge, what he sees as, the humiliation of Russia at the end of the Cold War. A key part of that for him is reasserting Russia’s influence in its near-abroad. He chooses to use defending Russian speakers rather than Russian Orthodox believers as his excuse for interference, but the tactic would be entirely recognisable to Catherine the Great. There’s little doubt, to my mind, that if left unchallenged Putin would attempt to create a new Russian empire.

But the West needs to be careful not to play Putin’s game. Nato and the European Union should be stressing the need for Crimea to determine its own status through democratic means and for free and fair elections in Ukraine.

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  • la catholic state

    Yeah…..because the godless gormless EU isn’t interested in establishing an empire at all at all.
    Russia should save us all from the godless EU.

  • Bonkim

    The Russians are better at Chess. That simple.

  • Michael Schachter

    No, he won’t, and most of the European electorate will not buy this drivel.

  • Augustus

    What the West seems to forget is that Russia had every reason to safeguard its interests in Crimea. The question is who actually started the provocation? European ministers were mixing into the domestic political battle that was raging in Ukraine. Germany, Poland and France brokered a deal between the opposition and the president. And on top of EU’s interference the new temporary Government and Parliament in Kiev followed with provocations of its own. It’s therefore perfectly understandable that Russia wanted to secure its Black Sea fleet following the unstable and anti-Russian atmosphere in Kiev. Without its Crimean base Russia, which still regards itself as a superpower, is cut off from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Anyone who is surprised about Russia safeguarding the strategic importance of Sevastopol on the Black Sea doesn’t know their history.

  • ClausewitzTheMunificent

    Moreover, what hardly anyone seems to get, is that whenever two big states have a conflict of interest, the little people win. When the giants are busy looking at each other, they can’t spare the attention on their citizens. So in a way, we should be grateful to have a counterbalance to our governments. If they didn’t exist, our governments would have nothing else to do but order us around from morning to night.

  • ClausewitzTheMunificent

    A new Russian Empire? What rubbish. He is merely defending the current Russian Empire, against the intrusion of the American Empire, and its useful idiot the EU. Its incredibly naive to think that power politics were somehow done away in the last century.

  • Daniel Maris

    Is this the Cameronian line then? Blame the demonstrators. It’s all their fault!!

    The fact is, that had there been no demonstrations in Kiev the country would clearly have moved on to become like Putin’s Russia, a mock-democracy. A government so mired in corruption would think nothing of rigging an election.

    • saffrin

      The Ukraine would be better off with Russia than the debt ridden anti-democratic EUSSR Brussels have created.
      The EUSSR is well on the way the monumental failure while Russia is booming.

  • rtj1211

    Now who was backing the putsch?? Was it Putin?? No, it was the USA, the EU and the UK.

    Has Putin fired a single shot?? No.

    I’ve never heard such hypocritical bullshit as that coming out of Senator Kerry’s mouth. Bombing Iraq and invading was fine, but a peaceful intervention is ‘a disgrace’.

    Why weren’t global sanctions imposed on America and the UK for going into Iraq and killing 100,000+?

    It’s all complete rubbish.

    • Daniel Maris

      Er, because Iraq had invaded a fellow UN country (Kuwait) and then failed to abide by the armistice terms. Next question.

      • Wessex Man

        was that ten years before? should we invade the USA and bring order to the inept?

      • Tom Tom

        Kuwait was created by the British to reduce Iraq’s oilfields

  • Donald Fraser

    Putin’s challenge offers our post cold-war generation something new. By definition for us the fact Putin was KGB means nothing! Is it a pop group? We as a generation could be defined by the absence of secret service recruitment (either side) at Oxbridge.

    Why should we fear a new empire (or rather “an attitude”) which upsets the status quo? Younger generations are told “you must expect less wealth”, smaller houses and be heavily indebted from school age. Furthermore working class jobs are pitifully scarce because of a huge unskilled labour pool. Why would the younger generations of Western Europe not celebrate to see a new Russian empire? For the younger generations it is not about Russia. Rather if they upset the status quo, why should we care?

