Looking south, Putin is the undisputed master of the Black Sea and what lies beyond the southern defence line of the Caucasus – namely Turkey, and beyond that the rich oil and gasfields of the Middle East
Putin’s creeping annexation of the third division of Ukraine, with only Western sanctions to stop him, runs along a southern pincer movement which takes in the Mykolaiv Oblast and the Odessa Oblast, and the two cities of Nikolaev and Odessa: his Siloviki military-politicians stirred up the troubles there last week.
And what are his prizes here, and who are his men on the ground? Nikolaev, a closed city in the USSR era, is the centre of diesel engine manufacture, required in tanks and in energy generation and pumping gas. This requires the steel of East Ukraine, and Odessa is the only warm-water port, therefore the biggest for the whole of Russia, and is full of good gangster placemen possibilities.
Now Putin would have a southern pincer movement on Kiev itself, while telling the West he has no interest in Lviv to the west and the five or six Oblasts surrounding it. They can go back to East Europe where they came from.
Thus, for the umpteenth time, the map of Ukraine is redrawn and their first chance of creating a unified nation for hundreds of years has been destroyed by their own rulers stealing the wealth of this beautiful and fertile country, as tacitly supported by Putin to do so, provided they paid their dues to Moscow.
And then there is a sliver of Moldova to the west, not often delineated on the map and called Transnistria, which is fervently pro-Moscow, and it’s a simple matter to use this corridor to annexe Moldova as well. And now Putin’s Russia has a border with East Europe, with Romania.
But more importantly, looking south, he is the undisputed master of the Black Sea, the size of the North Sea, and what lies beyond the southern defence line of the Caucasus – namely Turkey, which is a member of a now-toothless NATO in this theatre, and beyond lie the rich oil and gasfields of the Middle East.
In the Middle East Putin has already defied the UN, with the help of China, bolstering the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to keep control of Syria, home to Russia’s East Mediterranean fleet, despite its expanding full-blown civil war, which the West has decided not to get involved in.
Syria has long borders with now defenceless Iraq, producer of 16 per cent of the global oil market, which shares one border with volatile nuclear Iran – yes, Putin has been meddling there too recently to thwart EU-led western nuclear initiatives – and with another long defenceless border with the biggest prize of all, soft-bellied Saudi Arabia.
Now, ask yourself if he controls all this, and the pipelines and the steel to make them and the pumping stations, who has complete control over energy-stricken continental Europe one way and China the other?
The US reaction is listless. And what has Putin achieved for posterity? A resurgent regional powerhouse in Russia, and a reputation greater than Alexander the Great’s, plus the biggest personal fortune the world has ever seen.
Not bad for a little boy born the son of a naval conscript and a factory-worker, who rose through the ranks of the KGB in Dresden, to enter politics and achieve absolute power. And, inevitably, absolute corruption.