Vladimir Putin understands our societys weakness as West scrambles over Russia dilemma
Russia: Putin ‘will not stop at Ukraine’ says Liz Truss
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Putin has ordered the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Within minutes of his announcement via a television address, explosions could be heard in various major cities in Ukraine, including Kiev. It comes a day after he insisted that his country’s interests and security are non-negotiable. Russian troops had already been deployed to Donetsk and Luhansk, two rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine that Russia now recognises as independent.
The West responded by imposing a series of sanctions on Russian financial interests and wealthy individuals believed to have ties to the Kremlin.
In Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Boris Johnson defended his sanctions against Russia amid claims they do not go far enough.
He said the UK was “out in front” when it comes to global actions against Putin — despite failing to impose any sanctions on the President or his close allies directly.
While Mr Johnson promised a “further package of military support” for Ukraine, many say Russia will have anticipated the measures for years, the country having gained an unmatched understanding of the UK and other western countries and their societies.
Professor Julian Lindley-French, an internationally recognised strategic analyst and adviser in defence, who has worked with NATO, argues that Russia knows everything there is to the West’s “vulnerable societies”, and is working to exploit the fragile systems in place.
He told Express.co.uk: “Russia’s intellectual understanding of the West is extremely well-developed, both official and quasi-unofficial.
“They know about everything that we do, they’ve looked at our open, vulnerable societies and have systematically identified where our weaknesses are across information warfare and cyberwarfare.
“Their leadership thinks they’re engaged in a war already. They see it as a kind of quintessential, if not yet an existential struggle, because Russia has nothing else to offer its people: the Russian leadership is based on militarism and nationalism.”
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In 2014, when Russian troops moved into Crimea and annexed part of Ukraine, a wave of international sanctions was sparked.
Chris Morris, the BBC’s Global Trade correspondent, says this “taught Moscow an important lesson”.
Since then, Russia has been putting financial defences in place, distancing itself from relying on the dollar and trying to sanction-proof its economy.
In an analysis piece, Mr Morris wrote: “President Putin may be betting that he can withstand sanctions for longer than the West assumes.”
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In January 2022, the Russian government’s international reserves, in foreign exchange and gold, were at record levels — worth more than $630bn (£464bn).
This figure is the fourth highest amount of such reserves in the world.
It could be used to help prop up Russia’s currency, the rouble, for a significant amount of time.
Five years ago, around 40 percent of Russia’s foreign exchange was held in dollars — today, that figure stands at just 16 percent.
About 13 percent is held in Chinese renminbi.
All of this will protect Russia against US sanctions.
The country has also reduced its reliance on foreign loans and investments in recent years, and has pursued new trade opportunities away from the West.
Moscow has taken early steps to create its own system of international payments in the event it gets cut off from Swift — a global financial messaging service which is overseen by the major Western central banks.
The size of its overall budget has also been decreasing, with Russia having grown an average of less than one percent a year in the last ten years.
This could be a sign that Putin is choosing stability over growth, which would in turn create a more self-reliant and sustaining Russia.
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