Menzies Campbell MP on Salmond’s “disturbing lack of judgement” over Putin

Alex Salmond - License Some rights reserved by Ewan McIntoshYou would think that politicians would have more sense than to express any sort of admiration for Vladimir Putin. Alex Salmond has followed in the footsteps of Nigel Farage. He told Alistair Campbell for GQ:

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.

The Telegraph’s report has Salmond adding that you can see Putin carries support in Russia. Someone who goes out of their way to suppress opposition like Putin does is bound to come out well in the polls. And how anyone can show any sort of admiration for a man whose regime sets out to persecute members of the LGBT community and who locked up members of the band Pussy Riot for years is beyond me.

This is not the first time Alex Salmond has put his foot in it when it comes to foreign affairs. Way back in 1999, he referred to military action in Kosovo at “unpardonable folly.”

Menzies Campbell has called his comments a “disturbing lack of judgement.”

I am afraid to say that Mr Salmond’s admiration for “certain aspects” of Vladimir Putin’s leadership reflects a disturbing lack of judgement. The explanation that this was before recent events in Ukraine is wholly unconvincing. Mr Putin’s disregard for human rights, his tolerance of homophobia and his territorial ambitions have been well known for a long time. They are clear illustrations of the kind of leadership he offers. President Assad has benefitted from Mr Putin’s unequivocal support and ordinary Syrians, particularly women and children, have paid a terrible price.

“The sad truth is that Russia’s unacceptable behaviour over the Crimea and now eastern Ukraine has come as no surprise. The First Minister should avoid judgements for which he is clearly unqualified.

But it’s not just Putin Salmond admires. He’s got a wee soft spot for Nigel Farage, too. Without a trace of irony, he said:

He is having influence beyond his significance so you have to admire that. There is a constituency for saloon bar politics and he has played it out. I have a sneaking regard for anyone who takes on powerful establishments.

Salmond’s SNP government is now the establishment in Scotland. It thinks it’s above the law, ignoring and defying freedom of information requests.I suspect he doesn’t want to be too nasty about Farage because he’s chasing the same kind of voters as UKIP does. UKIP are nowhere in Scotland and won’t be even in this European election. However, as Stephen Tall showed this morning from his review of Revolt on the Right, UKIP’s voters tend to be older white working class males who are somehow disaffected from politics. Salmond needs these voters in Scotland to vote for independence on September 18th so he’ll be wary of upsetting them.

It is a bit disconcerting to find my First Minister expressing admiration for these sorts of people.

Update: For those of you who think I’m being too hard on Salmond, you might want to take a look at what someone who has no position in the independence referendum has to say. Siobhan Reardon, the Director of Amnesty Scotland suggested that Salmond had got it very wrong:

Whilst the First Minister may admire certain aspects of Vladimir Putin, as he stated in his interview with Alistair Campbell, we certainly do not admire the way Putin continues to violate the human rights of the Russian people. He has effectively criminalised homosexuality, and is in the process of shutting down democratic dissent through harassment, arbitrary arrests and a judicial process which makes a mockery of the concept of justice. Not to mention the many journalists who have been killed or have ‘disappeared’ for daring to criticise the Kremlin.

And it is with unfortunate irony that Mr Salmond talks of the pride of the Russian people, as Pride marches – a celebration of LGBTI rights – were banned for the next 100 years in 2012, despite the European Court of Human Rights declaring Pride bans in Moscow illegal just two years earlier. Following that, Putin enacted the draconian Anti-Homosexual Propaganda Bill.

In January this year, journalist Elena Klimova was charged under the Anti-Homosexual Propaganda Bill for running Children 404, a website offering support to LGBT teenagers – a literal lifeline to some young people in Russia. Elena’s case is just one Amnesty has been campaigning on and happily a court has ruled she is allowed to continue operating her website – for now.

Putin’s repression is not limited to the LGBT community: Since 2012, nearly 5,000 people have been detained in ‘authorised protests’ in and around Moscow and more than 1,000 NGOs (Amnesty included) have received “inspection” visits and the humble placard looks set to disappear from protests – a few weeks ago a small group of protestors holding invisible placards were arrested and taken to a Moscow police station for posing a dire threat to public order.

Mr Salmond should reserve his admiration for those worthy of it, not those who trample over human rights and flout international law.

 

 

Photo by Ewan McIntosh

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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21 Comments

  • Caron Lindsay writes: “UKIP are nowhere in Scotland and won’t be even in this European election. ” I hate to kick the LibDems while you are down , but felt I should point out that the ICM poll of European Election voting intentions in Scotland a week ago put UKIP in 4th place on 10 percent (just one point behind the Scottish Tories), while the LibDems were in 5th with just 7%. So if UKIP are nowhere in Scotland, where exactly does that put the Liberal Democrats?

  • @Tom Wilde

    And that would have what relevance to Salmond’s apparent support for Putin?

  • This little piece from Ms Lindsay carefully and deliberately fails to mention that this interview,was given before the Crimea crisis.

    And as for the SNP and UKIP chasing the same voters that would be the pro EU SNP and the anti EU UKIP would it?

