LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Alex Salmond should apologise for his poor call over Vladimir Putin

paddy ashdown - paul walter“Lib Dem Statesman Paddy Ashdown”. That’s how the headline in Paddy’s Sunday Mail article describes him.

Paddy is writing in response to Alex Salmond’s comments on Vladimir Putin . As a reminder, this is what Salmond said:

Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.

“He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing. There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the intermesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally; they are lovely people.

Paddy is withering in his analysis of Salmond’s abilities on the international diplomacy scene.

These two crossed swords in 1999 when Salmond condemned humanitarian airstrikes in Kosovo which Paddy fully supported. At the time, Salmond described them as “unpardonable folly” and said history would prove him right.

First of all, Paddy talks about why he’s intervening:

I HAVE been reluctant to speak out on the Scottish referendum or Alex Salmond.

I understand that the decision you will make on September 18 is one that should be taken by Scots about the future of your country.

But the events of the last week mean I can no longer remain silent.

Alex Salmond aspires to be the first leader of an independent Scotland.

He already plays a role in representing Scotland around the world. And, as the man advocating independence, what he says matters.

With so little detail about what independent Scotland’s foreign policy would look like, Salmond’s comments about Vladimir Putin – made as Russian tanks were massing on the border with Ukraine last week – will be pored over by governments worldwide.

He then looks back to Kosovo:

I called those remarks disgraceful and I stand by that today, particularly with everything that happened
subsequently in the Balkans.

Fifteen years have passed since the British intervention in Kosovo – an action that brought to an end what the
UN later called “a systematic campaign of terror” during which Serb troops tried to eradicate the Albanian

It is a period in our recent history in which I believe we can take pride and which demonstrates the great good that can be achieved when our troops are deployed for truly humanitarian purposes.

At a crucial time for the world, Salmond needs to show a bit more judgement, says Paddy:

That is why what leaders say and how they say it matters. There isn’t any place for political opportunism and party positioning; leaders need to work in the best interests of their nations and their allies.

While governments in the West have expressed concern and outrage at Russia’s actions in Crimea and Putin’s human rights record, Mr Salmond spent the last week robustly defending his “admiration” of Putin.

I know when he says this he does not speak for Scots.

But governments around the world attempting to establish independent Scotland’s approach to foreign policy will have heard his praise for Putin loud and clear.

The events leading up to Kosovo showed that Salmond was, in the words of the late Robin Cook, “unfit to lead”.

He said then, “Let me see if I am right”. He was not. Once again, he is on the wrong side of human rights groups and civil society.

You can read the whole article here. Alex Salmond seems to find it even harder than most others to admit when he’s wrong. This article from Private Eye’s Street of Shame might give an insight into his character. His press team comes across as at best precious, taking exception to a cartoon (which, admittedly could have been better done) and threatening to deny the Sunday Post access.

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