Senate Russia: its impact on the world, and its future

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I just stumbled across this interesting article on Putin, and how his new oppression strategies are due to him not having a core ideology to rally Russia around:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/miriamelder/why-russia-turned-against-the-gays

    The second half of the article:


    I wonder if Russia could actually collapse in the next 10-30 years?
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Aug 1, 2013
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  2. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Collapse, I'm not sure-people are going to need their energy products for at least another decade or two. Grow internationally isolated-sure. China doesn't need their military hardware anymore and has been historically antagonistic with them since Mao; Europe and the US are both growing more fossil fuel-free and are completely at odds with how Russia does politics and international relations. The tossing of traditionally Russian-aligned, vaguely Socialist Middle Eastern dictatorships in favor of islamist government or western-style democracies-neither of which groups have much reason to love Russia-is going to diminish their standing in the ME, too.
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  3. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I would say Russia has been in a permanent state of collapse for about a century now.
  4. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Yeah, by all accounts, Russia should be completely inward focused now. (and by all accounts it is) As mentioned, the last real external interests were the traditionally old Soviet-aligned, vaguely Socialist Middle Eastern dictatorships which have largely turned away from Russia. But two things keep Russia artificially inflated on the international stage:

    1)the old, established oil and gas pipelines, that even if Russia no longer controls the source, it controls the distribution of. Remember, oh I'd say about 4 years ago, when Russia cut off oil and gas supplies to the Ukraine and to Poland over trade disputes? Even as both those countries become more and more Western focused, they still came off worse in that dispute. The former Eastern European countries just don't have the resources to invest in alternative energy sources, and are pretty much at the mercy of 50's era former Soviet pipelines.

    2)Russia's elephant in the room which is represented by 4,000 nuclear missiles, and some number up to 10,000 decommissioned nukes..the number of which probably isn't known even to Russia, because of such poor accountability. Nuclear weapons are rather self regulating, as anyone who used them would go down a path of no return themselves. But Russia also has some 19,000 tons of various chemical weapons, of which could be used without the high stakes of nukes.
  5. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
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    NATO's response to chemical weapons is nukes, though. Or at least, the American response is.
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  6. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    That's not exactly what I mean though. Russia itself isn't going to use nukes or chems, unless some Jack Ryan-plot worthy coup takes place. Of course, seeing how Putin's been acting, that's not outside of the realm of possibility....There's nothing really to nuke if a non-state actor acquires a bunch of Soviet stuff and uses it.

    What I'm thinking off is how Russia leverages those remnants of the Cold War. ie...Ukraine, a former Soviet era partner wants to buy more Audis, so Russia just stops up the Soviet-era gas pipeline/infrastructure until it is listened to, even if it doesn't really get want it wants. Even though Russia's international importance has been waning for years now, all it does is bring up how 2 tons of Sarin might be "unaccounted" for, and how it might end up on the open market, and that's why it's vetoing Libya action (or insert X here).... Basically, if Russia needs something, it throws a tantrum and casually brings up that it still has all of this crap left over from the bipolar world, and that's why it still has to be listened to.
  7. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I suppose they could, although how (as you mentioned) simply turning off the gas as they did in 2008 is a hell of a lot less likely to incite international fury :p

    And even that's going to eventually lose it's effectiveness, IMO.
  8. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    They'd only be able to "lose" such weapons on the international market one time.

    Forensics have gotten pretty good, and the source of a chemcal attack would likely be traced. Once pinned on Russia, they would end up a pariah on the order of North Korea.

    It's more of a 'boogey-man' type tale, Russia's loose accountability-I don't think Putin wants to face the consequences of one of his nukes or Sarin canisters ending up on US or European soil.

    Peace,

    V-03
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  9. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
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    Exactly @Vaderize03-what's left of Russia's economy would get vaporized by sanctions.
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  10. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Yeah, not exactly true anymore :p


