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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Observer Blasts the Neo-Soviet Kremlin

An editorial in the Sunday Observer, referred by an anonymous commenter (who suggests clicking through the link and reading the pathological frenzy of Russophile commenters, including obviously a number of Nashi freaks, lashing out at what is in fact a rather moderate view of the situation):

The diplomatic atmosphere between Britain and Russia has been getting sharply chillier since Moscow refused to extradite the man Scotland Yard accuses of the murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko. There were tit-for-tat embassy expulsions. Now the BBC World Service has had its licence to broadcast in Moscow revoked.

But this is a sideshow in a broader story of Russia's growing suspicion of the West and a tendency towards neo-Soviet grandstanding. President Vladimir Putin last week said that, in response to 'strategic threats by other military powers', Russian long-range bombers would resume their Cold War routine of flights around the world. Russian jets have also started testing Nato defences, 'buzzing' targets near US and UK bases.

Russia is particularly peeved about US plans to deploy an anti-missile defence shield, supported by facilities in former Eastern Bloc countries. Moscow does not believe Washington's claim that the shield is meant to ward off future Iranian or North Korean attacks.

Russian insecurity is easy to understand. The collapse of the Soviet Union cost Russia its global trading system, its European military alliance and a huge swath of its territory, including many ethnic Russians now resident in neighbouring states. Any country that went through such a trauma might react by retreating into aggrieved ultra-nationalism. That is what Germany did, for example, after the First World War.

The comparison can be overstated. The Soviet Union did not suffer a military defeat in 1991 and the West did not impose punitive reparations. But it is striking how much Mr Putin's international sabre-rattling is matched by authoritarian tendencies at home. Political dissent has been crushed and state media promote a cult of the President.

Last week's scrambling of aged bombers to patrol the skies is a desperate bid for international attention and domestic applause. Such posturing is a sign of weakness. Russia has an underdeveloped economy, dependent on rising oil prices. Mr Putin wants recognition and respect from the West more than conflict. He is open to negotiation. But we must be wary of this neo-Soviet state. Britain can reassure Russia that it wants co-operation and partnership. But history warns of the danger of appeasing aggressive nationalism.


Anonymous said...

Did you see this one from "New York Dave"?:

August 19, 2007 9:22 PM

What a bunch of chavs the Russians are flexing their military muscles.
Who do they think they are Britain?
Should they invade anywhere we must realise that it will be just for the good of the locals.
Like Iraq.

New York Dave.

Since when do New Yorkers spell realize with an s?

Anonymous said...

LOL, Russians get taught English with the British ("International English") spellings, why do they try to be opaque - they are so bad at it!