Putin’s election victory is a headache for the west

The Guardian

After Sunday’s Russian election, David Cameron called Vladimir Putin. He didn’t quite congratulate him, but Cameron said that he looked forward to working with Russia’s new president when he moved back into the Kremlin. The PM also said he hoped London and Moscow could “overcome the obstacles in the relationship”, which, as everyone knows, are rather large.

Putin’s election victory on Sunday poses a dilemma for all western nations, not just the UK. Nobody is any doubt that the Putin who returns to the Kremlin in May is the same Putin who has effectively run Russia for the past 12 years – prickly, uncompromising, suspicious and fond of snide remarks about western hypocrisy and double standards.

Inside Russia, the middle-class-led, Moscow-centric uprising against Putin is likely to continue. But the calculation inside EU foreign ministries is that Putin will tough out the protests and complete his new term in office until 2018. For better or for worse, then, it is Putin who will call the shots on Russia’s foreign policy and prove strategically co-operative – or not – on the western Balkans, Syria, Iran and other international problems.

Relations between London and Moscow have been tricky for nearly a decade. They were made worse by the 2006 polonium assassination of Alexander Litvinenko. Cameron has attempted a mini “reset” of ties, including a visit last year to Moscow with William Hague. But while his emphasis is on British business interests, Hague can’t afford to ignore Russia’s abysmal human rights record. Plus, there is the outstanding extradition request – rejected by Putin – for Andrei Lugovoi, Litvinenko’s alleged murderer.

“All foreign policy and diplomatic relations are a mixture of realpolitik and moralpolitik,” said Denis MacShane, Labour’s former Europe minister. He believes the “big foreign ministries of the world” need to get together to work out how to deal with Putin over the next five to 10 years, while also reaching out to Russia’s growing opposition. They need to bear in mind that Putin won’t last for ever, he said: “We should learn from lying back and having our tummy tickled by Gaddafi and Assad.”

Over the past decade, nobody had managed to come up with a successful Putinpolitik, or policy towards Russia, MacShane added. “The Germans refuse to criticise him. Mrs Clinton announced a great reset after the George Bush era. Blair rushed to embrace him. Cameron, to be fair, has been more cautious and distant. But none of this has worked.”

MacShane and other MPs will call for 60 Russian officials involved in the killing of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to be named and shamed – and to be denied entry to the UK. Magnitsky died in prison in 2009. Officials refused him medical treatment. The 37-year-old had accused Russian interior ministry officials of having stolen £150m in taxes paid by Hermitage, a British asset management company.

The backbench debate has attracted heavyweight support from three former foreign secretaries and Tory and Labour MPs. A similar bill in the US is making progress towards Senate approval. Foreign Office officials hint there is some government will for a travel ban for corrupt officials – but it would have to be applied globally. For the moment the emphasis with Russia is on business matters – Russia is Britain’s third biggest trading partner.

According to David Clark, a former adviser to Robin Cook and chair of the Russia Foundation, visa bans and asset freezes are one of the few levers Britain has in its dealings with Moscow. “They make Russian officials extremely angry,” Clark said. “They are scared by the idea because they love to go shopping in London.

‘It isn’t like old Soviet times, with everyone penned into an insular state and not able to travel. Kremlin bureaucrats are global now. And while they proclaim Russian nationalism, they regard themselves as global citizens.” Russian officials enjoyed “hobnobbing” in Britain, Clark said – which was also a place where Russia’s elite offshores its money. He conceded, however, that there were obstacles towards taking a tougher line on Moscow, principally European disunity and dependency on Russian oil and gas. Clark singled out German and Italy, and to a lesser extent France, for their accommodating attitude towards Moscow, which saw “unilateralist commercial interests” placed above human rights. “You have to identify the point of vulnerability in Putin’s system. There is a disconnect between this greater Russia chauvinism and Russian officials jetting around the place.”

For the moment, the best cards remain with Putin. Over the past week, he has hinted that he is willing to let Britain play a role in the Nord Stream project, which will see Siberian gas pumped under the Baltic directly to Germany. He has also struck a slightly more conciliatory tone on Syria. This may be helpful. It may not. Either way, it is now Putin – and not the hapless Dmitry Medvedev – who is again the west’s interlocutor. hairy women срочный займ на карту https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php https://zp-pdl.com/how-to-get-fast-payday-loan-online.php займ на карту

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