  • I think it’s more a case of the better UKIP does in England, the more Yes votes Salmond can drum up in Scotland. If Farage stood a real chance of becoming PM, Yes would likely win in a landslide.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Apr '14 - 9:36pm

    Hireton, the fact that it took place before the Crimea crisis is completely irrelevant. Putin’s anti gay laws, his quelling of dissent and imprisonment of Pussy Riot were all well known. His is no respecter of democracy or human rights and there were plenty reasons why Salmond or anyone else should not have expressed admiration for him before he started threatening sovereign territory.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Apr '14 - 9:46pm

    Geoffrey, to be clear, I wouldn’t insinuate any similarity in policy between the SNP and UKIP. Some people have tried to liken them, but they are very different. There is not one single person in racist, homophobic, misogynist UKIP that I think I could work with. There are plenty of people in the SNP I could happily run the country with. It’s just independence I disagree with them on. I will exclude their justice and education secretaries from that, though. Probably their health secretary as well.

    The point I was making is that the SNP need Labour voting men in the central belt to vote for independence to have a chance of winning. These are also the people, if anyone, who are going to be susceptible to Farage’s dubious charms. He, therefore, will not want to upset them, hence his praise of Farage for doing exactly the sort of things that these people like – challenging the political establishment. This is completely ironic given that the SNP have become a fairly rock solid, powerful, impenetrable establishment themselves.

  • Denis Mollison 28th Apr '14 - 11:05pm

    I’m sorry, Lindsay and Ming, but where did Salmond say he “admires” either Putin or Farage? As I read it , he’s saying little more than that they’re effective. And following the takeover of Crimea, and the EUTV debates, it’s hard to disagree.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Apr '14 - 11:15pm

    Denis, why are you calling me Lindsay? You know better than that?:-). Saying anything remotely complimentary about Putin or Farage is really showing poor judgement. Farage has unleashed a horribly racist set of misleading posters designed to create a climate of fear and set people against each other. Salmond’s admiration, sneaking or not, of him is ironic given that he has built a rock solid and impermeable establishment in Scotland. And, as for Putin, this man is pretty brutal, homophobic and anti-democratic. He is brutally suppressing any dissent within Russia. Not the sort of guy to be cosying up to.

    I have no objection to working acoss parties – but there are limits and politicians should be very careful about who they express any sort of positivity for.

  • Over-egging this one a bit. The one sentence I thought was iffy was the bit about restoring Russian pride which must be a good thing. Does seem a little bit admiring there. Bu you can’t criticise him for acknowledging that Putin is an effective operator if that is his view.

    I’m afraid that’s the reality of politics. Sometimes unpleasant people are strategically smart. If you don’t want to consider the importance of that then quit politics and get involved in a local community organisation.

    BTW I’m not convinced Putin is the master strategist people think. He’s possibly quite over-rated.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Apr '14 - 7:49am

    Caron – apologies for my dyslexia!

    I still don’t see anything unreasonable in what’s reported of Salmond’s comments on Putin and Farage – if he said anything indicating real admiration or approval, please point it out.

    Also, why pick on what are bound to be not very serious comments for GQ magazine? Wouldn’t it be better to respond to Salmond’s speech on Europe yesterday? -which I liked both in tone and (mostly) content . No sympathy for Putin or Farage there. [PS The only place I can find his full speech is http://wingsoverscotland.com/in-bruges/ ]

    Best wishes, Denis

  • Paul Reynolds 29th Apr '14 - 7:55am

    Well I suppose Salmond is an old statist-communist at heart. Old communists usually have ‘restoring pride’ at the top of their justifications. Stalin ‘restored the pride’ of the Soviets and the Russian leaders in their colonial conquests. Pol Pot claimed to have ‘restored the pride’ of Cambodians. Kim I’ll Sung ‘restored the pride’ of North Koreans and China had the Restorer-of-Pride-in-Chief Mao who killed more that the others put together. Old communists never learn that the public has as much pride in the country as it wants, and earns it. Pride is not in the gift of the leader. Putin is an old communist KGB murderer taught to put aside all emotion in his personal brutal efficiencies. He struggles to control a vast corrupt and wildy ineffective bureaucracy. He has transformed his country into a mafia-ised exporter of minerals, oil and gas – sectors controlled almost exclusively by the same communist KGB clique who destroyed the Soviet system and squirreled its cash away in tax havens…. having concluded that Russia’s old industrial system was doomed. Russian GDP growth has been captured by these gangsters and in the towns and villages across Russia the bottom 50% live depressing lives in poverty, with little hope. Move along now, nothing to be admired here.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Apr '14 - 8:58am

    Denis, I think Paul Reynolds gets it. And read what Salmond actually said: “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.”

    That’s praise that Putin does not deserve. And it’s not just me being hard on him. See what Amnesty has to say.

