President Vladimir Putin is reported to be well loved by the Russian people, with sales in his limited edition calendar increasing each year. In the West, the Russian president is continuously portrayed as some form of evil genius, whose power and influence in the Western nations is something that is to be feared. In the past ten years, Russia has shown aggression, invaded nations, and has allegedly been attempting to control and influence major political decisions in other countries. But what has been happening? And why is nobody responding? For the first time, since WWII a European country has been invaded by another, but what is being done?
Russia is the largest country in the world, and it has had a dark, tumultuous history. They became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), the world’s largest socialist state, in 1922. The republic consisted of Russia and 12 of its neighbours, and after years of economic decline and desperate poverty, the republic fell in 1991. Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad in 1952, moving to Moscow in 1996 to join the government, he rose quickly through the ranks and became president on 31st December 1999. Since this time, there have been a number of revolutions and incidences of unrest across the previous Soviet states; with revolutions and civil unrest in both Georgia and the Ukraine in the early noughties. Further tension was apparent when the two countries requested to become members of NATO in 2010. Putin argued against this, at every opportunity. In 2010, the Ukraine abandoned their plans to join NATO, and with the political chaos that ensued, it there has been no mention of re-establishing them. In February 2014, a series of violent events took place in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, with demonstrators, riot police and unknown shooters clashing on the streets of the city. As a result, the president of the country was ousted, and he fled to Russia in exile. The removal of the Pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych was believed by Russia to have been orchestrated by the West. With Putin damning the West’s alleged influence by highlighting the shift in power towards far-right groups and Neo-Nazis.
In the spring of that same year, Russia illegally annexed the Crimea, a state which had previously been classed as being Ukrainian territory after the fall of the USSR. Putin argued that ‘Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia’. On March 16th, 2014, Crime held a controversial referendum, with the majority of people voting that wanted to stay part of Russia. However, this referendum was held after the Russians had already invaded and taken control over the country, and so it is not internationally recognised by most countries. Russian laws were quickly imposed regarding freedom of speech, and those who have spoken against the Russian regime have been arrested. But Putin was not satisfied with just Crimea, and instead started armed insurgencies in Eastern Ukraine. Putin’s defence for invading Ukraine was that the country included ‘regions of Russia’s historic south’, stating that the country was ‘created on a whim by the Bolsheviks’. Between the 22nd and the 25th August 2014, Russian military crosses the border into the Ukraine, without Ukrainian permission. They stated that this was a ‘humanitarian’ convoy and began engaging in open warfare with Ukrainians. Putin has continuously denied that the Ukraine is even a country, often referring to the nation as ‘Little Russia’. With the fall of the government, the vast majority of the Ukrainian people who took arms against the Russians are members of Neo-Nazi groups. The significant rise in support for these groups in the Ukraine is particularly worrying, particularly to the West. Yet a significant proportion of the country's population admire these far-right groups, portraying them be national heroes because of their role in defending the country across Russians and pro-Russian separatists with a lots of politically agressive manipulation. The ultra-nationalist groups have since gained positions of power, and have an ever-increasing influence over the country's politics. With the nation in political crisis and economic downfall, Putin believes that ‘time and endurance’ will bring the collapse and division of the Ukraine.
It has been just over three years since Russia illegally annexed Crimea. America has imposed strict sanctions on Russia and Ukrainians are looking at America hoping for their help in creating a safe and prosperous future. However, Putin argues that even without the trouble in the Ukraine, the USA would have tried to contain them. Russian/ US relationships have been turbulent for decades, and with the tangerine tyrant in power over there, it is impossible to predict what could happen. With recent investigations indicating that the Russian government have also influenced, or at least attempted to influence major elections and referendums in the West. This may indicate that while Russians are currently in active warfare with the Ukraine, their influence in Western countries is perhaps more reminiscent of the stereotypical Russian Spy of the 1950s, although now equipped with modern advanced technology as well as nuclear weaponry. Concerns about Russian influence in British politics have also been noted. It recently emerged that over 400 fake Twitter accounts, posting predominantly about Brexit, were allegedly run from St. Petersburg. Another one of the accounts posted anti-Islamic sentiment during the recent Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in London. During the US election, it was reported that 120 faked Russian backed Facebook pages created around 80, 000 posts that were seen by around 90 million Americans, attempting to influence public opinion so that Trump would be elected. For Russian aggression to be directly addressed, there needs to be a concerted effort from countries the world. After the UN wanted to intervene with Ukraine incident, China refused to vote, and a deal is yet to be made. But the shambles that were left in the Ukraine after the 2014 revolutions has meant that groups of people who genuinely believe in the Anti-Semitic racist rhetoric of the Nazis have been able to snatch power. Something needs to be done.