Scottish independence: Why is Vladimir Putin a supporter? – Dr Azeem Ibrahim

An independent Scotland would be much more vulnerable to the designs of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, writes Professor Azeem Ibrahim.

Does Russian President Vladimir Putin have Scotland's best interests at heart, questions Azeem Ibrahim (Picture: Alexey Druzhinin/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Does Russian President Vladimir Putin have Scotland's best interests at heart, questions Azeem Ibrahim (Picture: Alexey Druzhinin/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Since coming to power in late 1999, Vladimir Putin has set about rebuilding “Soviet greatness”, by recasting Russia into the “natural opponent” of the “Western world order”.

He has failed miserably at rebuilding Russia internally into the economic and scientific powerhouse it used to be, but he has managed to place Russia into a position of permanent antagonism to everything “Western”, whether or not that makes any sense.

The United Kingdom is the historical progenitor of what we today call the Western world, and remains a key pillar of the Western alliance. To dismantle it is a feverish wet dream for Putin and the deluded revanchist nationalists that surround him in the Kremlin. And the prospect of Scottish independence is the most immediate way in which this may come to pass.

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Picture the scene: the first consequence of a plebiscite in favour of independence will be an unholy mess about the nuclear deterrent. The SNP have already made it clear that they would want Trident out of the Clyde as soon as possible, and the rest of the UK does not have any other location that is as strategically sound as the Clyde, plus moving the operations would take years – time during which the nuclear deterrent would be semi-paralysed.

Meanwhile, a newly independent Scotland would already be closer to Russia’s sphere of influence through the various friendships cultivated between Russian influence agents and the SNP (remember the close ties between Alex Salmond and Russia Today, to name but the most well known example).

And a newly independent Scotland governed by anyone other than the SNP would also struggle to resist Moscow if the latter continued to apply pressure to the British Isles, in the way they have been recently testing our national airspace and our territorial waters.

Scotland would be much more vulnerable to the designs of the Kremlin, and it would be very much at the forefront of the Kremlin’s attention, as one of the best vectors to further undermine other parts of the Western alliance, especially the remainder of the UK.

Upon independence, Scotland would also find itself in immediate financial troubles: a problem that Uncle Vlad would no doubt be eager to help with. And particularly an SNP government would have aligned “messaging” (read propaganda) needs to blame everything that goes wrong in Scotland during the transition period and for a while after on dark manoeuvres from Westminster.

But though some parts of the political scene in Scotland would certainly look forward to collaborating with the Kremlin, we really do need to ask ourselves: is Putin really a friend of the people of Scotland?

Does he share our values, and are we really pursuing the same long-term goals? And if Mr Putin is so in favour of Scottish independence, should that not give us reason to pause and examine what his actual motives are, and whether they are indeed aligned with our future well-being and where we see ourselves going as a country?

Dr Azeem Ibrahim is a research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College

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