A New Age now begins

Ben Judah, writing in Politico Magazine, supplies some answers to why Vladimir Putin has become so bold in Ukraine.

The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West?

Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.

Putin’s henchmen know this personally. Russia’s rulers have been buying up Europe for years. They have mansions and luxury flats from London’s West End to France’s Cote d’Azure. Their children are safe at British boarding and Swiss finishing schools. And their money is squirrelled away in Austrian banks and British tax havens.


Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes.

Once Russia’s powerful listened when European embassies issued statements denouncing the baroque corruption of Russian state companies. But no more. Because they know full well it is European bankers, businessmen and lawyers who do the dirty work for them placing the proceeds of corruption in hideouts from the Dutch Antilles to the British Virgin Islands.

We are not talking big money. But very big money. None other than Putin’s Central Bank has estimated that two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia in 2012 might be traceable to illegal activities. Crimes like kickbacks, drug money or tax fraud. This is the money that posh English bankers are rolling out the red carpet for in London.

Behind European corruption, Russia sees American weakness. The Kremlin does not believe European countries – with the exception of Germany – are truly independent of the United States. They see them as client states that Washington could force now, as it once did in the Cold War, not to do such business with the Kremlin.

Yes - the rope to hang us with, as Lenin said. We're buying it, and they're selling it.

NATO is a empty shell, as proven in Afghanistan. None of our "allies" wanted to fight - almost all of them wanted to guard the airport in Kabul. Putin's boldness is the result of cold calculation that no European government wants to send its boys to die for Ukraine. And if Europe won't take the lead, President Obama won't lift a finger either.

What happens next? If Putin is satisfied with only gobbling up the Crimea, the crisis will blow over pretty quickly. But if his appetite expands to include dining on some of the pro-Russian eastern provinces, Ukraine will be forced to go to war or risk seeing a forced partition.

In Warsaw, in Prague, in Budapest, and other capitals of the old Warsaw pact countries - the lights in the foreign ministry buildings are burning late.

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