Philip Stephens says that “collapsing oil price and the impact of sanctions” have made Putin more dangerous, not less:
General Yury Baluyevsky, the former chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, says the confrontation with the west is a continuation of the cold war. The methods, though, are now more sophisticated. Military force, he says, is “the final stage of the process”. Moscow has mastered the art of hybrid warfare, including “information and psychological pressure”. To paraphrase the general, Mr Putin will divide and weaken his enemies before deploying force.
In its softest form, this means presenting rolling propaganda as rolling news with the rapid expansion of the Kremlin-controlled Russia Today news network. Then there is the funding of populist parties of left and right in western European capitals. Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France has taken a Russian loan. Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-immigrant UK Independence party, counts himself an admirer of the Russian leader.
Further along the spectrum there are the bribes paid to politicians and business leaders and the stakes taken in vulnerable financial institutions in south eastern Europe and the Balkans. There is a none-too-subtle campaign to destabilise pro-western governments in the former Soviet space — Bulgaria is a recent victim — by exploiting their dependence on Russian energy.
It’s nice to see a FT writer echoing what I’ve been saying for a year now. Despite Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s insistence that Putin has some kind of primitive 19th Century brain, Putin is in fact waging a thoroughly modern form of Great Power warfare against Western opponents stuck in outmoded antiwar idealism, outmoded in the first half of the 20th Century.