The firing of cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea is the latest testimony to Putin’s grasp over Nato, but domestic appetite for war will soon dwindle
If Vladimir Putin’s game plan has been repeatedly to surprise the west and keep it off balance, it is working.
Just like their leaders at the UN general assembly last week, Nato’s defence ministers gathering in Brussels on Thursday have found themselves scrambling to come up with a response to the latest Russian move – in this case, the firing of cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea in yet another escalation of the war in Syria.
The scale of Putin’s intervention in Syria has certainly caught western capitals unawares. What appears to be unfolding goes beyond stabilising Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It looks like an effort, in coordination with Syrian and Iranian-backed ground troops, to inflict a lasting military defeat on the rebel coalition which had succeeded in carving out a growing patch of territory in the north-east.
Although conducted under the banner of a campaign against Islamic State, the evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of Russian targets have been non-Isis groups, some of them supported by the US, others by Turkey and the Gulf states.
Nato finds itself a bystander in all this. American support for the rebels is tentative and militarily insignificant. As the Nato meeting began, secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was ready to send troops to protect its southern flank in Turkey. But the rhetoric papers over deeper contradictions inside Nato. In recent months, Turkey’s allies, the US and Germany, actually withdrew Patriot anti-aircraft batteries, in part in protest at the Turkish government’s targeting of Kurdish armed groups inside Syria, seen by the west as a bulwark against Damascus and Isis.
In another sign that Nato is reacting to uncertainty created by Putin, the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, announced that 100 British soldiers would be deployed in the Baltic states. It is a relatively low-cost way to maintain close ally status with Washington, like the offer of British peacekeepers made at the UN last week, and will see the British company going to the Baltic take part in a US-German military training initiative. But, following the Russian annexation of Crimea and covert intervention in eastern Ukraine, it shows Nato has acted to reassure the Baltic states that they are not second-class members and that the alliance will stand up for them.
For the Kremlin, keeping Nato guessing may be an end in itself. Springing surprises puts Putin at the centre of the world stage, the dramatic actor to whom the world is forced to react. This has a narcotic affect on Russian domestic opinion, helped by lots of video footage and graphics of missiles blasting off from ships and travelling hundreds of miles to pinpoint supposedly terrorist targets. In a new poll, 72% of Russian respondents declare themselves in favour of the Syrian adventure.
Wars fought for domestic consumption are, however, inherently unstable. They require constant novelty and reports of new triumphs, which are hard to pull off in the real world. Having rallied supporters in eastern Ukraine to the Novorossiya flag, Putin has put the insurgency on hold amid a rising death toll among Russian soldiers who were not officially supposed to be there. The Ukrainian campaign only solidified Nato and gave it a new sense of purpose.
The war in Syria also threatens to backfire, for all the reasons that the US has sought to stay out. To the Sunni world, Russia looks like it has taken sides, uniting all the disparate rebel groups in a shared hatred of its “occupation”, and inspiring jihadis the world over to turn their eyes towards Moscow. Backing Assad to the bitter end is a strategy that is likely to suck Russia deeper into a war it cannot afford with an economy shrinking 4% a year.
Standing by and watching Russia self-harm also carries costs for the west . The bombardment of rebel-held areas around Idlib and Aleppo will boost the outflow of refugees, and put off the prospect of local ceasefires gradually dampening down the wider conflict. The chance of a collision or shootdown between Russian, Turkish, US or other Nato war planes continues to mount, as does the risk of an escalating proxy war. Putin’s mastery of surprise has put him in the driving seat, but there is little sign so far he knows where he’s going.
