A quick snap analysis on the likely outcome of the UK’s National Security Council meeting, presided by British PM Theresa May, today regarding sanctions on Russia, leads to grim conclusion and more than a wartime rhetoric. This is probably the most evident proof of the weakened geopolitical posture of Britain following the Brexit. While NATO’s coordinated response – Britain can still invoke article 5 – is still the first and preferred option – EU’s coordination is essential as effective responses lie beyond the military spectrum – in what hurts Putin most – money and image.

 

A boycott of the Moscow World Cup seems almost inevitable. I can’t simply see England’s team playing soccer at the Luzhniki pretending business is as usual. If they leave – other’s will follow suit – simple law of solidarity.

 

The use of nerve agent is a flagrant act of war that could end up in the Court of Hague as a crime against humanity. Russia’s chances of implicating third parties (Ukraine!?) into what is a clean product of its own chemical laboratories – are miniscule.

 

The West is quickly approaching the red line of no compromise with Moscow – it is either Putin or us.

 

That does not necessarily imply an imminent war with Russia, even less so a direct conflict in Europe. The West will win easily without a war – just see Putin’s rule collapse under its own weight of corruption and inefficiencies.

 

The chances Kremlin decides to strike first and provoke a nuclear exchange should not be ignored but are neither dominant nor on the rise.

 

The Russian military threat, including its nuclear arsenal capacbilties, are vastly exaggerated.

 

However Putin might be tempted to engage the US troops in Syria – if they attack Asad’s loyalist army, but the odds are against him. Moreover that Israel should be factored in the calculus.

 

The West enjoys plenty of maneuvering space for a ‘harder’ version of containment of Russia, including radically tightened sanctions and total freeze in relations.

 

One thing is certain – Putin will become more aggressive and radical in exploring the weak links in the EU and NATO systems and the Balkans and the Black sea loom high. Not so much the Baltics. He feels his grip on power is loosening and the final exit approaching too fast.

 

 

2018 will be an year to remember in world history.

 

By Ilian Vassilev

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