By Nastassia Maes
Chasing down every piece of news in the world is challenging and impossible for anyone. Nonetheless, it is worrying to observe the lack of attention given to Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Putin administration’s actions. Russia seems to be placed at the heart of international dialogue only when it takes drastic action—often bordering or crossing the line to illegality—such as invading a neighboring country or continuing to wreak havoc in Syria by vetoing resolutions proposed by other members of the United Nations Security Council. These shocking actions should not be the reason why our momentary interest in Russia is sparked again.
On October 10th 2016, the BBC News released an article online shedding light on the escalation of actions taken by Russia. The article focused on a dramatic warning issued by Russian state TV host, Dmitry Kiselyov, also known as the “Kremlin’s chief propagandist” to his critics. (Side note: he is on the Western sanctions blacklist.) While on air, Kiselyov made the following ominous statement: “‘Impudent behaviour’ towards Russia may have ‘nuclear’ consequences.” He also made reference to a popular Russian saying: “A Russian takes a long time to harness a horse, but then rides fast.” Here, Kiselyov was referring to the recent escalation in Russian military activity. A week earlier, Moscow had “sent three warships from the Black Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean: on board, cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads,” “deployed nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into the Kaliningrad region bordering Poland,” “announced it would send several hundred paratroopers to Egypt for military exercises,” and “suspended three nuclear agreements with the United States.” Kiselyov explained that the increase in Russian military deployments was in response to the U.S.’ consideration of a non-diplomatic ‘Plan B,’ presumably a direct military intervention against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in Syria.
This trend of military escalation is highly worrying; among other things, it indicates that Russia has no qualms about openly changing its relationship with other countries such as the U.S. In addition, Russia has successfully fashioned a dangerous deadlock between members of the Security Council on matters as urgent and critical as the Syrian crisis, which has already claimed the lives of several hundred thousands of people and destroyed much of the country. Russia has also blocked almost every resolution concerning Ukraine, thereby causing that conflict – which Russia initiated – to stagnate. Putin’s domestic policy is no better than his foreign one. The recent parliamentary elections were proven to be rigged, causing no wave of surprise, and adding one more argument to the already long list of reasons why Russia is constantly, systematically moving further away from its official status of democracy. Human rights such as freedom of speech continue to be repeatedly and severely violated. Recently, the ten-year anniversary of famous Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s assassination passed. As a reminder, Politkovoskaya wrote honestly and unsparingly about the horrors of the Second Chechen War and her dislike for Putin’s corruptness and brutality. Unfortunately, hers is only one of many politically-motivated murders of journalists since the 1990s.
The big, bad wolf of the East is getting away with too much. And while the EU and the US have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Crimea, they are clearly insufficient, faulty and incapable of acting as deterrents. The international community needs to take stronger and effective action, the equivalent of a brick house. Putin seems unshakeable, but it is high time Russia played by the rules.