    Can we expect Russia to annex any more lands it views as rightfully Russia's? Could its conflict with Ukraine turn into an open war?
  11. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Dec 12, 2006
    star 5
    If it was going to turn into a war, it would have happened by now. Donbass has been getting pushed back over the last few months, and with more of the world's attention on Eastern Ukraine I can't imagine even Putin escalating things more.
  12. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Putin has put himself in a peculiar spot because he's fanned the flames nationalist fervor and pro-intervention sentiment in Russia. If the Ukrainians continue to win and push the Separatists back into a corner, Putin may find that intervention is his only option, otherwise that same fervor will come against him.
  13. KissMeImARebel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 25, 2003
    star 4
    Logically I would say the same, but honestly when it comes to Russia these days (or most days tbh no shade intended to it's people) logic isn't always a good metric. I mean, who would have thought Russia would have invaded and tried to snatch up Crimea?
  14. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    There's nothing illogical about Putin's actions. He's not the Joker. He's got a thought-out plan. Part of it is making sure he's in charge of Russia for the rest of his life. You'll notice a trend in Russian support for Putin and his United Russia party. Russian intervention in Georgia and Russian annexation of Crimea both caused a surge of nationalist support for him, the latter causing nationalist fervor to reach an all time high. The Russian annexation of Crimean wasn't illogical. Putin had overwhelming support for it among the Russian populace and if he were to enter Eastern Ukraine, he'd have just as much support. The only issue is that if the Separatists lose too much too quickly, Putin may have to take more drastic action in order to not look ineffective after beating the war drums for this long.

    Frankly, the whole "they're not rational" is pretty much the epitome of lazy American analysis, up there with "they hate our freedom." They are rational. They have a set of goals that they want to achieve and they are acting in ways they think they can achieve these goals.
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  15. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Well, no, Vivec because you're ignoring (out of ignorance) the cultural emphasis on the strong man. Your analysis, despite implicitly patting itself on the back as "not lazy", does not take into account why Putin is but the latest in a long line of like minded leaders with despotic leanings.
  16. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    I'm very well acquainted with the strong man as I have lived in a country that emphasizes strong man leanings in leadership. Do you actually have criticism for a specific part of my post?
  17. KissMeImARebel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 25, 2003
    star 4
    Sorry, I should have phrased that better. ;) I agree that there is a true logic to Putin's actions. But it's one that, at an immediate glance, seems illogical and outdated. Which is why I can see Putin making claims on other former USSR states (although I suspect he'll throw the separatists in Eastern Ukraine under the bus). Again, if you told me a year ago that Russia -- during a moment of instability in Ukraine -- would try to snatch Crimea, I'd have laughed in your face. But Russia did it. I also don't think that the recent focus on Ukraine and Russia's shenanigans there is going to do much to deter Russia: again, at first glance it seems that a major international incident would change Putin's potential plans, but I don't think it will. I don't think this Russia really GAF how it looks to the outside world.

    On another topic. As someone who grew up in a post-Cold War environment and thought the US and Russia were...if not "friends" at least not enemies...it's really sad seeing it slide back into some of it's old Soviet habits. :(
  18. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Russian aggression in Eastern Europe was hardly a Soviet habit. The Russian Empire of old did its fair share of marauding for hundreds of years.
  19. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Indeed. About the only significant border which Russia can't easily cross on the pretext of "ethnic reunification" now is probably the one it shares with Poland. And that only because Poland jumped to become part of NATO the moment it had the chance. The carving up of Poland into sectors of German and Russian control during World War Two was the latest act in a continuing Russian/German campaign (founded on a continuing Russian/German belief) over about three hundred years that Poland was a nation of inferior human beings that had no right to exist.
    Last edited by Saintheart, Jul 24, 2014
  20. KissMeImARebel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 25, 2003
    star 4
    True. But that was back when all the cool kids were doing it. I'm also thinking of the current PR approach which is "deny everything and cut loose on the propaganda" (not that the western media doesn't have it's problems too).
  21. Oissan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 9, 2001
    star 6
    Not really. The Baltic states, Romania and Hungary are all NATO-members as well, and especially the Baltic states have a sizeable Russian minority.
    The partitioning of Poland in WW2 also had little to do with Poland being considered unworthy of existing or some sort of historic belief. Not only was Poland in some way re-established by Germany during WW1, even if just as a puppet-state that was supposed to works as a buffer against Russia, it also wasn't the only state that got torn to shreds during WW2. The Molotov-Ribbentrop-pact included far more than just Poland; the Baltic states, Finland and Romania got very much the same treatment. One also shouldn't forget that Hitler was completely different from what happened under Prussian rule over the last few centuries. He considered Russia, or more specifically the Soviet Union, to be unworthy of existing as well. Polish people - unless they were jews or other unwanted people - were still a step up the ladder from Russians, as little as that means. The fate of Poland during WW2 isn't really comparable to earlier partitions of the country.
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  22. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
  23. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Okay Ender if you're going to post two economist articles at the same time you better endorse one over the other...because most of us can only look at one.
  24. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9

    Oh their stupid paywell nonsense? Ugh.