    The “peace dividend” post cold-war offers the younger generations of Western Europe less and less. But now, for the first time in decades the exterior threat is not religious. Excellent news! Our post-war generation of Western Europe is fed up with the older generations defending our way of life. It always seems to translate as something less for us, something “more secure” for them.

    If Putin can scare the people who are scaring us (the older generations), it is a good thing. And by definition we are fit enough to dig when given a 4 minute warning.

  • ugly_fish

    FFS! It was the same with Syria! All these hacks must be being paid overtime to push the “party line”!

  • Noa

    Unless you are privy to Putin’s thoughts you are unable to argue convincingly that his motivation is revenge against the West. Any Russian leader would seek to re-build his nation’s security, power and prestige.
    Unfortunately the West’s leaders have abandoned these fogyish concepts as nationalist aberrations, whilst they have sought to build a new political Jerusalem from the Tower of Babel that is the EU.
    Mixing my metaphors? Damn right! But no more than our own morally lost leaders.

    • Tom Tom

      Just what was the Falklands about ?

      • Noa


  • Rhoda Klapp8

    And any Russian leader would do the same. Preserving his sphere of influence and his culture. Putin is not a bogeyman. Shallow.

    And, whatever do you think ‘the West’ is going to do now? How’s that soft power thing working out for the EU?

  • colliemum

    The Crimea will have a referendum on the end of this month, to decide for themselves where they want to belong.

    We however have to wait until 2017, if Cameron wins the next GE, and if he doesn’t ‘forget’ that he promised such referendum.
    Why are we denied what you claim for the Crimea and the Ukraine?

    • HookesLaw

      One reason you have to wait is that there is not a majority in parliament to vote for one. If the antics of UKIP bear fruit there will not be one after 2015 either.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Well, you best not split the UKIP vote then, lad.

      • Wessex Man

        NURSE! Nur zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • the viceroy’s gin

      The Camerluvvies appear to support street riots overthrowing government, and quickly gaining a referendum. Perhaps it’s time for some home cooking on that score, you know, since the Camerluvvies support it…

      • Tom Tom

        When can we overthrow the corrupt oligarchy in England ?

  • alabenn

    Empires cost big money, if he is to create one he will have get hold of a lot more cash than he has at his disposal, after all, money shortages caused the collapse of the last one twenty+ years ago.

  • serguei_p

    History repeats itself.
    In 1938 Hitler demanded Sudetenland to protect German population. Today Putin demands Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to protect Russian population.
    When the West did nothing, Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. Putin will continue and take over Ukraine as the West would do nothing again until it is too late.

    • rtj1211

      Complete bollocks. The Ukrainian putsch artists’ first announcement was to ban the Russian language despite the majority in SE Ukraine speaking it as their first language.

      Putin has gone in to ensure the safety of Russian speakers and it is the Western media who are making it out to be nazi-esque.

      The nazis are the thugs of the new incumbents.

      • serguei_p

        Have you ever been to Ukraine? What “safety” you talking about? Russian speakers were among those who joined Maidan in Kiev. The only people they need protection from are the Russian Army.

        Or are you just repeating Putin’s propaganda?

      • Augustus

        Exactly. Crimea is 60% Russian, ethnic Russian, not just Russian speaking. The neo-Nazis of the Freedom Party in Kiev said they were going to ‘de-Russify’ Ukraine and make using the Russian language illegal, thereby directly threatening the constitutional freedom of millions of Russians, especially in South and Eastern Ukraine. Don’t be fooled by Cold War rhetoric. It is a grave mistake to compare Putin to Hitler. Little Hitlers are in Kiev now. Putin’s forefathers fought against the Nazis while those of the Kiev dissidents supported Hitler.

        • Daniel Maris

          So now we’ve gone from “banned” to “said they would”.

