Dimitris Rapidis

Where is Vladimir Putin?

Vladimir Putin won his third term in office last March, after a 4-year break between 2008-12 when Medvedev succeeded him. In his first two terms Putin achieved to solidify Russia’s global status after a transitional and quite “soft” period of his first predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. The potent character of Putin has been unveiled in every possible area of political life, and it is fair to say that Russia during Putin’s years “grew” significantly. Ten months after re-election, why Vladimir Putin is so silent?

Russia is ten months now following all developments of the global scene. Regarding the European debt crisis, Putin is meticulously examining what the next day will be, being primarily focused on how to resurrect and strengthen the role of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC), first established as a customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in 1996.

A couple of years ago, the EEC has launched the Common Economic Space (CES), a similar Union like Mercosur, but with deeper economic ties between the member-states. This new Space also entailed Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, therefore growing its entire market by 2/3. In other words, Putin made a fundamental step towards deeper economic transactions in a period of deep crisis, both in Europe and the US. I consider it as a great strategic decision as this Space, under the “supervision” of Russia, can play a fundamental geopolitical and geoeconomic role in the sensitive and conflicting are of the Caspian Sea, with all energy and commercial issues concerned.

In the field of power politics, Syria and Iran are in the midst of deep concern for the US and Israel, with both cases turned to take uncontrollable dimensions. Russia has repeatedly objected to any military intervention in Syria led by the UN Security Council, but it awaits a possible NATO intervention to clean up things with Assad. Why is that? Because in case NATO intervenes militarily, the string of effect will definitely hit its neighbour Iran. And this is something Russia would be eager to observe -how the US will get entangled in this region.

Russia has also backed Palestine’s for statehood in the UN Assembly, moving against the traditional position of Israel and the US. This is considered to be a great step towards crystallizing Russia’s position in a possible and potential struggle between Palestine and Israel in the International Court of Justice, in case Palestine decides to accuse Israel for war crimes. Palestine has achieved to get Russia’s endorsement, and Russia has explicitly declared its deep diplomatic involvement in the wider Arab-Israeli conflict.

As far as China is concerned, the EEC and the CES are regarded as the major drivers of impeding China’s access to the states of Central Asia, which are therefore included in the wider sphere of Russian influence. Kremlin blocks any imperialist maneuver of China in the region, and thus to the Caspian Sea which is well-know for its resourceful areas. From a merely geostrategic view, China is restrained to exert influence in non-adjecent regions -i.e. except for its Sea- and this magnifies the effort Beijing has to employ in order to guarantee its role as one of the major and global powers.

All things considered, Vladimir Putin seems to silently prepare its wider plan of leverage in the triangle of major geopolitical concern while US and Europe are strained with managing economic recession. If this approach is to be verified in the months to come, Putin would have achieved a great step towards re-shaking global order rules.

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  1. While Putin appears to be silent, I think his voice is definitely heard on his visits during December – Turkey on Dec. 3, Turkmenistan on Dec. 5, CSTO on Dec. 19, EU – Dec. 21, India on Dec. 24 and even Bulgaria (hasn’t set the date for this one yet). Not to mentioned Chinese PM has visited him in Moscow this past week. Think all these visits say a lot and Putin’s voice is being heard. And of course he’s busy with the grand plan – during and between the visits. (bit more on the topic: http://www.stratfor.com/image/moscows-foreign-policy-agenda – and something on Russia-Syria game: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/russias-search-leverage-syrian-crisis). Hope this is useful – reading your post was useful to me so thank you!

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