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Sanctions from the West and Japan have undoubtedly hurt Russia, especially since they were extended to embrace financial defence and energy sectors, but they have in no ways encouraged Putin to change direction and do a volte face. We are rather in a serious trade war with the tit-for-tat from Moscow banning food imports from the West. Next steps being considered include diamond, caviar and vodka – and perhaps boycotting or even cancelling Russia’s right to host the World Cup in 2018.

The sanctions policy have held up so far, but are causing increasing internal strain between western nations. The EU is split in two, with Britain leading the pro-sanctions side and a sizeable group complaining that the “punishment” has cost the EU itself a great deal of money in terms of lost exports to Russia.

See Leaders try to defuse Ukraine crisis as fears over war grows.

and Sanctions on Russia hurting Finland’s economy

and this article, Fear of Vladimir Putin grows in EU capitals amid spectre of ‘total war’ which claims that Putin is increasingly being perceived as a reckless gambler who is at home in the world of risk as well as being “inscrutable, paranoid and unpredictable.” Trying to coordinate European response against such a complex schemer is calling for a degree of solidarity and maturity we have never previously either needed or witnessed.

Most of us are not familiar with the apparatus of the EU foreign policy. Designed, presumably, to work in tandem with NATO, (which was itself originally intended as a bastion against Russia), one has always had the impression that this opulently expensive machine was set up to preserve the status quo in Europe. Few of its words or actions have been memorable over the past decades, but now it really does have something to do. Trying to coordinate European response against such a complex schemer is calling for a degree of solidarity and maturity we have never previously either needed or witnessed.

Pray in particular for Federica Mogherini to step up to the plate at this hour, as she coordinates EU foreign policy. Briefly serving as Italy’s Foreign Minister she appeared to follow her country’s traditionally “soft” line towards Russia. Now she is (sensibly) doing her best to keep dialogue open with Russia whilst calling for a change of behaviour on its part. The situation in Greece, where the new left-wing pro-Russia Greek government will also prove challenging.

Pray especially for Angela Merkel and Germany, which finds itself in the invidious position of being obliged (largely against its will) to take the lead in a number of key issues relating to Kiev, Moscow and Greece. See: Germany Emerges – a report by Stratfor.

Propaganda

I have been warning for a long time that Russia (whilst somehow keeping within British broadcasting laws), has been putting out some immensely “tilted” propaganda on its English language television Russia Today. But that is as nothing compared to really brutal material being broadcast to the Russian people which would appear to be calculated to prepare people for a major escalation of conflict.

The following update in The Spectator highlights just how serious the whole situation has become.

Do these grotesque pictures show that Putin wants Europe as his prisoner?

We have long warned that propaganda and cyber warfare will be at the heart of future conflicts. Putin is continuing to deny any Russian involvement, despite the widespread use of disguised uniforms and Russian equipment. Cf this previous blog entry in which I quoted the renowned American journalist William Shirer, who reminds people just how hard it is not to fall for endless propaganda when it surrounds you on all sides 24/7, even when you know that it is cynical and deliberately misleading propaganda.

Putin is also well aware of the inherent divisions in the EU, which make it hard for it to consider expanding even the relatively limited list of sanctions. He is prepared to play the long game. Putin has repeatedly attended peace discussions while breaking past promises and allowing his armed forces continue to exert their strength. As the American representative said at the recent Munich Security Conference “Too many times Putin has promised peace and delivered tanks.”

The consensus at the moment is that over 5,000 soldiers and civilians have already lost their lives in this conflict. German intelligence, however, has put that figure a great deal higher; they are saying that Ukrainian servicemen are in trouble and that it would be more realistic to talk of up to 50,000 people having lost their lives in Ukraine – to say nothing of the staggering eight hundred thousand plus people UNHCR reckon have fled the region. What is for sure is that Ukraine is calling up as many as it possibly can who are of military age.