Putin's first intelligence op comes to its endgame

Putin's first intelligence op comes to its endgame

We take a break from matters domestic to attend to matters foreign.

As I was deciding whether or not to wake up, news broke that British and European negotiators had agreed a text for the UK’s EU divorce. Prime Minister Theresa May now will try to strongarm her Cabinet colleagues to sign on to the deal. It is not certain that she’ll be able to do so. Negotiators agreeing to terms may turn out to be the easy part; Brexit has soured like old milk in the mouths of many British citizens, and calls for a new referendum on any deal are rising by the day.

Brexit was Vladimir Putin’s dry run at psychological warfare aimed at a Western state. That it succeeded beyond all expectations gave him the confidence to interfere in the 2016 US presidential contest.

Now his first operation is coming to fruition, but are the results good for Russia? Sure, the UK will be separated, in a way, from Europe. But the UK will still maintain security links with the EU. And, according to the deal, it may very well end up in a customs union with Europe for an indeterminate time, in order to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. This fact alone may prod UK citizens to realize that Brexit is nothing but a chimera, and seek to rejoin the EU in order to have a vote at the table. As Jo Johnson, brother to Boris, and a Remainer, said last week, this deal is the worst of all possible worlds; it doesn’t deliver clean Brexit, and instead makes the UK a vassal state of the EU.

Putin was hoping that other Eurosceptic nations would follow Britain’s suit. Instead, the EU-27 have proven to be startlingly resilient. Poland and Hungary may chafe, but their leaders know they would be economic basket cases without EU membership. The goal of the EU negotiations has been to make quite clear that there are consequences for leaving the Union.

And, again, however much Theresa May brays about there being no second referendum, it may be out of her hands. It’s not a sure thing that she can get a majority in the Commons. Her hand may be forced, and she will have to put the question to a popular vote. The leaders behind the People’s Referendum insist that an option to jettison the whole charade and remain within the EU be included. It’s hard to see how they could be denied that.

Putin was never a very good intelligence agent. His actions in the US, rather than crippling us, have revived a sense of citizenship in the majority who don’t want to be Russian stooges. His EU operation made the Union that much stronger, and may fail in the end to separate the UK from it. Meanwhile, sanctions remain, and oligarchs get restive as they see their investments in Europe and the US under threat. If anything in Russia’s history can be said to be a truism, it’s this: Autocrats aren’t eternal.



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The guns fell silent

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