Staunton, May 28 – For the last decade, Vladimir Putin has pursued a plan to isolate his country from the outside world by pursuing rearmament and confrontation with the West, Andrey Illarionov says. Now, there is evidence that the Kremlin leader is stepping up his efforts I that direction even during the current charm offensive.
In an interview with Radio Liberty, the Moscow analyst argues that the West should stop viewing Ukraine or Georgia as the occasion for Putin’s actions and see them instead as symptoms of his much larger policy, one that he argues has been in place since at least 2006 (svoboda.org/content/transcript/27760793.html).
Putin’s goals over this period have been to prepare Russia, its people and its economy “for a much longer, more global and more serious confrontation with the external world” than many now assume. And these goals were put in place long before Russia sent troops into Ukraine and long before the West introduced sanctions.
The Kremlin leader’s “preparation for war against the outside world began not in 2014, not with the annexation of Crimea and not with the actions of ‘the little green men’ in the Donbass or in other places,” Illarionov says. They began much earlier as can be seen by examining Putin’s 2010 plan for Russian rearmament.
Not only is that plan continuing, he says, but despite what some think, Moscow’s efforts to realize it are even intensifying. In 2010, Putin put in place a program for the rearmament of Russia, one that he said at the time would cost 20 trillion rubles over the following decade. He has been spending more than that since by taking money from the Russian population.
But there is an even better indication that Putin is planning for a long-term confrontation with the West: his government is buying gold. While the Russian economy is getting worse, the government’s stockpiles of gold are growing because if the sanctions regime intensifies, Illarionov says, Moscow can always use gold to purchase what it wants.
The Russian government’s purchases of gold in the first quarter of this year, he notes, “broke all previous records.” But it is important to recognize that these purchases began not at the start of the war with Ukraine but “already in January 2006. Therefore, the strategic planning of confrontation with the outside world began just over a decade ago.”
These gold purchases mean, he continues, that “preparation for global confrontation with the surrounding world not only has not stopped but is continuing and its tempo, if we are to speak honestly, is increasing.” There may be periods when it appears that Putin is easing off as now in the view of some, but there is no indication that he has fundamentally changed course.