Putin’s plot to split the West may be succeeding

The Kremlin is now using every tool it can find to foment divisions within the Nato military alliance

Con Coughlin


17 August 2023 • 6:00am

Russia may be struggling to achieve its military goals in Ukraine, but that has not stopped the Kremlin from continuing its efforts to undermine Western support for the Ukrainian cause. While Kyiv’s counter-offensive is not making the rapid progress many had hoped for at the start of the campaign, it is questionable whether the Ukrainians would even have been able to make the modest gains they have so far achieved were it not for the constant supply of military shipments they continue to receive from the West.

The Ukrainian war effort, moreover, is about to receive a major boost with the arrival of US Abrams main battle tanks, which are due to reach the battlefield next month. This should give the Ukrainians a significant advantage over their adversaries.

To date, Russian efforts to provoke splits within the Western alliance have failed to achieve the desired result, even if the enthusiasm of some Nato countries towards maintaining support for Kyiv is waning. This was evident at last month’s Nato summit in Vilnius, where Ukraine’s attempts to secure a commitment on future membership of the alliance were rebuffed.
The suggestion subsequently made by a senior Nato official that Ukraine would first need to cede some of its territory to Moscow in order to secure membership presented a more accurate picture of what some Nato leaders are really thinking. This is despite the fact that compromising Ukraine’s territorial integrity is completely unacceptable to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who dismissed the notion as “ridiculous”.

Even so, with opinion polls in Europe identifying a clear divide between those who want to maintain solidarity with the Ukrainian cause and those, especially citizens affected by the cost of living crisis, who back a negotiated settlement, there is undoubtedly fertile ground the Kremlin can exploit to exacerbate divisions within the Western alliance.

In such circumstances, it would hardly be surprising if the Kremlin were to intensify its spying operations against the West. The more intelligence and information the Kremlin can glean about Western thinking on the Ukraine issue, the better equipped it will be to sow division and discord.

Indeed, British intelligence officials warn that there are now more Russian spies operating in Britain and Europe than at any time since the Cold War. At the same time there has been a significant upsurge in hostile Russian activity against key Western infrastructure, such as mapping key communications and energy networks that can be targeted in the event of an escalation in tensions with Moscow.

A fleet of Russian spy ships was recently detected operating in the North Sea where they were suspected of identifying possible targets for sabotage operations. Russian attempts to test the readiness of Britain’s air defences, meanwhile, resulted in RAF Typhoon jets being scrambled to intercept Russian bombers earlier this week. 

As a former senior officer in the Soviet Union’s KGB intelligence service, Vladimir Putin particularly understands the value of high-grade intelligence, which no doubt explains the recent increase in activity by Western security forces aimed at disrupting Moscow’s intelligence-gathering operations.

This week’s arrest of three members of a suspected Russian spy ring following a British counter-espionage operation comes against a backdrop of other arrests being made across Europe. Last week, a German military procurement officer was arrested after being accused of passing secrets to Moscow, while an official with Germany’s Foreign Intelligence Service (BND) was arrested on similar charges last December. A security guard working at the British Embassy in Berlin was jailed for 13 years in February after pleading guilty to passing a “significant amount of material” to Moscow.

Efforts to send a clear message to Russia that the West remains united in its support for Ukraine have not been helped by the fact that more than 50 per cent of European companies operating in Russia before the war are continuing to do business with the country.

The collapse in the value of the rouble, which has fallen by 40 per cent since November, prompting the central bank to raise interest rates to an eye-watering 12 per cent, bears testament to the effectiveness of the sanctions regime imposed against Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Yet these sanctions are surely being undermined by the insistence of leading European companies, such as the UK’s Unilever group, to maintain operations in the country.

The willingness of big European concerns to continue doing business with Moscow not only undermines the effectiveness of international sanctions. It sends yet another signal to the Kremlin that there may be a significant constituency within Europe’s elite that believes their interests are better served by engaging with Russia than making sure Ukraine emerges victorious from this bitter conflict.


  1. Selected comments from DT readers:

    five dialogues :
I don’t think there is any clear dividing line in the West about support for Ukraine, just look at the masses of flags being flown, the reception the Russians get, and the generosity shown to Ukrainians fleeing the bombing. The support is rock solid. 
None of these people know the history of Ukraine, the casus belli cited on either side or the geopolitical games that might animate policy and political leaders. 
This is a straight forwards understanding of what has happened and how the Russians have behaved: with barbarity and waged not a military campaign but a campaign of unrelenting criminality against these people. 
The support for Ukraine is 100% and unconditional because it strikes at the very heart of human understanding and psychology. 
Ukraine is close enough in proximity to be classed as a member of a tribe; the basic legality, ethics and morality that people of all persuasions understand the world have been offended by the actions of the Russians. 
And the legal framework that has been in-situ to deter war since the last gang of psychopathic fascists with appeals to Glory, have been violated, and people understand from all corners of the World understand if this happens it will not stop. 
The threat from Russia is personal, just as the British people viewed Hitler’s threat to themselves as personal. The kremlin’s threat to Ukraine, and brutality dealt out to their own people is an offence and offensive to all people. 
So, if some Norwegian decides he wants to offer solipsism to articulate a herd instinct. Good luck with that one. Lets hope he never needs a democratic endorsement. 
He needs to leave it to those who win wars, elections and fight for the Just. 

Finian Manson 
Thank God that that Poodle of Putin’s, the German stooge and witch on a broomstick as defence minister, VDL, is not yet secretary general of NATO

    Chris Barrett:
    Russian media watch.
    Vladimir Solovyov and his fellow propagandists tried to convince everyday Russians that their rightful place is not with the West, but with North Korea and Iran. They compared Trump to the faltering ruble and continued to hope for civil war in the US.

    Matt Forster
    There are some positive factors: significant regions of Europe like the Nordics, the Baltics and most of East Europe remain unwavering in their backing of Ukraine, and president Zelensky enjoys massive popular support within his country. Also, the steady flow of arms and ammunition from the US, Germany, the UK and most recently from Sweden (its 13th package to date) means Ukraine is getting equipped faster than Russia and with much better kit.
    The motivated Ukrainians are wearing down Putin’s war machine and his troops are suffering from increasingly low morale, not knowing what they are fighting for.

    Peter Hodge
    Apart from a few political pigmies, I don’t seen any fracture in support for Ukraine. We are becoming aligned with the prospect of a new cold war that isolated Putin’s barbaric regime. Ukraine may not have been a perfect example of a democracy before the war, but their population have turned toward western democracies as an example of how there’s a better way than murdering a kleptocracy. let’s not let them down, and support them with whatever they need.

  2. Thanks Scradgel for putting all this together. I know it takes time and effort and I appreciate everything you’re doing to keep these atrocities, tragedies and war at forefront. This obviously applies to all the Knights of this site. Without this effort the world would have one less piece of the truth coming out.

    • Indeed, Sir Scradge always puts in a lot of effort to let us know what some people think. I also appreciate it.

  3. I disagree that the West is being divided by mafia land with regard to Ukraine. Ukraine might not get certain weapons it needs, but it still gets humanitarian support, as well as political, military, and economical.

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