Russia and the West: How to lose friends

Proudly alone

“ISOLATION”, “consolidation” and “self-reliance” are different terms used among Moscow’s political and business elite to mean the same thing. In the face of international sanctions occasioned by its support of the rebels in eastern Ukraine and its earlier annexation of Crimea, Russia is preparing to pull inward. It is hunkering down for a long period of diplomatic antagonism and economic hardship.That process appears to be accelerating. On August 6th the Kremlin responded to Western pressure by announcing that it will ban or reduce agricultural imports from countries imposing sanctions on Russia. The tensions in eastern Ukraine are rising. Ukrainian forces have, in effect, closed off the rebel stronghold of Donetsk through a campaign of often-indiscriminate shelling. If it falls to Kiev, then the pro-Moscow insurgency will lose its potency.Mr Putin may be tempted to salvage his credibility by sending in Russian troops on the pretence of a “humanitarian” operation. According to NATO, 20,000 Russian soldiers have amassed at the border. They are engaged in live-fire drills involving fighter aircraft and bombers—the sort…

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