    Let's do this the old school way:

    Russia, MH17 and the West

    A web of lies

    Vladimir Putin’s epic deceits have grave consequences for his people and the outside world


    • [IMG]

    [IMG]
    IN 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path. And yet many around the world, through self-interest or self-deception, have been unwilling to see Mr Putin as he really is.
    The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the killing of 298 innocent people and the desecration of their bodies in the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine, is above all a tragedy of lives cut short and of those left behind to mourn. But it is also a measure of the harm Mr Putin has done. Under him Russia has again become a place in which truth and falsehood are no longer distinct and facts are put into the service of the government. Mr Putin sets himself up as a patriot, but he is a threat—to international norms, to his neighbours and to the Russians themselves, who are intoxicated by his hysterical brand of anti-Western propaganda.
    The world needs to face the danger Mr Putin poses. If it does not stand up to him today, worse will follow.
    Crucifiction and other stories
    Mr Putin has blamed the tragedy of MH17 on Ukraine, yet he is the author of its destruction. A high-court’s worth of circumstantial evidence points to the conclusion that pro-Russian separatists fired a surface-to-air missile out of their territory at what they probably thought was a Ukrainian military aircraft. Separatist leaders boasted about it on social media and lamented their error in messages intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence and authenticated by America (see article).
    Russia’s president is implicated in their crime twice over. First, it looks as if the missile was supplied by Russia, its crew was trained by Russia, and after the strike the launcher was spirited back to Russia. Second, Mr Putin is implicated in a broader sense because this is his war. The linchpins of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic are not Ukrainian separatists but Russian citizens who are, or were, members of the intelligence services. Their former colleague, Mr Putin, has paid for the war and armed them with tanks, personnel carriers, artillery—and batteries of surface-to-air missiles. The separatists pulled the trigger, but Mr Putin pulled the strings.
    The enormity of the destruction of flight MH17 should have led Mr Putin to draw back from his policy of fomenting war in eastern Ukraine. Yet he has persevered, for two reasons. First, in the society he has done so much to mould, lying is a first response. The disaster immediately drew forth a torrent of contradictory and implausible theories from his officials and their mouthpieces in the Russian media: Mr Putin’s own plane was the target; Ukrainian missile-launchers were in the vicinity. And the lies got more complex. The Russian fiction that a Ukrainian fighter jet had fired the missile ran into the problem that the jet could not fly at the altitude of MH17, so Russian hackers then changed a Wikipedia entry to say that the jets could briefly do so. That such clumsily Soviet efforts are easily laughed off does not defeat their purpose, for their aim is not to persuade but to cast enough doubt to make the truth a matter of opinion. In a world of liars, might not the West be lying, too?
    Second, Mr Putin has become entangled in a web of his own lies, which any homespun moralist could have told him was bound to happen. When his hirelings concocted propaganda about fascists running Kiev and their crucifixion of a three-year-old boy, his approval ratings among Russian voters soared by almost 30 percentage points, to over 80%. Having roused his people with falsehoods, the tsar cannot suddenly wriggle free by telling them that, on consideration, Ukraine’s government is not too bad. Nor can he retreat from the idea that the West is a rival bent on Russia’s destruction, ready to resort to lies, bribery and violence just as readily as he does. In that way, his lies at home feed his abuses abroad.
    Stop spinning
    In Russia such doublespeak recalls the days of the Soviet Union when Pravda claimed to tell the truth. This mendocracy will end in the same way as that one did: the lies will eventually unravel, especially as it becomes obvious how much money Mr Putin and his friends have stolen from the Russian people, and he will fall. The sad novelty is that the West takes a different attitude this time round. In the old days it was usually prepared to stand up to the Soviet Union, and call out its falsehoods. With Mr Putin it looks the other way.
    Take Ukraine. The West imposed fairly minor sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea, and threatened tougher ones if Mr Putin invaded eastern Ukraine. To all intents and purposes, he did just that: troops paid for by Russia, albeit not in Russian uniforms, control bits of the country. But the West found it convenient to go along with Mr Putin’s lie, and the sanctions eventually imposed were too light and too late. Similarly, when he continued to supply the rebels, under cover of a ceasefire that he claimed to have organised, Western leaders vacillated.
    Since the murders of the passengers of MH17 the responses have been almost as limp. The European Union is threatening far-reaching sanctions—but only if Mr Putin fails to co-operate with the investigation or he fails to stop the flow of arms to the separatists. France has said that it will withhold the delivery of a warship to Mr Putin if necessary, but is proceeding with the first of the two vessels on order. The Germans and Italians claim to want to keep diplomatic avenues open, partly because sanctions would undermine their commercial interests. Britain calls for sanctions, but it is reluctant to harm the City of London’s profitable Russian business. America is talking tough but has done nothing new.
    Enough. The West should face the uncomfortable truth that Mr Putin’s Russia is fundamentally antagonistic. Bridge-building and resets will not persuade him to behave as a normal leader. The West should impose tough sanctions now, pursue his corrupt friends and throw him out of every international talking shop that relies on telling the truth. Anything else is appeasement—and an insult to the innocents on MH17.
    That last paragraph absolutely sums up where I am at.
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  25. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    #2:

