Tag Archives: russia

I hope the Russians love their children too

As I made my way to work I noticed an increased police presence on the Moscow Metro on that frosty April 3rd. A football match? Arriving there, I saw my Russian colleagues scrambling for their phones to call relatives in St Petersburg. A 22 year Kyrgyz-Russian Islamist had unleashed an improvised suicide bomb on a metro carriage near Sennaya Ploshad. The death toll has now come to fifteen, with forty-nine people injured.

When in November two years back terrorists laid siege to a night club in Paris, Muscovites lit up their Ostankino Radio tower in the French tricolour to express shared humanity; when St Petersburg’s atrocity occurred the Eiffel tower did not display the white-blue-red colours of the flag of the Russian Federation. Indeed, when there came a terrible, but less dramatic, attack in Stockholm four days later Russia’s loss seemed to become forgotten by the Western media.

Meanwhile the U.K seems intent on becoming what George Eaton, in the New Statesman, calls `Russia’s greatest foe`. The Tory government has sent out 800 troops and long-range missiles to Estonia. May, meanwhile, has discouraged M.Ps from attending Anglo-Russian parliamentary groups on grounds of the `security risk` (N.S, 11/4/17). Johnson – who Corbyn was right to call a `cold war warrior`- has reneged on a scheduled diplomacy mission to the Kremlin. This is at the same time that May is going cap in hand to the Saudis for trade deals!

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 29 Comments

Yabloko: Keeping Russia’s Liberal flame alight

Last September an all too rare event could be seen at the exits of some Moscow metro stations: young people were dishing out leaflets in a campaign for candidates in the municipal elections of that year. They stood before stalls and banners emblazoned with a green circle intersected by a red wedge: the emblem of the Russian United Democratic Party – Yabloko.

Whilst ever more stereotyped as a `centre of illiberalism`, the Russian Federation can boast its own liberal heritage – and one that culminated in the short-lived provisional government of early 1917. Yabloko might be viewed as the contemporary legal and constitutional heir to that facet of Russian history.

Yabloko (`apple`) emerged in 1993 and became an official political party eight years later. They adopted a unique stance of supporting the post-Soviet democratic reforms yet criticising Yeltsin’s authoritarianism and his so called `shock therapy` privatisation drive. Without doubt, they are something of a voice in the wilderness in the climate of sociocultural conservatism in Russian society.

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 3 Comments

A new propaganda

Very nearly every political movement since the late 18th century has its roots in the enlightenment, from American constitutionalism to the rational imperialism of Napoleon. It is hard to overstate its influence on every strand of modern political thought, from conservatism to socialism to liberalism. All built on this revelation: that facts matter more than faith, and reason is greater than fear.

The fascism of Italy, that spread like wildfire across Europe and then the rest of the world, was not built on the foundations of the enlightenment. It was instead a rejection of the values espoused by it, a direct reaction to reason and humanism. Fascism dictates that acting as one is more important than what is actually true, and that the truth dictated by those in power is supreme to any other, no matter what evidence might say. As Sartre said: “ have chosen hate because hate is a faith to them; at the outset they have chosen to devalue words and reasons.”

I recently finished reading Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev, a harrowing account of the post-Soviet media under Putin’s regime. He describes how the propaganda under Putin, like that of the Nazi Party and the Italian Fascists before it, works not by espousing a single version of the truth, but by undermining the very concept of truth. It calls into doubt all sources, until the public believes none, and instead sees all truth merely as an act of faith. Evidence is not of intrinsic worth in a such an environment, but is instead perceived to be a rhetorical tool like any other.

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Observations of an ex pat: Tough for Trump

Donald Trump is in a no-win situation as regards  Russian hacking vs. American intelligence agencies vs Donald Trump.

Putin, as we all know by now, has been accused by all the American intelligence agencies (and several foreign ones) of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and leaking the contents to help Trump win the US presidency.

The Russian President has denied this as he has denied many other misdeeds. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he channel for the leaks, has backed him up. So has Donald Trump.

On the other side of the fence are, not surprisingly, a Democratic Party in search of a scapegoat to explain the inexplicable and America’s spy nerds.

Trump can’t really say that he agrees with the intelligence agencies. To do so would leave him branded as Putin’s poodle and undermine his mandate to govern. 

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Aleppo must be a wake up call

Amid the humanitarian catastrophe that has been the siege and fall of Aleppo, both supporters and opponents of earlier calls for military action by the West against Assad have been claiming vindication by events. Perhaps some are relieved that the TV pictures of bloodied children in rubble can be attributed to Russian bombs rather than Western ones.

And perhaps we are guilty – as the EU is supposedly guilty of welcoming closer ties with Ukraine – of seeing a potential for good in the Arab Spring. Torment nobody with the promise of freedom and democracy unless you can deliver it, at gunpoint if necessary? Don’t start a civil war you can’t win, however bad your government?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 29 Comments

Lib Dem peer takes part in World War Three

Kishwer Falkner has taken part in a gripping and chillingly realistic BBC Two TV programme.

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‘Iraq 2’. Why the Lib Dem’s Syria conflict position in parliament is militarily and politically unwise

On Tuesday, Tim Farron expressed the party’s position on the coming ‘Syria conflict’ vote in parliament in a letter to PM David Cameron.

It set out five conditions for Lib Dem support for an escalation of British involvement in Syria. It will no doubt be taken by the UK government as conditions for Lib Dem support for a general major escalation.

The first ‘condition’ was that military action against Islamic State in Syria should follow international law. The letter expressed acceptance of UN Resolution 2249. This UN resolution however does not authorise actions against IS, nor does it provide a legal basis for the use of force generally against IS in Syria or in Iraq. It only supports states in doing what they are already doing under existing international laws, specifically on IS-held territory. As such this supports existing Russian and Iranian military involvement as much as existing Western involvement.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 28 Comments
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