Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II marked Putin’s sudden turning point

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Analysis by Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs, Sept. 22, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin finally abandoned hope only in mid-September 2022 that he could re-build a bridge to the West.

With that realization, he committed Russia into the new anti-Western pact.

The turning point was the signal Putin received from the United Kingdom over the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. It had little to do with the military setbacks in the Ukraine war, for which he had already begun planning.

Vladimir Putin with Xi Jinping in February. Putin ‘ paid unqualified tribute to the late Queen.’ …. but Russia was specifically excluded. Even North Korea received an invitation to the state funeral. / Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin

The new, harder-line anti-Western policy of Russia was essential for building a new strategic bloc with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Belarus, Iran, North Korea, and, de facto but integrally, NATO member Turkey.

Related: China’s SCO bloc adds Iran, emerges as military dictators’ alliance, September 20, 2022

This is the “new Warsaw Pact”. It signaled that the Russian bid to regain control of Central Asia — which Russia had controlled from the late 19th Century until 1991 — was now also in full swing. It also meant that the U.S. plan to revive the Iran nuclear deal was, in reality, dead.

So Moscow has now walked away from any thought that it could negotiate with the two states at the core of its problems: the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Actually, the Biden Administration, on its first day in office on Jan. 20, 2022, had already committed to an irrevocable policy of alienating — and possibly breaking up — Russia, so President Putin’s hopes were probably always in vain.

Then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also committed fully to the Biden agenda toward Russia. What President Putin had hoped for was that the incoming UK Prime Minister Liz Truss could soften the Johnson stance.

Significantly, President Putin had pushed one final endeavor to open a strategic dialog with the UK on Sept. 8, 2022. He sent a warm statement of condolence to the family of Queen Elizabeth II, who died that day, and paid unqualified tribute to the late Queen. The communiqué implied a clear call for an equally humane response from the UK.

The desired British response did not come. Moreover, when the British Crown and Government issued invitations to foreign heads-of-state to attend Queen Elizabeth’s Sept. 19, 2022, state funeral, Russia was specifically excluded, one of the few states to be so singled out. Even North Korea received an invitation, and the PRC, albeit not at head-of-state level.

President Putin’s gesture had been rejected with venom. The UK would not be split from the US in its strenuous proxy war through Ukraine, against Russia.

Related: ‘This is not a bluff’: Putin vows to respond in kind to ‘nuclear blackmail’, September 21, 2022

Within a week, President Putin had clearly resigned himself to the reality that the future of Russia was never likely — in the foreseeable future — to include any degree of economic integration with the West. He then used the opportunity of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 15-16, 2022, to cement the new, anti-Western bloc, and, with PRC leader Xi Jinping, to begin gradually prying India away from its close relationship with the US and the Quad alliance (India, Japan, the U.S., Australia) which had been designed to contain the PRC.

By Sept. 15, 2022, when Putin met with Xi at the SCO Summit, the PRC and Russia significantly strengthened the interpretation of their mutual cooperation treaty, with the statement that the PRC and Russia would support each other’s “core interests”. Beijing would support Moscow on Ukraine; Moscow would support Beijing on Taiwan. This was a major hardening of the new bloc and a sign that Russia would not compromise on its determination to retain its gains in Ukraine. And Xi would be supported on Taiwan.

Events surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war had already seen Russia pushed by the U.S. and United Kingdom (in particular) into an isolation which forced Moscow into an inevitable and growing interdependence on the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The growing political, economic, and resource costs of the Russia-Ukraine war has also meant that President Putin faced hard choices and the prospect that the negative aspects of the war would soon have a significant impact on his governance.

On Sept. 15, 2022, Putin sent his own message back to the UK by causing Russian State TV to run movie footage allegedly showing a young Queen Elizabeth throwing food to “the children of the enslaved people in Africa”, and indicating that the Queen was racist. The footage, however, was fake, and filmed in French Indo-China by the famous Lumière brothers in 1899 or 1900, decades before Queen Elizabeth was even born. It actually showed a woman tossing coins to children.

It was meant to be the kind of reactive insult from which there was no going back. London got the point. It lost, without caring, a strategic opportunity.

Events surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war had already seen Russia pushed by the U.S. and United Kingdom (in particular) into an isolation which forced Moscow into an inevitable and growing interdependence on the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

On Sept. 21, 2022, President Putin announced a partial military mobilization in Russia, reportedly activating 300,000 reserve troops for the Ukraine war. He said that he was not at this time considering introducing military conscription. At the same time, he committed extra funds to increase Russian defense-related production. Russian armor and aircraft producers had, in fact, been delivering significant new stocks of Su-35 fighters, T-90 main battle tanks, and other matériel during September 2022.

Media reporting in the West, Ukraine, and Russia cannot be relied upon for a long-term view of events. History demonstrates that Russia, after accepting an adversary’s thrusts, regroups and relies on significant geographic, human, and resource depth to respond. Stalin, the ultimate marxist-globalist, when facing the German Operation Barbarossa’s three-million invading troops in 1942, fell back in disarray before appealing to “Russian” nationalism, abandoning the globalist Soviet ideology until Germany was defeated.

And Russia has far greater strategic depth than Ukraine. Xi Jinping, as he saw the PRC under growing threat after 2012, also abandoned the Communist Party of China’s historical anti-nationalist stance, and has revived nationalism as a motivating force for the Party.

History is the best intelligence.