        • Marina Arane

          what about ukranian forefathers who did the same

      • Marina Arane

        anything but putin. imagine the day when kgb does not rule the world.
        for now, remember millions of ukranians who fought against Hitller, are THEY fascists?

      • Tom Tom

        14th Galician Division of Waffen SS 1st Ukrainian was the only SS unit to keep weapons in POW camps and then be distributed to US, Canada, Oz and UK with false legends to keep them ready for the planned 1954 war against the USSR

    • Tom Tom

      Wrong. The League of Nations condemned Poland and Czechoslovakia for treatment of minorities. In Sudetenland Germans were the Majority but Prague tried ethnic cleansing and moving Czechs in and banning German, closing German schools and churches – just as Poland was doing…….read British Embassy reports in the PRO. Hitler was protecting Germans trapped by the Versailles Treaty in new countries which tried to eradicate Germans………they succeeded in 1945-1948 because Britain and the US agreed to mass-expulsions and murder of Germans in Soviet Occupied Europe

      • Noa

        Yes, a page of history that is rarely turned, thogh AJP Taylor covered some of it in the ‘Origins of WW2’.

  • swatnan

    I doubt it. It was Putin and his master Boris the Clown Yeltsin that managed to break up the former USSR Empire between them. Russia is getting a bit fed up with having NATO weapons pointing at it right on its very borders by the stooges of the American Empire namely Turkey and the East Europeans turncoats. One of these days Russia is going to get so fed up it’ll invade America via Alaska, which Putin can see from his kitchen window.

    • Tom Tom

      Putin was not in power when Yeltsin unravelled the USSR – it was Berezhovsky who was the power-broker in the Kremlin then by fawning over Yeltsin and bribing his daughter – it was Putin who broke the power of the Oligarchs ie the Jewish Mafia

      • HookesLaw

        Ah the jews again.

        • Tom Tom

          Yes just as Jesus was a Jew so were 90% Russian Oligarchs and most of the Bolsheviks and most of the Cheka…… where credit is due and no reason to be ashamed to mention Jews. I wonder why you are so sensitive and think Jews are beneath contempt and should not be spoken of ?

  • Lady Magdalene

    The EU deliberately dangled a large Euro-shaped carrot at the Ukrainians …… they are responsible for this situation.
    This is what happens when you have unelected, unaccountable Empire-Builders like Barosso attempting to expand their sphere of influence.

    • HookesLaw

      Pathetic comment.

      • Wessex Man

        I rather think your arguments and propaganda are the most stridently stupid pathetic excuses available, your hero with feet of clay has followed the New Labour path of cutting and cutting again of our armed services to a rump now as small as that two years after the Napoleaonic Wars.

        The Tories, New Labour, Lib/dums and the whole corrupt European Union will in the years to come be correctly blamed for the rise of a very strong Russia dominating the Western World.

        Hang your silly little head in shame!

    • OriginalChris

      Yes, see the Partnership and Cooperation agreement of the late 1990s between the EU and Ukraine, followed by the far more in depth Association Agreement – the motives of the EU are crystal clear from this: economic and political assimilation of Ukraine. See
      Ukraine: EU provocation presages a retreat

      • HookesLaw

        If you were to get your wish then Saint Nigel would be running round in circles trying to get agreements with the EU. What’s wrong with other people wanting one?
        How hilarious that you think some partnership and cooperation agreement is justification for foreign soldiers occupying the Crimea.

      • Bonkim

        EU partnership OK but don’t allow the bankrupt Varangian hordes from kievan Rus to invade Europe looking for work.

    • Bonkim

      Absolutely – idiotic for EU bigwigs and the US Embassy to encourage the fascist mob in Kiev. The boot is on the other foot now – the Crimeans have adopted the same strategy.

  • DavidL

    If you want peace, prepare for war. Obama is uninterested in Europe. So if Western European countries want to stand up to Putin, they will have to do their own heavy lifting. Fracking would be a first step, both to reduce dependence on Russian gas, and cut costs. And some of the profits of fracking would need to be invested in developing credible armed forces. Who knows, it might even provide an economic stimulus.

    What chances of the above actually happening? Ha! It’s so much easier to spout empty threats and wait for Uncle Sam to come and do the dirty work.

    • Daniel Maris

      I hope this episode does at least teach us the merits of energy independence.

  • Baron

    You right on the Ukrainian cock-up, James, but the bigger battle is that of geo-political dominance, Ukraine is only one of the skirmishes of it.

    The Americans, who have the hardware, but lack the willpower to do anything of consequence, and the EU apparatchiks who should take most of the blame for the crisis are no match for the KGB colonel, it seems.

    The Mandarin speakers must be enjoying it.

  • Jez

    This is not good.

    The Western political spearhead is almost to a person made up of career politicians who’s allegiance is to their careers. If they spin a situation into immortality along the journey, then fantastic: the same way Blair tried to with Iraq. Its always in distant places on the shirt tails of their bigger gang.

    This time they’re up against some of the hardest players, with a lifetime of personal experience in pure life & death events.

    This is a key moment in history.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      No, it will be forgotten soon, like Georgia.

      • Jez

        I respectfully disagree.

    • Tom Tom

      Funny, I thought key moments in history were when Tony Blair felt the hand on his shoulder and destiny calling

  • Curnonsky

    At the time the constant harping on gay rights during the Sochi Olympic Games – sending a largely gay US delegation, for example – must have seemed like benevolent moral grandstanding by the EU and US. One wonders whether this was the last straw for Putin, a slap in the face that he was determined to avenge, with Ukraine the convenient playing field. Evidently the games are not over, in fact they are just beginning.

    • Tom Tom

      Gay men run faster, jump higher

  • the viceroy’s gin

    You Speccie kids should cease your clueless chuntering about this, lad. Most of you couldn’t find Ukraine on a map.

  • London Calling

    The West are impotent to stop Russia’s action on the ground, talks of sanctions mean nothing to them. I only hope that Russia doesn’t test how far they can go……….sadly arrogance prevails Russia and here we have a problem…………..:(

  • starfish

    And so the leaders of the western world unite to face down the latest russian emperor by doing what??? On the bright side putin will now have two internal insugen cies to fight. It is indeed fortunate that decades of foresight and planning by our governments have left us pretty immune to energy blackmail and safe behind impregnable defences with no internal security threat from foreigners and religious nutters

  • Monima O’Connor

    Let us not overlook the fact that the EU has massively encroached on Russia’s territory. I attended a fascinating Economist debate several years ago where the motion was something along the lines of Putin’s control of gas was a ploy to control all of Europe. Speaking against the motion was an eminent Russian scholar from the LSE, a professor Margot Light. She said in her view, Russia was counterbalancing for her own security, the heavy hand of EU expansion (read: dominance).

    I couldn’t fault her logic then and the same is true today.

    • HookesLaw

      What Russian territory is this? Is Kiev in Russia? How many Russians actually like or support Putin? He rigged his own election. I’m sure a lot of Russians would like to be in the EU.

      All we are getting is more ignorant loony toon nutjob bile.

      • Monima O’Connor

        Sorry, I should have been more clear. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania (aka White Russia) and once upon a time, Finland, Poland….

        I absolutely agree with Lady Magdalene below.

        • HookesLaw

          Yes but still none of which have anything to do with Russia. You could argue that Ukraine (and Belarus – which is White Russia) has a chunk of what was Poland. And Poland a chunk of what was Germany. Where do you want to stop? Alsace and Lorraine? Gibraltar?

          • Bo Williams


          • ClausewitzTheMunificent

            Elsass Lothringen. Which was never French. Only Metz and surrounding areas, captured because of their military importance in 1870. In fact the French have been trying to stamp out the German language in the region since 1919 – yet they get away with it.

