Putin Orders Russians to Return Home Amid New Cold War

In an unprecedented move that has alarmed many in the international community, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly issued an order early this week for all Russian officials and their relatives living abroad to fly home amid heightened tensions with the West and the prospect of a global war.

According to reports in the international and local media, Russian politicians, administrative staff and employees of public corporations have been ordered to take their children out of foreign schools immediately. If true, the move comes after a stormy week in Russian-Western relations.

Putin cancelled a planned visit to France amid a furious row over Moscow's role in the Syrian conflict and just days after it emerged the Kremlin had moved Iskander nuclear missile batteries to the Polish border.

The unprecedented cancellation of a visit so close to being finalized is a “serious step and reminiscent of the Cold War”, said Russian foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov.

“This is part of the broader escalation in the tensions between Russia and the West, and Russia and NATO,' he told AFP.

The Kremlin’s indignation towards the international community was on full display earlier in the week accusing the US, UK and France of spreading anti-Russian hysteria after each said Russia should face war crimes for its role in the Syrian Civil War.

Putin was further incensed when US President Barack Obama cited CIA reports that Russia’s feared-FSB security service has been engaged in an intense campaign of cyber warfare against key Western countries for the better part of two years.

Russia has been ratcheting up talk of an armed confrontation with the West since early October.

On October 7, the Kremlin launched a massive nationwide civil defense training exercise to ensure the country is properly prepared forna nuclear, chemical and biological attack from NATO.

Lasting three days, the exercise involved 200,000 emergency personnel and the co-operation of 40 million civilians.

The exercise came after the popular Defense Ministry-run Zvezda TV network announced. "Schizophrenics from America are sharpening their nuclear weapons for use against Russia."

Despite the claims of the Russian media, Western officials have been reluctant to deem the recent events as anything more than a rise in tensions between the two sides.

Despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, occupation of Georgian territory and actions in Syria – officials in Washington and London refuse to classify Russian officials’ open threats of armed conflict or a nuclear exchange as a New Cold War.

Russia recently unilaterally pulled out of two key nuclear arms treaties and bombed a UN aid convoy in Syria that killed dozens – actions that UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “were turning Russia into a pariah state.”

Nicholas Waller

13 October 2016 19:33