Friday 23 March 2018

UK v Russia: diplomatic ping-pong continues

No doubt to the government's continued relief the alleged attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter allegedly by or with the connivance of the Russian state continues to hog the headlines.
The otherwise beleaguered Theresa May has even gained some kudos by garnering support from most of the EU members, though some of it is qualified.

The tabloids and Tory supporting press have poured scorn on the more  measured  response of Jeremy Corbyn, who, quite reasonably  in my view, has pointed out that it would be wiser not to jump to conclusions before we have firmer evidence of official  Russian involvement, and that, whatever that  evidence may turn out to be, we have to continue working with the Russians and their  government in the future.

Poor Mr Corbyn (of whom I am not a political supporter - I am a died in the wool Liberal) must have the worst job in British politics: reviled by the press who grasp every opportunity to paint him as a dangerous "red under the bed" and subject to back-stabbing by MPs of his own party - notably Stephen Kinnock and Yvette Cooper.

By contrast the idiocies of Boris Johnson, sadly the Foreign Secretary and so our chief diplomat, who has likened Putin the Hitler, and the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson , who contributed the playground jibe, "Putin should go away and shut up," pass for measured and mature contributions.

It would be demeaning to describe the attempted murder of anyone anywhere as a "storm in a teacup" but it is worth remembering that Sergei Skripal is a former spy and so it may have been lacking in prudence on his part to be living openly under his own name rather than secretly under a pseudonym.  The stories of James Bond, licensed to kill on anybody's sovereign territory, remind us that the possibility of assassination is par for the course in the spying industry.  Or maybe that's just fiction:  I've no idea.

What is undoubted fact is that the US assign to themselves the right to kill, without any trial or other due process of law, anyone anywhere whom  they believe to be a danger to them via bombs dropped from drones, and regardless of the lives of anyone else, however innocent, who happens to be in the vicinity.

I'm not sure whether we  British also do this, or connive at it, or just stand by and nod tacit approval.  Whatever, there seems to be one law for the West and another for the rest.

If we want to inject read diplomacy into the process we need to remember that Russia is a proud nation.  Its contribution to the victory over Nazism, certainly in terms of lives lost, was immense.(estimates vary but, according to this site upwards of  25 000 000 compared with 567 000 French, 450 700 British and
418 500 from the US) .

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia has, like Britain in an earlier period, "lost an empire and not yet found a role."  Sadly the reaction of the West has been to rub Russia's nose in its self-perceived humiliation but inviting former satellite states, some would say prematurely, into the EU, and, worse, inviting some to join the former enemy NATO.

I am not arguing that these overtures should never have been made, but they could have been  offered at a more measured pace and with more consideration for Russian sensitivity.  That.s what diplomacy should be about.

No wonder Russia votes for a "strong" leader who is perceived to do the pushing rather than be pushed around. That the American electorate has stepped in the same direction adds to the international danger.

Rather than helping, Britain's present tantrums are adding fuel to the flames.

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