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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband  

Rochester by-election: A little respect goes a long way, Ed Miliband

John Rentoul
Among the ‘extreme’ ideas favoured by Neil Findlay is the re-nationalisation of Scottish railways  

Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

DJ Taylor
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin