The Russian Resurgence…
First a disclaimer: the aim of this piece is not to lionise Russia in any way. It is important to acknowledge Russia’s appalling human rights record. The article merely delineates Russia’s rising role at the world stage at the expense of the West.
The CIA has accused Moscow of interfering in the US elections albeit only providing circumstantial evidene. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that Russia has indeed manipulated public opinion in favour of Donald Trump whether directly or indirectly. If you were Moscow, why the heck wouldn’t you? What better way to undermine your rival than to engineer the rise of a lunatic from within and plunge the US into chaos? Such is the unfortunate weakness of democracies, who are always susceptible to foreign influence.
Some would see this as karma. The CIA themselves have a long history of manipulating elections. Its first ever covert operation in a foreign country by the CIA was in Italy in 1948, where they would support politicians and parties of ‘centre’ orientation through chanelling funds to them and engaging in a vicous campaign of disinformation and propaganda against the leftist opposition and channeling funds to politicians who oppose the left under the National Security Act 1947. More recent revelations show that the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton herself has been an active advocate of manipulating elections in other countries. A tape revealed Hillary lamenting the Palestinian Legislative Elections in January 2006, saying ‘we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win’. The evidence of this is much more conclusive than the accusations levelled against Russia. Furthermore, she admitted her role in the coup which ousted the then democratically elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Hence, since the Cold War, foreign influences in the electoral process and coups has been quite the norm.
In the European theatre, Moscow is taking advantage of the migration crisis which is fuelling the rise of Moscow sympathisers and EU antagonists from the far right which opens up the prospect of further expansion of Moscows influence deep within Europe. With Brexit, Moscow hopes for a weakened European Union, with some British MPs recently suggesting that Russia orchestrated Brexit, which seems a little far fetched. Going further back in 2013, the Ukranian crisis saw the overthrow of the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych by the Euromaiden revolutionaries. Russia responded by cleverly annexing Crimea which demonstrates how emboldened Moscow has become and indeed how powerless NATO and EU are becoming.
Therefore the role of NATO is also showing signs of being weakened and their inaction over Syria demonstrates just that. Indeed, Trump himself suggested the US may leave NATO, its single most important member. Turkey, a NATO power now has intimate ties with Russia in an extraordinary u-turn after a coup attempt six months ago, allegedly orchestrated by US based cleric Fethullah Gulen which further complicates US-NATO-Russian relations.
In Syria, Moscow and its allies have all but completely taken over Aleppo in a brutal campaign against the once Western backed rebels, which is seen as deciesive. They have taken full advantage of Western indecisiveness. Russian tactics of indiscriminate bombing and starvation used successfully against the Chechens in the late nineties and noughties has proven effective against the momentum of the rebels, costing countless civilian lives. Abdul Fattah Al Sisi, the Egyptian dictator has also signaled his willingness to align with Moscow whilst the Western allies of the GCC remain obsolete against Russian and Iranian expansion. The words of the former British Chancellor, George Osborne illustrates the extent of decline of Western influence in the Middle East, ‘for the first time since Henry Kissinger kicked them out of the Middle East in the 1970s, Russia is back as the decisive player in that region’.
The Kremlin now has a friend in the White House, an emboldened populist Moscow sympathising far right in Europe and near total domination in the Middle East along with its Iranian ally. This is the height of Russian influence since the Cold War.
In spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and the failure of communism, Russia has managed to reinvent and reassert their influence in an extraordinary way without even establishing a NATO or EU equivalent. Whilst the US will still maintain its economic and military hegemony for a long time to come, it probably won’t stop Russia getting what it wants and could render the US’ superpower status as inconsequential as their international role deteriorates.