          • Wessex Man

            NURSE! Nurse! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

          • Tom Tom

            Yes but Churchill agreed that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was valid and respected by Britain and then took 100 miles of German territory and gave it to Stalin leading to 2 million Germans being deported or murdered in camps……..

      • Bo Williams

        The Crimea is definitely Russian territory – basically always has been – and there is zero chance of any Russian leader ever allowing it to fall into the hands of EU/USA.

      • Fergus Pickering

        But I don’t want them in the EU. I don’t want US in the EU come to that.

      • Wessex Man

        Nurse! NURSE!

      • Tom Tom

        Kiev is the basis of Russia……..Cameron rigged his election – noone wanted him as PM

  • judyk113

    Just imagine if the West had been as weak and pusillanimous as this back in 1947. Berlin would have been swallowed up in East Germany, had not the US, British and French organised the Berlin Air lift. There were no casualties, but Stalin was faced down. Even he did not care to chance shooting down US or UK aircraft.

    The West could organise a mini airlift now. The US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany– keeping helicopters and planes flying in round the clock to service the encircled Ukrainian barracks and public offices. Would Putin dare to shoot them down where even Stalin didn’t dare? I doubt it.

    • Kitty MLB

      What utter rubbish, we all give Putin a thrashing,
      and then his old pal from Syria and others will
      help him to whack us and before you know
      it we will be involved in a world war.
      It actually sounds as if you want one,
      Good Heavens.

      • Marina Arane

        putin understands force and respects it. for whom the bell…
        or dig deeper

    • Tom Tom

      There were lots of casualties in the Berlin Airlift. Read some history

    • Tom Tom

      Stalin did dare and did shoot down aircraft and buzz them with MiGs…….Truman moved B29s to Britain with nuclear bombs

  • John Smith

    Its his lucky time! With the useless Obama as USA’s President

    • telemaque

      I think most Brits have a sneaking admiration for strong man Putin facing down vacillating weak man Obama
      I guess his two fingers at Ashton and the EU is music to Eurosceptic ears
      As a representative of reason I am delighted to see someone supporting the Ukrainian Nationals struggling against the NeoNazi forces that took over the country last week

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Only socialist lumps like you and LibLabCon would be making a discriminative choice between the corrupt gangsters currently squabbling in Ukraine, laddie.

  • mandelson

    Who is this mythical “West” that you obviously feel an allegiance with? Is it Obamaland or EU Disneyland? or perhaps the rainbow army i.e. Nato including Turkey? OK I admit it I dont share enthusiasm for liberal left expansionism.

    • Tom Tom

      Forsyth is wet behind the ears, typical of his age group. Britain has interfered disastrously in Central Europe and spends this year mawkishly trying to weave some narrative to make sense of intervening in the death throes of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires to no real benefit.

      This absurdity of tampering with Ukrainian oligarchs by bribing one set with promise of extra loot to topple the other set is ludicrous. The Ukraine is worse than the US for Cronyism and Corruption – if Jamie Dimon did not control US Government he might have to fight Lloyd Blankfein as the Koch Brothers do.

      The EU did not offer enough money to compensate for cheap Russian gas – after all how much did Greece get to stay in the EU/EMU ? $146 billion…..why not give Ukraine $100 billion to join the EU and free movement of people ?

      Britain could easily absorb 2-3 million Ukrainians – Germany used thousands of them as labour in the last war and is still paying compensation……..

      What i want is James Forsyth to volunteer to join the military and go off to fight for his slogans

      • London Calling

        Agreed…………except for James being wet behind the ears and volunteering him to fight…………..:O

      • global city

        The EU ‘GAVE’ Greece how much?

        I think you need to go and reword your post.

      • HookesLaw

        Jabbering rubbish.

    • London Calling

      Agreed…….its all Micky Mouse from here on…..:O

  • Barakzai

    It seems that Lady Ashton hasn’t the wit to play any game of geopolitics, let alone Putin’s version. Nor has Foggy Bottom.

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