  • Caron

    The fact is that your First Minister is fantastically popular in comparison with our own Deputy Prime Minister.
    Mr Salmond leads his party and brings success at elections.
    He really can say that he has moved from opposition, to minority government, to majority government.
    His party the SNP really has “grown up”, whereas our party seems to be suffering not just stunted growth but terminal decline under the inadequate and unpopular Mr Clegg.
    SNP members can look forward with optimism and hope. Liberal Democrat MPs are looking into the abyss.

  • I followed the link provided by

    The consequences of these developments are becoming clear. Every single one of the four prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher has pledged to put Britain “at the heart of Europe”. Yet the reality has been quite different. Today Britain sits at the margins of European influence, and if Scotland remains governed from London, we face the prospect of an in-out referendum on whether to be part of the European Union at all.

    Interestingly, it is unlikely that Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister, would ever have endorsed such a course of action. She questioned how Europe worked – not whether to be in Europe. But David Cameron’s proposal is to hold just such a referendum in 2017. It is a position which no politician in Scotland would ever have considered to be reasonable. There is virtually no support for this step in the Scottish Parliament.

    In these circumstances, people in Scotland would almost certainly vote to stay in the EU – but the result for the UK as a whole is much more doubtful. A YouGov poll last week found that in Scotland, voters support staying in the EU by 2 to 1; elsewhere in the UK, there is almost a 50-50 split.”

  • Apologies that should have read —
    I followed the link provided by Denis Mollison 29th Apr ’14 –
    http://wingsoverscotland.com/in-bruges/

    And I was particularly interested to see a cogent argument for good Europeans to vote for independence —

    ” The consequences of these developments are becoming clear. Every single one of the four prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher has pledged to put Britain “at the heart of Europe”. Yet the reality has been quite different. Today Britain sits at the margins of European influence, and if Scotland remains governed from London, we face the prospect of an in-out referendum on whether to be part of the European Union at all.

    Interestingly, it is unlikely that Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister, would ever have endorsed such a course of action. She questioned how Europe worked – not whether to be in Europe. But David Cameron’s proposal is to hold just such a referendum in 2017. It is a position which no politician in Scotland would ever have considered to be reasonable. There is virtually no support for this step in the Scottish Parliament.

    In these circumstances, people in Scotland would almost certainly vote to stay in the EU – but the result for the UK as a whole is much more doubtful. A YouGov poll last week found that in Scotland, voters support staying in the EU by 2 to 1; elsewhere in the UK, there is almost a 50-50 split.”

  • “The sad truth is that Russia’s unacceptable behaviour over the Crimea and now eastern Ukraine has come as no surprise.”
    This tells me that Menzies has simply lost touch with reality. Why is it that Menzies and indeed the whole LibDem ‘machine’ are so against ordinary people on the ground (i.e. voters), seeking a peaceful determination over their future as clearly happened in Crimea? Are you saying that the referenda result is not representative of the will of the Crimean people, and would be different if the referenda was re-run.?
    And during the Crimean referendum, Putin’s popularity rating with the ‘oppressed citizens of Russia’, went UP!?, from around 78% to 82%. Does the whole of Russia suffer the Stockholm Syndrome under Putin?

  • Paul Reynolds 30th Apr '14 - 3:13am

    John Dunn’s comment requires clarification. The high risk Putin strategy is being pursued by the Russian ex-KGB President, not because of Pro-Russian support but because of a lack of it. Poland is partially to blame – every Ukrainian is aware of the success of Poland’s EU membership, with it’s rule of law and anti monopoly approach. Poland has enjoyed 17% growth since the 2008 economic crisis ! By contrast most Ukrainians of all ethnicities came to despise the corruption and brutality of their country’s crony monopoly system – with Ukrainian oligarchs linked with the Russian mafia. The contrast between the two systems became more stark under Yanukovich.

    In Crimea if there had been a free vote Putin’s supporters are likely to have lost… 42% or more of the population is not Russian and many Russians oppose the crony system that impoverishes them. Even in Slayansk in East Ukraine independent opinion surveys show support for EU membership and for moderate anti-cronyist politicians. And of course they wish to maintain trade relations with Russia. It’s not dislike of Russia that is at issue it is dislike of control of Ukraine by ‘corrupt crony capitalists’ with links to the Russian mafia system. This is what precipitated Putin’s actions. He sees it however as a loss to his natiinalust strategy of recreating the Soviet colonial empire. Sure its true that US intervention has made a resolution of the situation by the EU more difficult, but let us not make the mistake of believing that Crimeans and E Ukrainians all support Putin and the old Ukrainian mafia system.

  • “Poland has enjoyed 17% growth since the 2008 economic crisis !”
    Yes and since 2008 Poland has been the recipient of about 40 billion Euro, whilst the UK has contributed 30 billion Euro. No wonder west Ukrainians want a piece of that action.?
    “In Crimea if there had been a free vote Putin’s supporters are likely to have lost…”
    Utter rubbish. There were international reporters on the ground at the time of the Crimea referendum, and even a ‘pro EU biased’ BBC reporter had to acknowledge that he saw no intimidation, concluding ” this referendum does represent the will of Crimean people”

  • Just to add to my previous comment for Paul’s benefit.
    BBC report on the night of Crimea result and celebrations.

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