A new ‘Iron Curtain is already descending’ between Russia and the West after Ukraine invasion, Putin’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warns
A new Iron Curtain has begun to descend across Europe following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s foreign minister has declared today.
‘As far as an iron curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending,’ on Europe he said. ‘They should just be careful not to pinch anything.’
It comes after the West heavily sanctioned Russia in retaliation for Putin ordering his troops into Ukraine, and began giving Kyiv weapons to drive back the assault.
Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Minsk after meeting with Alexander Lukashenko, warned European leaders ‘not to pinch anything’ as a new Iron Curtain descends across the continent
He spoke after NATO agreed to reinforce its eastern flank, and declared Russia to be the biggest threat to the continent’s security
Putin (right, meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo today) has been hammered by sanctions and largely cut off from Western trade since the invasion
What was the original Iron Curtain?
The Iron Curtain was the name given to the political, ideological and later military barrier that separated western from eastern Europe between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Winston Churchill is credited with coining the term in a 1946 speech, when he said of Communist states: ‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.’
He delivered the address at a time when the UK, US and Soviets were dividing Europe into ‘spheres of influence’ as they planned for a post-war peace that they hoped would avoid mistakes made after the end of the First World War.
Begun in good faith, the talks gradually fell apart as Stalin worked to create a buffer zone of allied eastern European states to shield Russia from attacks from central Europe, sparking fears among Western allies that the Soviets could become powerful enough to dominate the whole continent.
That led to the creation of NATO in 1949, in turn sparking the rival Warsaw Pact of Soviet states in 1955.
Trade, migration, cultural exchanges and communication between the two blocs was heavily restricted, as the two sides fought proxy wars against one-another, engaged in a nuclear arms race, and bid to beat each other in economically and technologically.
Though the East-West boundary was largely ideological, it did include a number of physical borders – most notably the Berlin Wall that separated West Berlin from East Germany from 1961 until it fell in 1989.
The same year, Poland dissolved its Communist government and reestablished democracy – signalling the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain which crumbled in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The original ‘Iron Curtain’ described the way Soviet Union and allied eastern European states sealed off contact with the West after the Second World War.
Now, Western nations have begun cutting themselves off from Russia and its allies over the war in Ukraine, arguing it is a threat to global security and established order.
Lavrov sought to dismiss Russia’s growing isolation today, saying Moscow has not had any diplomatic relations with the EU since it last attacked Ukraine in 2014.
The EU is not at all interested in understanding our interests,’ Lavrov said.
‘It is interested in what has been decided in Brussels. And what has been decided in Washington has been decided in Brussels.’
Russia is now into the fifth month of fighting in Ukraine after what was supposed to be a days-long ‘special military operation’ spectacularly backfired.
Despite making gains in the south and east, it has been handed a series of humiliating battlefield defeats – retreating from Snake Island earlier today.
Moscow’s forces pulled back from the tiny spit of land – around 90 miles off the coast of Odesa – after being subjected to days of heavy artillery bombardment.
Russia occupied the island on the first day of the war, landing troops there after warship Moskva ordered the garrison to surrender and was memorably told: ‘Russian warship, go f*** yourself!’
The 100-acre parcel of land has little practical use but is of strategic importance, helping the occupier control waters south of Odesa – Ukraine’s main port.
Without control over the island, the chances of Russia launching an assault on Odesa – identified by generals as a key aim of the war – look increasingly remote.
Russia has also lost 25,000 troops, more than 1,000 tanks, and seen its economy go into reverse after heavy sanctions were applied.
Meanwhile Western leaders seem to be revelling in a rare moment of unity, this week agreeing to support Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’ at the G7 summit before committing thousands of extra troops to Europe’s defence at a NATO summit.
Jens Stoltenberg, head of the alliance, set out an ambition to build NATO’s army to 300,000 troops ready to deploy at short notice, while Joe Biden committed thousands more US soldiers to Europe.
Russia is into its fifth month fighting in Ukraine having suffered a series of humiliating defeats, most-recently its retreat from Snake Island (pictured)
Western leaders have vowed to support Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’ as it tries to hold back Russian forces fighting to capture its eastern and southern regions
NATO is also preparing to welcome Finland and Sweden after Turkey dropped its opposition to them joining, which will add tens of thousands of troops and state-of-the-art equipment to its ranks.
A new strategy for the alliance, covering the next 10 years, identifies Russia as the biggest threat to Europe’s security – having previously described it as a ‘partner’.
‘I think we can all agree that this has been a historic NATO Summit,’ Biden told reporters afterwards.
‘The world has changed a great deal,’ Biden added.
‘This summit was about strengthening our alliances, meeting the challenges of our world as it is a day, and the threats we’re going to face in the future.’
Biden and other G7 leaders also agreed $5billion in funding to help stave off a global food crisis, exacerbated by the war.
Russia is blockading Ukraine’s ports, preventing millions of tons of grain that previously fed some of the world’s poorest and most-vulnerable people from leaving.
Efforts to get the food out by road and rail are underway, but those routes cannot match the capacity of the huge grain ships Ukraine previously used.
The UN has warned of multiple simultaneous famines and global instability if the crisis is not addressed, which would pile pressure on Ukraine’s western allies to try and force an early peace deal that would favour Russia.
Speaking about the end-game in Ukraine, Biden today added: ‘I don’t know what it how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine.’
45-year-old Nikolay Mikhailets, who wounded at Amstor shopping mall targeted by Russian missile strike in Kremenchuk
A Ukrainian apartment building that was partially destroyed by a Russian missile