In today’s west, there are essentially two varieties of Russia-haters. First of all, one has the classic group who simply hate everything they think Russia is and stands for in spite of the fact they could not recognise a Pushkin quote from a Putin quote, do not know the significance of the 9th of May and refuse to visit Helsinki because of its proximity to Russia.
This group are easily dismissed as hysterics who go from knowing nothing about Russia to being suspiciously well versed in the ‘liberation movement’ of those marching with Nazi insignia, insignia which such people would otherwise rightly never support….unless aimed against Russia.
Then there is a second group of Russia-haters in the west, a group who prove correct the adage, ‘a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’. These are people who have thought about Russia, many of whom have been to and some of whom have worked in Russia.
They arrive with foregone conclusions and whilst they may make slight amendments, they still shape their overall views based around the initial hypothesis. Some of these people may feel themselves traitorous to the western script on Russian affairs should they stray too far and others simply are true believers in this script.
A good example of this is a recent article in London’s Evening Standard penned by Sir Christopher Meyer. In the article Meyer argued that a diplomatic rapprochement between Britain and Russia is a good thing and the reason for this was summed up more or less by saying ‘why not’? If he had stopped there, I would have found the article positive if a bit feeble. But when Meyer made of list of ‘Russian sins’ that those in Britain should ostensibly be concerned about, the whole thing unravelled sensationally.
This list of ‘sins’ is, simply put, a list of untruths. Here it is.
- “The seizure of Crimea”–By this Meyer means the decision of Crimea’s Parliament to vote for independence and a subsequent referendum in which a vast majority of the population voted to become a republic within the Russian Federation.
- “The invasion of Ukraine”–By this he means that Ukraine has invaded itself in a civil war against those in Donbass trying to exercise self-determination. This war has been marked by civilian deaths, torture, kidnapping and child rape. Russia’s military are not nor have ever been involved.
- “Russia’s refusal to extradite to the UK the main suspects in the polonium poisoning in London of former Russian secret service officer Alexander Litvinenko”.–By this he means that first of all Russia does not extradite her citizens as a matter of law. Secondly, no sound case against Andrey Lugovoy has been made by anyone, anywhere and even the current British government seems to want this dead horse to be buried.
- “Aggressive rearmament”—Because Russia has decided to build her nation adjacent to several new NATO bases which are being more heavily equipped by the week, Russia should apologise and totally disarm, because after all, the new shiny NATO tanks are probably there to deliver ice cream to starving Russians along with a copy of the Lisbon treaty….sorry I just can’t take this one remotely seriously.
- “Harassment of the Baltic States”—The only harassment going on in the Baltic states is the treatment of Red Army veterans often being bullied when commemorating the victory over fascism and having to witness the disturbing scenes of those commemorating people who fought for Hitler.
Lastly, he adds a tentative sin to his list, Russia’s aid of ‘bloodthirsty’ Assad. To his credit Meyer backtracks on this emphasising that defeating ISIS is a priority over taking issue with Moscow.
For readers outside of Europe or North America, this is a debate some people in the West actually engage in: where the very real threat of ISIS is somehow close to being or is on a par with being close to the (non-existent) threat from Russia. There is no logic here, but this is the level to which debate about Russia in the West has sunk to.
I am not challenging Sir Christopher Meyer’s record nor am I saying that he does not believe what he says. His statements of untruth are par for the course for someone in his position.
But what does worry me is that he has abused his credibility. When those with otherwise personal credibility make incredulous statements, they will be believed by those who haven’t researched the issues more deeply.
Whilst Britain’s attempted rapprochement with Russia is a backtrack on the policy of the previous Conservative and Labour governments, there is no need to keep telling untruth upon untruth in order to save face.
Yes it is a new government with many old faces, but if a leader as flippant as President Erdogan can admit that ‘sorry is the hardest word’ and still say it, then surely a British government can do the same.