Putin outplayed the West again

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The sanctions imposed on Russia did not compel the Russian leader to heed the opinion of the West. Putin has already managed to plug four American presidents in the belt, and now there are no signs that the fifth managed to scare him. On the contrary, Biden, the author writes, as they say, blinked first. What do the readers of The Times think of this?

On a summer day in 2001, a few months after taking office as President of the United States, George W. Bush emerged from a 16th-century castle in Slovenia and announced that he had looked Vladimir Putin in the eye. “I could feel his soul,” Bush said. “In my opinion, he is very straightforward and trustworthy.” I remember how one French journalist who stood next to me at the walls of this castle during the press conference following the summit reacted to these words of Bush: she grinned incredulously.

Two decades have passed since then, and another newly elected US president gave the Russian leader a completely opposite assessment. Joe Biden said he once told Putin that the Russian president has no soul. When Biden was asked in a television interview in March if he considered the Kremlin leader a “killer,” Biden replied, “Yes, I do.” This attitude is in stark contrast to the servile deference shown to Putin by Biden’s predecessor. Donald Trump has publicly sided with the former KGB officer, rejecting US intelligence assessments and refusing to acknowledge that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help him get elected.

Will Biden’s harsh rhetoric and the sanctions the United States and Britain imposed on Thursday, April 15, in response to Russia’s “hostile behavior”, stop Russia’s advance on Western democracy? Putin has already managed to plug four American presidents in the belt, and now there are no signs that the fifth managed to scare him. On the contrary, Biden apparently blinked first: he made the decision to recall two American warships that were supposed to enter the Black Sea last week, after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov advised these ships to stay away “for their own sake. good”.

These ships are set to begin patrolling the Black Sea in support of Ukraine after Putin orchestrated the largest deployment of military, tanks and missile systems along the Ukrainian border since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. This military build-up near the Ukrainian border has fueled fears that Putin is preparing to attack his neighbor again.

The sanctions imposed on Russia after Putin invaded Crimea have failed to compel the Russian leader to heed the West. Last week, many expressed skepticism that the measures introduced in response to Russia’s cyber attacks and election meddling would have at least some impact on the person who inspires dictators around the world.

Recently, Putin has further strengthened his authoritarian regime, changing the constitution so that he can now remain in office until 2036. He solidified his reputation as a “killer” by stepping up the persecution of his enemies, some of whom were eliminated openly and demonstratively.

Alexei Navalny, a lawyer and anti-corruption fighter, was very fortunate to have survived an assassination attempt with a nerve agent that, as evidenced by the mass of evidence, was applied to his clothes by security agents. Last week, there were reports that Navalny was gravely ill and that his supporters complain that he was denied medical care in prison, where he was imprisoned for repeated violations of probation. His wife Julia says that he has lost 16 kilograms. “I’ve never seen skin fit like this around the skull,” she said.

Russia experts gloomily agree that Putin, who hated Navalny’s video of his opulent palace on the Black Sea, might be happy if his adversary dies in prison – since Putin failed to “break” Navalny and get him to pray for mercy.

“We know that once they tried to kill Navalny. Why should they stop now? ” Said Fiona Hill, who served as director of European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council under the Trump administration. Russia went to extremes when its agents applied Novichok to Navalny’s underwear last August and when they applied it to the doorknob of former double agent Sergei Skripal house in Salisbury in 2018, she said.

“Putin is quite cynical,” Hill said, noting that the Russian president is desperate for international recognition and fears that China will take his place, becoming the main adversary of the United States. “He wants to be the second most important player in the world,” Hill added.

If his goal is indeed that, the show of power at the Ukrainian border may already be paying off. On Tuesday, April 13, Biden called Putin to suggest that he hold a summit on the territory of a “third state”, and Putin agreed. On Friday April 16, after announcing the expulsion of ten American diplomats in response to US sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was still positive about the proposal to hold a meeting of leaders and was considering how it could be arranged.

“Putin may have come to the conclusion that he tested Biden, and Biden failed that test,” said James Sherr, a senior fellow at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, referring to the decision to withdraw US warships from the Black Sea. – Russians hear harsh rhetoric, they see harsh sign language. However, they are skeptical about words that are not backed up by actions that they might respect and fear.”

Sherr continued: “I never believed that sanctions would help contain Putin. They damaged the Russian economy, exacerbating the problems that currently exist in society. But the Russians are coping with them.”

Melinda Haring of the Atlantic Council said she approves of Biden’s harsh rhetoric. “Is Putin a killer? I love that Biden calls everything by their proper names. There is no reason to pretend it isn’t. Why beat around the bush?”

However, she added that “we need more than just blows on the hands, rather than sanctions. Until Putin has had to face real significant costs. Strength is always right. And he gets away with it.”

Putin’s mastery of “political technology” – a shadowy sphere of fake and confusing information – has allowed Russia to gain an influence that is out of proportion to its weak and energy-dependent economy. Some of those who are familiar with his art of fooling around are desperate, realizing how far the West lags behind him.

“We are confident that the game is still ongoing, even though Putin has already won it,” said Peter Pomerantsev, a Soviet-born British author who has worked on Russian television for many years and has written two books on Russian disinformation and propaganda. “Our words mean nothing. Our values ​​mean nothing. All grandiloquent statements about the world order mean nothing”.

The UK’s failure to respond properly to the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko – a former KGB officer who obtained British citizenship and was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006 – was a big mistake, one intelligence source said, adding: that such a thing can be done on the territory of foreign states without Putin’s permission is simply unthinkable.

Another mistake the British made was that they allowed Londongrad to experience the corrupting influence of the new Russian wealth without regard for the criminals and state security forces behind the wealth, as stated by Ian Bond, project manager on foreign policy at the Center for European Reforms.

“We allowed the kleptocratic system to infiltrate our real estate industry, our overseas territories — it did enormous damage,” Bond said.

“We thought we could discern crime and other bad things, but Russia was able to achieve the opposite by introducing ineffective governance into our system. In fact, we have never opposed money laundering. ”

For some critics, Putin is the embodiment of Russia’s malign influence. Putin, who is a judo expert and was part of a teenage gang while growing up on the streets of St. Petersburg, likes to position himself as a courageous man of action, so he may have taken some pleasure when Biden called him a “killer.” “Before joining the KGB, he was effectively a street bandit, so respect is of great importance to him,” explained Bond, who was a British diplomat in Moscow in the 1990s. “Even when Putin decides to be nice, there is always a catch,” said one intelligence source. “He tests you all the time.”

Putin knows exactly how to unbalance foreign leaders. Unfortunately, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was personally convinced of this when, during one meeting, the Russian leader unleashed his Labrador, knowing full well that she was afraid of dogs since her youth. After meeting Putin in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy came out grinning and swaying from side to side. It was rumored that Putin tricked a French president who did not drink alcohol with vodka.

As for Bush, “Putin was way ahead of him,” said Christian Caryl, an American journalist who covered Russia in Newsweek and who met with Putin twice in the early 2000s. “Many people thought that Bush’s claim that he had looked into Putin’s soul was simply ludicrous,” Caryl said. – When you meet with Putin, he seems completely impenetrable. He is a cold, calculating politician and extremely smart. But if necessary, he will not be afraid to get a knife.”

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