As the writer of Russian politics and international relations on the Mulgrave Gazette, my main focus is on Russia’s movements on the political stage of Europe and the world. However, the key manipulator of Russia’s politics is none other than its horse-riding strongman president, Vladimir Putin. Hence, I have decided to start a series that will be updated at the end of each month to summarize What’s Putin been Up To. But before I continue, I would like to make a disclaimer: although these updates will be comprised mostly of factual news, I will be providing my own analyses. However, I am not a political analyst and I am not in any way affiliated with anything Russian, although I would like to say, for the record, I like my potatoes and carbs just as much as your average Slav.
So without further ado…
PUTIN ON CATALONIA, ACCUSES EU—Putin criticized the EU for ‘double standards’ regarding the Catalan Independence crisis in Spain, using Kosovo as an example. Kosovo is a small country located in the heart of the Balkans which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The EU was a supporter of Kosovo’s independence however, 5 countries till this day—including Russia, and interestingly, Spain—do not recognize this.
The EU currently does not recognize Catalan independence. Putin claims that the EU’s support has become a green light for other independence movements, welcoming “the collapse of a number of states in Europe”. He even went so far to accuse the EU of their using the political situation in Kosovo “to appease the big brother from Washington”, thus “provoking other such processes in other regions”.
But why is Putin doing this? Why on earth would he care about Spain and little Catalonia? After all, he is not exactly known to be a supporter of minorities that want their independence (eg. Chechnya). The answer is, he ultimately does not care what happens, as long as the Catalan crisis provides him with an opportunity to meddle with the West, to add fuel to their fire. We now know that Putin’s stance is that if Kosovo’s independence from Serbia had been supported by the EU, why shouldn’t Catalonia’s from Spain? The simple answer is that Spain is too important a component to the EU as oppose to Kosovo and Serbia. Spain contributes more than €13 billion to the EU each year while Kosovo and Serbia—the country which it declared independence from—are not even part of the EU, although it is important to understand that they are the few countries which have long wanted to become a part the EU. So essentially, if the EU recognizes Catalonia’s independence, they are at the risk of losing Spain’s support. But Kosovo and Serbia, not a contributor, are an expendable source for what Putin refers to “their desire” to please the US.
Putin ultimately wants to see discord in the EU, in the West, which is supplied by the Catalan crisis, thus his accusation of the EU’s ‘double standards’.
PUTIN ON THE NORTH KOREAN CRISIS—The US and North Korea has currently been suffering through a period of threats and dangerous promises that luckily—or so far…—has turned out to be empty. As of now, North Korea continues to develop their nuclear arsenal, much to the outrage of the US, and their president, Donald Trump. Last month, the state’s foreign minister stated that Trump’s action was tantamount to his “[declaring] war”.
Amid the growing tension, Putin has always made sure his opinions on the situation is clear. He has reached out multiple times to voice his views and the most recent, being that the West should not “back Kim Jong Un into a corner”. According to Putin, North Korea is a “sovereign country” and any problem should be “problems should be solved in dialogue”.
Although he has not plainly stated his support for North Korea as they are developing their nuclear arsenal, it can be deduced that Putin leans more to their side than the West.
NEW WEAPONS ARSENAL DEVELOPMENT—It may seem a second Cold War between Russia and the US is not be a far fetched idea. Putin has warned the US that if they call it quits on their agreements on the use and development of nuclear weapons, the Kremlin will do in kind.
Interestingly, Putin also claims he is “striving to achieve [global nuclear disarmament]” and that he sees it as a possibility for the world, and Russia. This may come as a surprise due to Soviet Union’s heavy reliance upon nuclear weapons during the Cold War *cues patriotic Russian music and black-and-white films of tanks and bombs paraded through the Red Square*. As ironic as it sounds, it was only mutually assured destruction—due to both the Soviets and the American’s possession of nukes— that prevented a full-out war.
However, Putin also stated that Moscow is ready to develop their weapon arsenal should they feel their own security is threatened. Putin did not specifically mention the US in this case.
SAUDI KING’S FIRST EVER VISIT TO MOSCOW—On Wednesday, October 4th 2017, the Saudi Arabia’s King Salman arrived in Moscow, Russia for a state visit. Russian president Vladimir Putin has visited Saudi Arabia on a state in the 2000s, the Arab state has yet to return the favour—until now. The two biggest oil-producers of the world, the visit will be centered around energy politics and a possible collaboration on oil production.
Click here to read more about what this visit will mean for the US.
A NEW MEMBER TO PUTIN’s FAMILY—Concluding on a lighter note, Putin recently received a puppy, an Asian Shepard, from the president of Turkmenistan for his 65th birthday. The puppy is named Verny, which the Putin noted meant ‘faithful’ in Russian.
Click the video below to see a softer side to the Russian president: