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Rushing to Judge the Russians – and how will 2014 see the rift between Putin and the West develop?

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Is this the face of a man concerned?

The FT weekend looks increasingly like the Guardian every time it comes out. The current edition’s coverage of the tragic events in Volgograd by Kathrin Hille began with the words “In Southern Russia it had been a difficult week for men with beards” and then goes on to cover the security forces’ reactions to, and their actions preceding,  the events. It would be stretching a point to say the article is sympathetic to the extremists but it is yet another piece of work by the Western media that is not merely resolute in being anti-Putin, but in being ultimately anti-Russian. We should  remember that however difficult it it has been for those with beards it has been more difficult for those innocent Russian citizens killed, injured, bereaved and terrified by these outrages.

But who or what exactly to blame?

If I have read Ms Hille’s words correctly she sees not only the security forces’ (and hence the Russian leadership’s) reaction to the bombings as oppressive but their actions and those of the administration in Dagestan prior to these events as directly responsible. She goes on to quote a recent report by the International Crisis Group (http://www.crisisgroup.org/) saying that hard line tactics will exacerbate the situation. For a further and excellent history of recent events the ICG’s map of the world is worthy of both an immediate view and continued monitoring.

But for an original analysis of the situation in Dagestan the following ICG article is really required reading http://www.crisisgroupblogs.org/across-eurasia/2013/08/26/sowing-rebellion-in-dagestan/  This is a disturbing piece for three reasons, one, the nature of the actions and events occurring there, two, it’s prescience which at times resembles incitement, and finally, the  way it’s ultimate purpose seems to be to prove how Putin is the bad guy QED.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that Putin is a good guy, but his leadership style  is popular in Russia and effective internationally in a way that for example, the UK’s Prime Minister cannot begin to imagine. Meanwhile the continued portrayal of Putin in the Western media as either a joke  or a fascist is not going to do anything other than strengthen his position in Russia and possibly beyond if loosely sympathetic comment on the Internet in the UK is anything to judge by!

And the position of the man and the country is indeed already strong for beyond the support and alliances  which Putin has necessarily built and consolidated in Russia I would suggest that 2013 has demonstrated two great advantages for both the nation and the man.

First there is Russia’s great advantage in it’s resource wealth, particularly in respect of gas,  and second,  though perhaps of greater importance, is it’s improving and profitable relationship with China. Not only is trade by these two giants predicted to grow to $100 billion by next year but their political alliance is of historic significance, and their veto of action against Syria was the event of 2013 for me, perhaps the event of the 21st century so far.

So with all  this why should Russia generally or Putin particularly listen to the liberal democratic West, with it’s desire for free markets and civil liberties? Does Putin give a damn for the opinion of the “World Community” when he arrests Greenpeace protesters,  cuts  the supply of gas to a troublesome province or orders a crackdown after 34 people have been killed in a bombing?

Whatever, Putin is not in the forthcoming year going to be making any concessions to anyone apart from those which will make him look good while the liberal democratic West will continue to verbally and ideologically attack him and his country.

But where will this lead in the coming year and years?

I have no intention of speculating at length or in depth as I am not alone in believing we are entering a new era of international relations (or lack of them) for which there is no historical precedent. The situation in the Middle East will of course be key, and further, in the European theatre  we should be concerned whilst not alarmist at what could happen in the Ukraine should that country be critically destabilised: the prospect of a proper conflict between Russia and the West do not, if you’ll pardon the pun, bear thinking about.

Whatever the Western liberal democratic establishment needs to rethink its  anti Putin, anti Russian approach. And, if it the hard line approach which is the main reason for criticism, well, the West’s interventions in the Middle East have hardly been low-intensity nor led to the establishment of free markets and human rights have they?

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