From pariah to player – Russia’s big push for relevance

Putin has gone from being frozen out over Ukraine to a power-broker in the Middle East

US president Barack Obama meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Mexico, in 2012. Photograph: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

US president Barack Obama meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Mexico, in 2012. Photograph: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

 

Through the summer of 2015, Vladimir Putin has played a bold and unexpected diplomatic hand, taking Moscow from being frozen out over Ukraine to a power-broker in the Middle East. By turns the Russian president appeared as a capricious influence in Ukraine’s conflict, an engaged partner in a nuclear deal with Iran, a rallying-point for non-western powers and finally a purported military saviour to Syria’s Assad regime.

The tactics may not amount to a wise long-term strategy, but for now diplomats are at a loss over how to respond.

June 7th

Russia cold-shouldered by world powers

Meeting in the southern German resort of Elmau, the Group of Seven countries issue a stronger than expected warning to Russia over Ukraine. The message from the gathering of western powers and Japan – which Putin routinely attended until last year – is a signal that economic curbs against Russia would stay and even intensify if it escalates military backing for the separatists in eastern Ukraine. The EU on June 24th rolls over its sanctions against Russian industry – prompting the Kremlin to roll over its ban on food imports from the West.

July 10th

Putin and friends: from Ufa to Iran

Lest Russia appear isolated over the Ukraine conflict, Putin basks in the praise of leaders from China’s Xi Jinping to Iran’s Hassan Rouhani during a two-day shindig for the non-western economic powers in the Russian city of Ufa. Within the week, Moscow is one of six world powers agreeing a landmark nuclear accord with Iran. It is now an engaged partner at the diplomatic top table.

Aug 10th-20th

Ukraine escalation

The heaviest shelling in east Ukraine since February. Putin visits Crimea and Ukraine on August 17th, his first visit since the annexation. Clashes break out in eastern Ukraine around Mariupol and Horlivka.

Aug 25th-Sept 1st

Ukraine de-escalation

The upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine prompts a flurry of diplomatic activity. Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Petro Poroshenko – the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine – meet in Paris and deliberately do not invite Putin in a warning over the deteriorating situation. The French and German leaders later call Putin to plead for total ceasefire starting in September. With quite sudden effect, the negotiated ceasefire appears to hold. September 11th is the first day in almost 18 months with no shelling in eastern Ukraine.

Sept 2nd-4th

Putin looks east, plays the Syria card

A Russian military build-up in Syria that began weeks before finally becomes public. After calling US president Barack Obama, Putin calls for an international coalition against extremists in Syria. Meanwhile, US officials begin voicing concerns about a Russian military base and new equipment arriving in Syria. The move is a power-play in a volatile region where US policy is adrift and Washington’s dominance is in doubt.

Sept 6th-20th

US complains but is forced to talk

US secretary of state John Kerry calls Moscow to complain about military build-up in Syria, while asking Greece and Bulgaria to block Russian supply flights. Russia, meanwhile, begins to openly confirm its military build-up in Syria. The US warnings make no difference; eventually Washington cedes to Russian demands for talks and US and Russian defence secretaries make first contact in more than a year.

Sept 28th

Putin centre stage at UN General Assembly

Putin steals the show as he appears at the UN General Assembly for the first time in a decade. His speech lambasts US interventionism, arguing military misadventures in the Iraq and Libya left power vacuums now filled by “extremists and terrorists”. “Now do you realise what you have done?” he asks. While Putin describes Assad as the “legitimate” leader of Syria, Obama denounces him as a “tyrant who drops barrel bombs on innocent children”. The two hold a testy meeting – an encounter the White House had been loathe to agree to.

October 2nd

Ukraine talks resume

Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko will meet in Paris to discuss implementation of the Minsk ceasefire accord. It comes during a significant lull in violence in eastern Ukraine and is Putin’s opportunity to swing political opinion in Europe back towards sanctions relief at the end of the year. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.