Putin Forces Political Risk onto European Treasury Agenda
“The last thing I want to do is to cry wolf or be unnecessarily alarmist,” notes Sir Richard Shirreff on the second day of the Association of Corporate Treasurers‘ (ACT) annual conference in Manchester, UK. Sir Richard, who served for many years as NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander, is now an independent consultant and is alarmed by events on Europe’s periphery – from the threat to the Ukraine to the trafficking of immigrants to Europe, which has seen many drown in the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately “peace is not the default setting in international situations – it’s fragile and has to be worked at and paid for”, says Sir Richard. At the moment, five major themes are evident regarding the threat to European security and stability.
To the East, Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in February 2014 has created a new paradigm, Sir Richard warns. Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke of the ‘threat’ that the West posed to Russia and how the collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years ago was a wrong that had to be corrected. He set out his ambition of uniting all Russian-speaking people under one nation once more – a unity that was essential even if opposed by other states.
This policy, if pursued, could put Russia on a collision course with the West – particularly if Putin’s ambitions extend to annexing the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. “Weak-willed Western democracies are facing an autocrat who is more than ready to extend Russia’s borders by force,” warns Sir Richard.
The response of NATO and the Western powers has to be a warning to Putin of “thus far and no further” he adds. To do so requires the following strategy:
The threat from Russia is accompanied by the “Pandora’s box” that has been opened in Syria, where the forces unleashed are too entrenched to be removed simply by air strikes. A further deployment of troops may be unavoidable. “The emphasis should be on supporting the weak government in the region opposing Islamist forces,” suggests Sir Richard. “It demands a totally integrated approach and removing the soil in which terrorism flourishes.”