    MH17 and the war in Ukraine

    Collateral damage

    The shooting down of an airliner shows how reckless Vladimir Putin’s sponsorship of Ukrainian rebels has been

    Jul 26th 2014 | BERLIN, DONETSK, MOSCOW | From the print edition


    [IMG]

    THE sight of bodies fallen from the sky and strewn across the fields outside the village of Grabovo will stay with those who saw it for a long time. The image of a thug taking a dead man’s wedding ring, evoked with dignity and disgust by Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans in a speech to the UN Security Council, is a powerful one. The missile attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine killed 298 people and shocked the world. How it might affect the outcome of the war into which the wreckage fell, though, remains to be seen.
    On July 21st, four days after the Boeing 777 was brought down, the human remains that had been piled into grey refrigerated railway cars near the crash site finally left for Kharkiv, from where they were to be flown to the Netherlands (see article). The separatist forces at the scene numbered the bodies at 282; Dutch experts put the number closer to 200. In the small hours of the next morning the plane’s black boxes were handed over to Malaysian representatives in a bizarrely formal ceremony in the rebels’ administration building in Donetsk. One Dutch expert praised the local teams that had taken part in the recovery as doing “a hell of a job in a hell of a place”. But the obstruction and intimidation by rebel forces that kept investigators and other responders from the site served only to deepen anger in the rest of the world.
    Among the rebel rank and file, and in most places where news outlets are controlled by Russia, there is a widespread belief that MH17 was brought down by Ukrainian aircraft, perhaps as a way of eliciting further Western support by blaming Russia, perhaps because they mistook it for an aircraft carrying the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Local people in eastern Ukraine, used to seeing rebels with outdated weapons on the streets, don’t think them capable of bringing down an airliner. In the rest of the world, though, the evidence seems, if circumstantial, incontrovertible.
    “We have just shot down a plane”
    The flight was cruising at 10,000 metres (33,000 feet), an altitude at which only a sophisticated surface-to-air missile system or another aircraft would be able to hit it. The only such systems known to be in the area are Buk missiles which are under the control of the rebels. On July 17th a Buk missile launcher was seen on various social media moving towards Snizhne, about 80km from the rebel stronghold of Donetsk and close to where the aircraft was shot down. America says a missile was launched from the area just before the aircraft was destroyed.
    In a phone call made half an hour after the remains of MH17 hit the ground Igor Bezler, a separatist leader, told a Russian intelligence officer “we have just shot down a plane”. That call and others were intercepted and made public by Ukrainian intelligence; the American embassy in Kiev subsequently issued a statement confirming the authenticity of the transcripts.
    This evidence led Barack Obama and many other Western leaders to place the blame firmly on Mr Putin, the rebels’ reckless sponsor and, in all likelihood, the supplier of the missile. That condemnation added to the pressure felt when the European Union’s foreign ministers met in Brussels on July 22nd to consider its response. The EU’s previous unwillingness to propose sanctions that might impose real costs on the members looked more spineless than ever.
    The Netherlands, which lost 193 citizens in the attack, including the eminent AIDS researcher Joep Lange (see article), supported a toughened line; Italy, often an obstacle to tightening sanctions, made no attempt to block such moves. Several ministers spoke of a turning point in relations with Russia. The communiqué they issued said they would “accelerate the preparation of targeted measures” which had been agreed at an earlier summit, increasing the number of people and entities “materially or financially supporting” Russia’s policy of destabilising eastern Ukraine that will be subject to travel bans and the freezing of assets. The ministers said they would act by the end of the month.
    Such incremental measures amount to expanding so-called “phase two” sanctions against Russia, bringing Europe closer in line with America. Of greater importance is that the communiqué raised the prospect of the EU moving to “phase three” sanctions, which are aimed at whole economic sectors, if Russia fails to meet demands that it use its influence with Ukrainian rebels to ensure the crash site is preserved intact for investigation and that the flow of weapons and fighters from its territory into Ukraine be halted.
    From Rostov, with Buks
    That the Russians are supplying the rebels is not open to doubt. Indeed, a recent increase in the flow of supplies seems to have set the scene for the tragedy.
