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Russia to grab Europe next, not ex-Soviet territories

Mikheil Saakashvili wrote that in his column in Foreign Policy
16:46, 15 March 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin makes an address on the state TV in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia
Associated Press

Russian new policy will require all international naval vessels to give the country 45 days’ notice before entering the Northern Sea Route, as Mikheil Saakashvili wrote in his column in Foreign Policy.

“Every vessel on the route, where Russia has invested heavily in sophisticated military infrastructure, will also be required to have a Russian maritime pilot on board. Ships found in violation of these restrictions may be forcibly halted, detained, or—in unspecified “extreme” circumstances—“eliminated”, he stated.

Saakashvili wrote that the authority of the state justifies the new naval restrictions claiming that the more active naval operations in the Arctic of various foreign countries” need such a response.

“This is the same tactic Russian President Vladimir Putin has used to justify his military adventurism for years: From Georgia in 2008, to Ukraine in 2014, to Syria in 2015, Putin has always laid the blame for Russian aggression squarely at the West’s feet. Kremlin-backed media outlets amplify this message, subjecting audiences to a constant deluge of scaremongering about “NATO encirclement” and pointing to the West’s condemnations of Putin’s actions as evidence of “Russophobia”, he wrote.

Related: EU must get real on Russia

Saakashvili calls Putin “a global pariah”. He also stressed that all anti-Russian sanctions have weakened the economy of the country.

“In Crimea, eastern Ukraine, South Ossetia, or anywhere else Putin considers Russia’s backyard, the territorial gain has never been an end in itself. Putin’s goal today is the same as when he invaded my country in 2008: to tighten his grip on the levers of power in Russia. Whenever Putin’s domestic popularity dips, he either escalates an ongoing conflict or launches a new offensive,” he stated.

Yet, the author admits that all this worked, as Putin has been in power for nearly two decades. He calls him “predictable and logical”.

Related: EU imposes sanctions against Russians involved in capture of Ukrainian sailors

“To be sure, these steps earned Putin harsh criticism from Washington and Brussels. But condemnation from outside Russia only boosts his popularity within. With every foreign election the Kremlin meddles in, every violation of human rights in occupied Crimea, and every time Russian soldiers move barbed-wire fencing to carve out a few more acres of Georgia’s territory, the standard U.S. and European response—a diplomatic expression of “deep concern”—sounds more like a tired cliché,” the author believes.

The author of the article admitted that the leader of Russia was escalating provocations lately as his popularity has declined.

Related: U.S. congressmen vote for publication of report on Russia’s interference in 2016 elections

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