The latest development in Ukraine has seen tanks supplied by Russia rolling into the rebel provinces of Ukraine. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, claimed that an armoured column, including three tanks, had entered Ukrainian territory from Russia and that Ukrainian forces had attacked and destroyed some of the vehicles.
To say that the West has been largely ineffectual at preventing Putin’s territorial advances in Ukraine is a worryingly insufficient observation. Europe is implicitly granting a de facto easement to Russia each time they grab more land, with possession being nine tenths of the law. Considering that Putin and his cabal of ex-KGB cronies are basking in the glory of enlarging Russia, does anyone seriously believe that they will relinquish these illegally acquired territories without more serious action?
Western democracies and Russia don’t often seen things the same way, for example, Russia welcomed the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus in 2012, but not so the West, who described him as the ‘last dictator in Europe’. Mr Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet republic since 1994, stifling dissent. He and senior aides have been banned from travelling to the EU since the violent suppression of opposition parties in 2010. Putin is an unapologetic supporter of dictators such as Mouammar Gaddafi, Bashar Al-Assad and Ramzan Kadyrov. He should be judged by the company he keeps.
Recent events have seen the Russian President selling his stock in honest commentary about the actions of the West, and NATO in particular, preferring now to focus on his own domestic situation. When the Crimean crisis was in its early stages, Putin denied that there was any involvement of Russian paramilitaries. Then, once Crimea had been stolen from Ukraine, he agreed that Russian troops had played a part in returning Crimea to the Russian fold.
Last week Putin referred to the referendum in Donetsk and Lugansk as ‘illegal’ and urged the pro-Russian rebels to delay the vote in preference to committing themselves to dialogue. President Vladimir Putin will formulate his attitude to the referenda, held on Sunday, on the status of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, “on the strength of their results”, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the newspaper Kommersant.When the rebels announced that they had ‘won’ the referendum, Putin announced that the West should respect the result. This is a man who has given up the talk of NATO’s ‘illegal invasions’ of states over the last twenty years. Repossessing the land that was once a Russian-dominated Soviet-bloc republic – the land of King Vlad at that – to create a new empire for Russia has seen Putin hailed a hero by many in his homeland, but has embarrassingly unmasked him as deceitful to those here in the West who hung on his every criticism of what he believed were breaches of international law on the part of Western military forces.
Putin may have enhanced his reputation in Russia, but he is now perceived as wholly untrustworthy by many of those in the West who formerly admired him.