How Vladimir Putin is building alliances around the world

As the Russian president visits his EU ally Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, we look at other leaders around the world who have embraced the divisive Vladimir Putin

Venezuela

Caracas is a major buyer of Russian weapons and has recognised breakaway pro-Russian territories such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.

Moscow reciprocates by investing billions of dollars in Venezuelan oil projects.

Vladimir Putin once even gave Hugo Chavez a puppy. Continue reading

The Fight for Ukraine

If Ukraine is to still join the EU, expect it to after the cold winter subsides. This way, Russia can no longer blackmail the Ukranian leadership via energy supplies by shutting off the gas lines as it did a few years back — which also was a statement to Europe as it, too, was affected.

Every decent revolution produces an iconic scene. The 1989 Tiananmen protests had tank man; during Germany’s reunification it was a segment of the Berlin Wall swaying back and forth like a wiggly tooth before finally collapsing; in Baghdad in 2003, it was the slow-motion toppling of the giant statue of Saddam Hussein. On Sunday, the budding revolution in Ukraine got its iconic scene, when, amid protests of roughly 500,000 in Kiev’s Independence Square, angry marchers felled a Vladimir Lenin statue then slugged it to pieces with sledgehammers.

The protesters are upset with President Viktor Yanukovich, and specifically his November 29 decision to reject a free-trade deal with the EU. The decision was seen not only as a rejection of Europe, but an embrace of Russia. Many Ukrainians worry that Yanukovich, despite repeated denials, has struck a deal with Vladimir Putin to form a customs union with Russia.

Whatever the outcome, events in Ukraine highlight three important geopolitical realities, each of which is also prophetically significant. Continue reading