01 September 2016
Russia still wants great power and to demonstrate it through its nuclear weapons
I have long thought describing the month of August as the “silly season” of politics was itself one of the silliest political clichés in the lexicon. Did not the Great War break out on 4 August 1914? And the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939 triggered the invasion of Poland on 1 September and the British declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939.
This August there was nothing of that level but I asked a friend of mine who serves the Queen by calibrating the risks to her kingdom what I should be most worried about in the world. “Vladimir Putin,” he replied. He did not underestimate the threat from Daesh, to use the Arabic term increasingly used to describe Islamic State, and thought jihadi-related terrorism would be with us for a long time. But Putin it was.
Why? “Because he has the agility, the determination, the base and the native wit” to pursue the restoration of Russia’s great powerdom in a way that it is very difficult for the Western allies to respond to.
Yet Vladimir Putin is presiding over a country whose economy is shrivelling at the rate of 4 per cent a year.
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