Anne Penketh: A statement of long-term aggression

Share
Related Topics

The world had its first glimpse of the post-Putin era yesterday. What will it look like? The same as the Putin era.

The Russian President laid down a marker, in case the West might think that his successor, the smiling Dmitry Medvedev, looks like a pushover when he takes over after next month's elections. In the presence of all the gilded trappings of state, Mr Putin was committing his successor to continue the aggressive foreign policy stance that has kept his popularity ratings surging.

We are talking long-term strategy here. Until 2020 in fact. But most of Mr Putin's complaints we have heard before, particularly regarding the American anti-missile defence shield – on which both countries continue to negotiate.

Mr Putin does have a point when he says that he is not starting this, but responding. Seen from Russia, the noose of Nato – the Soviet-era enemy – is tightening around Russian borders. What is more, Russia only revived the Cold War-era flights by strategic bombers last summer after Nato failed to halt its own flights over Russian territory, according to military experts.

He is also right when he says that diplomatic conflicts "smell of gas and oil." But how much of a threat is Russia?

They always used to say that the Soviet Union was "Upper Volta with missiles", in other words a poor, developing country with military might. Despite all the talk about Russia's oil wealth, if you take away the natural resources, as Mr Putin admitted himself yesterday, the economy "is still very ineffective". It has shameful mortality rates, as he also mentioned.

As for military might, Russia no longer has the strength of the Soviet Union. Its conscript army is demoralised.

So the Pentagon's leaders won't exactly be quaking in their boots tonight.

But with Nato weakened by the challenges outside its European borders, and a "lame duck" president in the White House, the escalation of rhetoric from Mr Putin – albeit for electoral motives – is worrying. The US has allowed its relationship with Russia to deteriorate while President George Bush thinks of his own legacy in Iraq and the Middle East. As for Britain, relations with Russia are at their lowest ebb since Cold War days because of the fallout from the Litvinenko affair.

Even though Mr Putin delivered his final speech as president to the State Council yesterday as part of his long goodbye, he was telling the whole world, and particularly the West, that after 2 March, he will retain his influence in Russia, whatever his formal role. Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi. Or in his case, Le Tsar est mort, vive le Tsar.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion  

Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion with a bow to show off – and now he's discovering what it's like to be hunted

Louis Theroux
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, arrives with his son Prince George at the Lindo Wing to visit his wife and newborn daughter at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, Britain, 02 May 2015  

Prince George's £18,000 birthday gift speaks volumes about Britain's widening wealth inequality

Olivia Acland
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'