Kremlin insiders who are critical of the war in Ukraine told Bloomberg early in the “special military operation” they were concerned about the impact this would have on Russia’s standing on the world stage. They stressed they could not raise their worries to Putin himself because there was “no chance” of changing his mind.
But commentators are now suggesting that, while Moscow is now set to be increasingly isolated from the West, it will turn – and is already turning – to forge new allegiances with other countries.
These combined could, it has been argued, spell more danger for European and US leaders than the old Soviet bloc.
Mark Almond, Director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford, wrote in today’s Mail: “In the first Cold War, the West wrestled with both communist ideology as well as Russian power, looming threats that terrified us for years.
“Today, the threat has changed and comes in the form of a permanently outlawed Russia, a vast Eurasian state in partnership with China, Iran and other pariah states – a threat that looms large across the entire Northern hemisphere.
“I do not feel it is an exaggeration to say this emerging menace is potentially an even bigger rival to the West than the old Soviet bloc.”
He added that “we will need to swiftly rediscover the staying power we had in the 20th century to face it down”.
His comments came just days after reports emerged that Iran was “ready” to export military equipment to Russia.
Tehran’s army ground forces commander Kiumars Heydari said “we are ready to export military equipment and weapons”, according to the Young Journalists Club.
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Iranian support could tip the balance of such predictions, especially given Ukraine’s own shortages (one recent intelligence report by Ukrainian and Western officials said Kyiv’s forces were outgunned 20 to one to Russia in artillery and 40 to one in ammunition) and low stockpiles in Western countries attempting to keep the country fighting.
China has also stepped us as an essential partner for Russia, increasing its exports of microchips and other electronic components and raw materials since the invasion of Ukraine.
Some of these have military applications – others will be essential for keeping the home economy active amid tough Western sanctioning.
There does, however, remain a growing frustration in Russia about the impact of the war of tearing Moscow from some of its former bonds.
Journalist Mark Galeotti noted in a post on Twitter in April that concern was spreading – and, indeed, “is certainly not confined to” – technocrats and businesspeople.
Despite this, United Russia MP Andrei Isayev, quoted by Francis Scarr of the BBC, yesterday told Channel One Russia that his country was “becoming the leader of the free, that’s to say sovereign, world”.