Putin – the most dangerous man in the world

Ruthless: Russia’s president has imprisoned scores of anti-government demonstrators. © Reuters

Can Putin be stopped? The ruthless Russian president is guilty of outrageous criminal conduct both at home and overseas. And, today, his Kremlin power base looks more secure than ever.

The journalists fell on the report like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Published yesterday, after a long delay, its subject was Russian interference in British politics.

The UK parliamentary committee was damning in its verdict on the British government’s failure to confront the issue – and so was the judgement on Vladimir Putin’s government: “An immediate and urgent threat to national security.”

In Britain, the former spies Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal were targeted by Russian agents using deadly poisons which also put the public in extreme peril.

Russian troops and their proxies have annexed Crimea and attacked Georgia and Ukraine, with a passenger plane full of civilians among their victims. In Syria, Putin has supported the bloody regime of Bashar al-Assad, who slaughters innocent people with barrel bombs and chemical weapons.

Tensions have increased so much in recent months that UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned of a “full-blown military escalation” between Russia and the West.

Putin has also revelled in cyber attacks and spreading false information. The GRU is believed to have masterminded a barrage of fake social-media posts designed to help Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election.

Can Putin be stopped?

Putin the boot in

Some say no. Russia is a nuclear power with a seat on the UN Security Council, it has gas reserves on which western Europe is heavily reliant, and Putin does not care what anyone thinks of him, so nothing can be done to bring his rogue state to heel.

Others argue that Moscow is fond of sabre-rattling, but history shows that it often backs down when faced by unified opposition. Putin and his cronies are motivated by money as much as power, and there are many ways sanctions can hurt them.

You Decide

  1. Would you rather live in a strong country with a wicked leader or a weak country with a virtuous one?

Activities

  1. Putin loves to be photographed taking part in sports like hunting and deep-sea diving. Do a collage of him playing hopscotch.

Some People Say...

“Artificial intelligence is the future […]. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Vladmir Putin, Russian politician

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most agree that the USA’s recent foreign policy has played into Putin’s hands. Its reluctance to engage in another overseas war left the door open for Putin to befriend President Assad and greatly increase Russia’s influence in the Middle East; Egypt too has gravitated towards Russia. By supporting the Kurds’ bid for independence, the US pushed Turkey into Putin’s arms. In Afghanistan, Trump allowed Putin to get away with offering the Taliban a bounty for attacking US forces.
What do we not know?
Whether Putin has a consistent plan for furthering Russia’s interests. Some experts believe that he is basically an opportunist who likes to make trouble for his enemies whenever he gets a chance. According to the Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov, “When you are trained by the KGB, it means you see the world in terms of threats […]; you do not have strategy, you rely on tactics. Because you don’t know what the next threat might be, you only respond.”

Word Watch

Damning in its verdict
Suggesting very strongly that someone is guilty of a crime or has made a serious mistake.
Alexander Litvinenko
Litvinenko died in 2006 after being exposed to a radioactive substance called polonium, apparently hidden in a teapot.
Sergei Skripal
A victim of the Salisbury poisonings, along with his daughter Yulia. Both became dangerously ill, but survived. Police identified their would-be killers as two members of Russian military intelligence, Anatoliy Vladimirovich and Alexander Mishkin.
Proxies
People authorised to act for someone else.
Annexed
Taking by force another state’s territory, which is generally considered illegal.
Passenger plane
A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. Dutch investigators concluded that Russian-backed rebels were responsible.
Regime
A government, especially an authoritarian one.
Escalation
An increase in the seriousness of something.
Revelled
Got great pleasure from (a situation or experience).
GRU
Russia’s foreign military intelligence service, the equivalent of Britain’s MI6.
Barrage
A great number, suddenly directed at someone.
UN Security Council
The council is concerned with military affairs and has five permanent members: Russia, the US, the UK, France, and China. Any of these can reject a proposed resolution; Russia has done this far more frequently than the others.
To heel
Under control.
Sabre-rattling
The display or threat of military force.
Cronies
Close friends or supporters. The term derives from a slang name for university.
Sanctions
The international community can use sanctions, like stopping trade links, to change the behaviour of a country or regime, in cases where that country or regime is violating human rights.

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