Two weeks ago, an emergency decree that would have decriminalized several graft offences enraged people, who took to the streets. Thousands of Romanians in over 70 cities began to #resist for an idea. A new generation spoke up. Digi24 is streaming, today at 21:00, the first documentary about the...( ) Read all
As Moldova recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of Independence, TIMPUL sat down with Prime Minister Pavel Filip to discuss how our country has fared over the past quarter-century. About Moldova’s ups and downs, about plans and prospects, and also about national pride – it’s...( ) Read all
Your Excellency, The interview of your colleague, the Extraordinary and Fully Empowered Ambassador of the United States in America in the Republic of Moldova, His Excellency, Mr. James Pettit, granted to the State television network in Chișinău on August 28, 2016, in which he referred to a...( ) Read all
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the declaration of Moldova’s Independence, IPN News Agency decided to depict the portrait of the current Republic of Moldova. For the purpose, we challenged a number of people, including state officials, politicians, businessmen, civil rights...( ) Read all
An interview with Dainius Žalimas, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania centres on one of the recent judgments of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, which has generated much attention and debate and was handed down for the first time to declare the...( ) Read all
People attend a rally in front of the Parliament building in Chisinau, Moldova, Jan. 24, 2016. Some 40,000 opposition demonstrators took to the streets of the capital calling for early elections amid a political crisis.( ) Read all
The dialogue announced by Head of Parliament Andrian Candu with representatives of protesters for January 25 didn’t take place. The Parliament’s press service didn’t provide information about the holding of a meeting, while protesters’ leaders said they haven’t been...( ) Read all
More than 200 women die from cervical cancer in Moldova yearly. Veronica Ciobanu, gynecologist of the Oncological Institute, has told IPN that cervical cancer affects mainly women aged between 35 and 60. The population is to be informed about the prophylaxis and early detection of this disease...( ) Read all
The fire that happened at the shopping center located on Ismail St in Chisinau on January 23 started because the anti-fire rules when using the smoke and fire ventilation system were violated, deputy head of the Chisinau Emergencies Division Liviu Merzancu said in the ordinary meeting of...( ) Read all
The first woman to be Romania’s prosecutor general, Laura Codruţa Kövesi, was only 33 when appointed in 2006. Seven years later, she marked another milestone when she was named the head of the Romanian Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), an institution created to fight high-level...( ) Read all
Moldovan winemaker Purcari’s Freedom Blend was created in 2011 to commemorate Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine’s 20 years of independence from the Soviet Union. But it took on another meaning when Russian tanks rolled into Crimea last year.( ) Read all
The representatives of the PDM, PL and PPEM decided to form a working group that will draft the agreement of the future government coalition.( ) Read all
After the war broke out in Eastern Ukraine, many observers in Europe held the EU at least partly responsible. Political realists in the West, led by Henri Kissinger and John Mearsheimer, have put at least a part of the blame for Russia`s belligerence on the West.( ) Read all
Former Moldovan prime minister Vlad Filat was arrested on Thursday after he was implicated in the theft of $1 billion (647.02 million pound) from the banking system that has led thousands to camp out in the capital in protest.( ) Read all
When the French engineers and inventors Paul de Faget de Casteljau and Pierre Étienne Bézier came up with the idea of Bézier curves in the middle of the last century — they hardly thought about the fact that in the XXI century — the age of the ideal curves,...( ) Read all
The five countries investigating the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine a year ago are considering setting up an independent international tribunal after Russia vetoed attempts to establish a U.N.-backed court to prosecute suspects.( ) Read all
Participants in the action in Baghramyan Avenue have only one demand – President Serzh Sargsyan must revoke the decision of the Public Services Regulatory Commission raising electricity tariffs from August 1.( ) Read all
Russia is reportedly planning to build a gas pipeline to Germany. Gazprom announced on Thursday that it plans to build a pipeline with a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea with E.ON, Shell, and OMV, according to Kommersant.( ) Read all
It's a mystery that's thrown Europe's poorest nation into deep crisis - $1bn has vanished from three of Moldova's leading banks, much of it passing through UK companies. A confidential report has blamed 28-year-old businessman, Ilan Shor, but in an exclusive BBC interview he proclaims his innocence.( ) Read all
Pro-Russian separatist leaders in the contested regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are now prepared to remain part of Ukraine under a specially recognized status, according to Ukrainian media, a move which has full support from Russian President Vladimir Putin.( ) Read all
It is understandable that in recent months the still-unresolved crisis in Ukraine and renewed Cold War with Russia have commanded the attention of most western watchers of events in the former Soviet Union.( ) Read all
The recent Russian intervention in Ukraine has generated much debate about the use and effectiveness of hybrid warfare, a type of warfare widely understood to blend conventional/unconventional, regular/irregular, and information and cyber warfare.( ) Read all
Little is known about the childhood of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, despite his position as one of the world's most powerful men. Now in an extraordinary development, a Georgian woman has come forward to say she is his mother.( ) Read all
In the center of Chisinau, supporters of the civil platform "Dignity and Justice" called for citizens to support their demands to the authorities about returning to Moldova the money "stolen" from the three banks at the end of 2014 - more than $1 billion.( ) Read all
The latest draft of the Eastern Partnership declaration prepared for the bloc's Riga summit next month contains little good news for EU hopefuls Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, and highlights the shrinking ambitions of the European Union in its eastern neighborhood.( ) Read all
A billion dollars is a lot for Europe's poorest state of Moldova -- particularly when it disappears. Anti-corruption prosecutors and American auditors have been searching the books for clues about the mysterious transactions, an embarrassment for the ex-Soviet state on track for EU membership.( ) Read all