Russia politics threaten european security

1 февраля 2021, 10:11
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Russia politics threaten european security

If past behaviour is any guide, Moscow will push back, at least with tough rhetoric and possibly specific measures. This is business as usual in the current age of tit-for-tat, playground diplomacy.

Navalny, poisoned by Russian security officers in August, had been recuperating in Berlin until his return on January 17.

His prompt arrest on questionable charges triggered major nationwide protests, but what was no doubt originally envisaged by the Kremlin as a purely domestic act of repression has become an international concern.

The Kremlin had made it clear that its immediate response to the protests is it to try and outlast them.

Meanwhile, though, Europe cannot keep quiet about Navalny's treatment and the often-heavy handed behaviour of the security forces during the day of protest.

European Council president Charles Michel has called for Navalny's immediate release and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticised the "widespread detentions [and] disproportionate use of force".

The likelihood is that words will lead to some form of action, probably more sanctions placed on individuals associated with Navalny's case, in line with the European Parliament's resolution of 21 January.

If past behaviour is any guide, Moscow will push back, at least with tough rhetoric and possibly specific measures. This is business as usual in the current age of tit-for-tat, playground diplomacy.

However, there are grounds of concern that this may contribute to a more serious escalatory cycle.

First of all, a central element of the Kremlin's often-toxic propaganda campaign is to present the opposition as either the knowing agents of foreign subversion or its gullible dupes.

At present, this is focusing on the US, which is being accused of organising the marches and bankrolling Navalny. The pro-government tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda even suggested that Washington had counted on bloodshed this weekend, but was disappointed when "the authorities showed leniency, made allowances for youthful maximalism".

The risk is that the Kremlin, feeling embattled, will adopt ever more extreme tactics – and not confine them to its own borders.

Its onslaught on those it considers traitors has already led to the Salisbury poisonings of 2018 and the apparent execution of Chechen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin at the end of 2019.

Given that it appears to be treating its current political struggle as an existential one, to be fought by whatever means necessary, if the Kremlin feels it has little reason to fear European responses, then it may expand its campaign of so-called 'active measures' abroad.

The crisis in Russia could also affect Belarus.

The parallels between Minsk and Moscow have not been lost on the protesters on either side – some of the Russian demonstrators chanted 'long live Belarus' – and likely not to the governments, either.

Some politologists, who have long argued that any hint of concessions to the 'street' in Belarus could embolden their counterparts in Russia are likely to be all the more persuasive now.

What happens in Russia, it is clear, does not stay in Russia.

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РАЗДЕЛ: Новости политики
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