    On July 1st Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, brought to an end a ceasefire in the east of the country which had lasted for ten days and which, he claimed, the rebels had broken 100 times. He was betting that Ukraine’s armed forces, their morale boosted through the expedient of newly regular pay as well as training and better maintenance for their equipment, could take on and defeat 10,000-15,000 rebels armed mainly with light weapons and a few elderly tanks. On July 5th, after an artillery bombardment, Ukrainian forces hoisted their blue and yellow flag over the strategically important town of Sloviansk, which had been the military headquarters of the insurrection. Air power was a big part of the success. Though the rebels had shot down several planes and helicopters using Strela-2 shoulder-fired missiles, they were impotent against anything flying above 2,000 metres.
    The separatists’ military leader, Igor Girkin (aka Igor Strelkov), a former or possibly current Russian intelligence officer, pleaded with Mr Putin for help in turning the tide. Although Mr Putin would not send the troops that Mr Girkin wanted, he was willing to provide him with enough weapons and assistance to stay in the game.
    Since late June small convoys of Russian heavy weapons had been flowing into the Luhansk region of Ukraine from a deployment and training site set up near Rostov by the separatists’ Russian military helpers, according to Western intelligence sources. On July 13th, at about the same time that Mr Putin was sitting down to watch the World Cup final with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, American sources say that a much bigger convoy of around 150 vehicles made the journey. It is said to have included tanks, artillery, Grad rocket launchers, armoured personnel carriers and Buk missile systems. Russia flatly denies having sent any such missiles.
    [IMG]
    Another piece of the evidence: the expanding base near Rostov
    Whether it was a missile delivered by that convoy that brought down MH17 is unknown. There were reports in late June that the rebels had captured such missiles from the Ukrainians, though the Ukrainians deny this and it may well have been deliberate Russian misinformation. But successful attacks on aircraft started straight after the convoy’s arrival. On July 14th a Ukrainian military cargo plane with eight people on board was brought down a few kilometres from the Russian border. The aircraft was flying at 6,500 metres, well beyond the range of shoulder-fired missiles. The following day a Ukrainian Su-25, a ground-attack fighter that has been used extensively against rebel positions, was hit. On July 16th another Su-25 suffered a missile strike but managed to land.
    It may be significant that the pictures showing the Buk missile launcher that shot down MH17 on its way to Chernukhino show it travelling alone. In normal operations the launcher would be accompanied by separate vehicles carrying radar and control facilities. Without these the system would have lacked, among other things, an ability to sense the transponders that civilian aircraft carry. Assuming that the crew wanted to shoot down another Ukrainian military transport, this lack would have made it easier for them accidentally to hit a passenger jet flying both higher and faster than any such target.
    The show must go on
    That it was indeed a mistake is hard to doubt, not least because it clearly put Mr Putin on the defensive. In the days after the attack he threw himself into a frenzy of diplomatic and public activity, talking repeatedly to Mrs Merkel and Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, as well as to the leaders of Australia, Britain and France. On July 21st he gave an address to the nation unremarkable in every way other than its timing; it was broadcast in the middle of the Moscow night, which means just before the previous evening’s prime time on America’s east coast. Having asked for concessions it did not receive, Russia still backed the Security Council’s resolution calling for a full investigation and for those responsible to be held to account, a resolution which accordingly passed unanimously. For all his anti-Westernism, Mr Putin cares about his international image enough to want to avoid defeat.
    He cares even more about his power at home. The Russian people are keen on both the war in Ukraine and Mr Putin: his approval rating is a remarkable 83%. Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin consultant, wrote recently that Russians see the war as a “bloody, tense and emotionally engaging” television drama that has little to do with reality but which they want to see continue. Mr Putin prospers as the drama’s producer and leading man; he cannot rewind the narrative in such a way as to extricate himself.
    But the audience’s enthusiasm does not mean it wants to pay to keep watching. So far the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea have seemed of greater symbolic than economic importance, and this plays to Mr Putin’s strengths. In Russia he controls the symbols. But serious economic sanctions of the sort to which the EU seems to have inched closer could do him genuine harm, given the already stagnant economy.
    If concern along those lines led to Mr Putin’s efforts on the international stage, though, it does not seem to have changed the situation in eastern Ukraine, or the show being offered to Russian television audiences. The rebels are still using ground-to-air missiles; they brought down two Su-25s on July 23rd, though they did not use Buks to do so. Mr Poroshenko says that weaponry is still rolling over the border to the rebel forces (which he wants the West to designate as terrorists, saying it would be “an important gesture of solidarity”). American intelligence sources say their analysis, too, points towards continuing supply from Russia.
    One explanation for the lack of change could be that Mr Putin does not believe that Europe will act decisively. The evidence of history seems to be on his side. Though on July 22nd the council of ministers sent a stronger message than it had before, Europe retains a deep ambivalence about inflicting real economic pain on Russia. In a newspaper article on July 20th David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, told fellow European leaders: “It is time to make our power, influence and resources count. Our economies are strong and growing in strength. And yet we sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us…” They—including Britain, fearful of damage to the City of London—could well continue so to behave.
    The most obvious evidence of this is France’s determination to go through with the sale of the first of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia. Other nations have demanded the contract be halted, but President François Hollande fears that reneging would endanger shipbuilding jobs at the Saint-Nazaire dockyard, incur stiff financial penalties, leave France with expensive ships it has no use for and damage its reputation for dependability among other countries thinking about entering into arms contracts with it.
    That said, sticking with the deal also poses risks to France’s reputation—and to its military equipment makers. The NATO country which is currently investing most in defence is Poland, with a budget of $46 billion (see article). France is well placed to sell it combat helicopters and other expensive kit. But François Heisbourg of the Foundation for Strategic Research, a think-tank, points out that Poland, staunchly opposed to Putin’s power play in the Ukraine, is unhappy about the sale of the Mistrals and unlikely to welcome French arms-sales teams in its aftermath.
    [IMG]
    Another piece of the evidence: the expanding base near Rostov
    Mr Hollande this week tried to deflect the pressure by saying that while the Vladivostokwould be delivered this autumn as agreed, delivery of the second such ship—theSevastopol, ironically—it is building for Russia would depend on Mr Putin’s good behaviour. Meanwhile the head of his Socialist party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, hit back at British criticism of the deal, noting that many Russian oligarchs had “sought refuge in London”, and added: “this is a false debate led by hypocrites.” France is demanding that, in any phase-three sanctions, Britain act on Russian financial transfers through the City. Germany for its part would be expected to contribute by restricting Russia’s access to high technology, especially in the energy sector.
    That is more conceivable than it was; German opinion seems to be turning. “Nobody can blame Germany for not having taken efforts to talk,” says the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “But Russia did not stick to the agreements to the necessary extent.” The day after the foreign ministers’ meeting Germany’s mass-circulation Bild, unimpressed, ran a headline mocking the EU for its Empoerend Untaetig—outrageous inactivity. But if this signals a new German toughness, it is a stance that will build up over months or years, not in weeks.
    Doubling down
    As Europe plays, at best, a long game, Mr Poroshenko is hoping to regain control of the east of his country with a decisive offensive. Much will depend on his tactics. Ukrainian forces have been making liberal use of air strikes and Grad rockets as they move toward Donetsk. On July 18th 16 civilians were killed in shelling; on July 21st Ukrainian Grad rockets killed four civilians south of Donetsk airport. “Do I look like a terrorist?” asked Galina Afrena, a woman of 60, as she surveyed the damage wearing a leopard-print dress and carrying a jar of homemade fruit juice. The Ukrainians say they are under strict orders not to use artillery or air strikes on Donetsk, a city of nearly a million people. If those orders are followed, it will mark a significant change.
    It is natural to expect an enormity to be a turning point. There is a depressing chance, though, that MH17 will remain an unfathomable aberration. Ukraine, the rebels and Russia show every sign of eschewing any opportunity it might offer for reflection and reconciliation. The incompatibility of their interests has only been thrown into sharper relief.

    From the print edition: Briefing
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