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Exactly the sort of person who should not have political power

There is quite a lot about the affair of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko (almost certainly by the Russian secret service) in London. Much of it is quite interesting but there was a line in an article in the Sunday Times that really made my blood boil when they quoted an unnamed minister:

Amid signs that his death could cause a diplomatic row, Tony Blair concluded the cabinet meeting by saying “the most important issue” was likely to be Britain’s long-term relationship with Moscow. Another minister present said: “It caused some alarm that this case is obviously causing tension with the Russians. They are too important for us to fall out with them over this.”

I had to re-read that a couple times as I could hardly believe my eyes:

“…They are too important for us to fall out with them over this…”

So a foreign government can murder someone in Britain with a radioactive substance and some shit in the cabinet is more concerned that we retain good relations with the murdering guilty party? I would dearly love to know which minister said this. Did anyone catch a reference to this remark elsewhere which says who it was? If the Russian state murdering people in London is not just about the best and more righteous reason to ‘fall out’ with a foreign government, then what the hell is a good reason to fall out with a regime? Moreover, to make that remark where it would enter the public record more or less tells Putin he can murder anyone he likes in the UK as relations with the Kremlin are what really matter to HMG.

No doubt the mystery minister is peeved that the late Mr. Litvinenko has the temerity to get himself assassinated on British soil for daring to bad-mouth the psychopathic Vladimir Putin. Yes, the sooner this tiresome freedom-of-speech nonsense is suppressed so that intergovernmental relations can return to normal, the better.

Truly, the state is not your friend.

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53 comments to Exactly the sort of person who should not have political power

  • He has things exactly backwards. Russia is far too important a country for the West to send a signal that Mafia-like behavior by its government is an acceptable state of affairs.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Infidel753 (now that is a handle that needs explaining!) has it exactly right. If Russia wants to progress beyond being a purely petro-driven economic power with some thuggish remnants of its of communist past, it will have to attract inward investment, and deal on an open and honest way with its neighbours. Unfortunately, the country is currently drunk on its economic clout, due to the current high price of oil and natural gas, but that situation cannot last forever. Sooner or later its reserves will run dry and the country will have to adopt the same high standards for honesty and probity that one expects with modern economies that do not depend on sheer plenitude of natural resources.

    In some ways, the natural wealth of Russia is a curse, since that nation has less apparent need of high standards of trust and probity that drive the wealth of places like Hong Kong.

    Over the past year, we have seen a senior central bank official who was probing corruption get shot dead in broad daylight; a prominent investigative journalist has been murdered, now this business with the KGB guy. I find the attitude of the cabinet minister appalling. Maybe he or she secretly rather admires such brutality. It would not surprise me.

  • James

    “…So a foreign government can murder someone in Britain with a radioactive substance…”

    I might add that that ‘someone’ was also a British citizen.

    That the Government doesn’t mind the uninformed murder of individuals by foreign governments on its own soil is one thing- that they’re willing to let slide the murder of a British citizen is quite another.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Maybe the cabinet minister believes in the adage that you should pick your fights wisely.

    There are a lot of things we have reason to disapprove of about the Russia. Only fifty years ago they were systematically enslaving tens of millions of people, and a lot of those responsible are still around. They invaded countries. They threatened nuclear war, and fuelled many conventional ones. They are little better today, pursuing their nasty aims in the Middle East and elsewhere. – Who was it on hearing of the American/Israeli concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and their consideration of air strikes, responded by selling the Iranians anti-air missile defences? And blocks any resolutions against them in the UN? We let them play games with Armageddon, and then kick up a stink because they dared to kill someone who was British?!

    Of course, Russia is only the most powerful of dozens of mafia states. If you start kicking the toys out of the pram every time they kill someone, you’d never get anything else done, or have much in the way of foreign relations. Nor would they take you very seriously. No, you only make a fuss when they kill a few hundred thousand or a few million. If you acted the same whether it was one or a million, well, they would think they’d might as well kill an million then, wouldn’t they? It only makes sense to use a diplomatic weapon if you expect to do some good with it. And you don’t really think Mr Putin is going to stop killing people just because Mr Blair and his government don’t like it, do you?

    The only distinctive feature in this case compared to thousands of others is that it was done to a British citizen on British territory. If you only make a fuss now, all those people living in fear in Russia and elsewhere would accuse us of only caring about ourselves, and not without reason. Do we only care about our own liberty?

    What you are all expressing outrage over is what a majority of the world’s population have to put up with routinely. It is a real police state, real repression, real denial of civil liberties. If you offend the ruling class you wind up dead. A slow, agonising horrible death, as an example to anyone else thinking of causing trouble.
    It is the same battle we already fought and won and then forgot. I think that if people in the West were exposed to that sort of thing more often, they wouldn’t say such silly things about Bush and Blair being the worst tyrants since Ghengiz Khan; warcriminals and imperialist oppressors. I think if the Russians perhaps murdered a few more people in the West for speaking out, people might start to understand what the fight for liberty is all about, and who they ought to be fighting.

    So, even if the British cabinet were principled enough to make a complaint it wouldn’t do any good, and the Russians would be rather less cooperative elsewhere where it matters more. An utterly pointless publicity exercise that does tremendous harm and no good whatsoever.

    So are we willing to do something effective? Would you be willing to organise a coup, take over the Russian government by force, and then fix the system? Because that is what it would take. Knowing what it would cost us in blood and gold? Knowing that every other tyrant around the world, and those cowards who would buy their favour, would be against us?

    Let alone fixing Russia; can you imagine any nation doing that to just one tyrant? Cleaning up just one tiny cesspit out of the dozens? And for all those free people who claim to value liberty thinking it was a good idea?

    Ha!

  • James

    So, Pa Annoyed, when they come for you, who are you hoping will speak out on your behalf?

  • John K

    Pa Annoyed, I could not disagree with you more. If 100 Russian spies were expelled now from their London embassy (and it has been done before, by Heath of all people), then they will make the connection that murdering people in Britain is more trouble than it is worth to them. It’s not a moral question for them (these Chekist terrorists have no recognisable morality) but purely a practical one. If we appease them, as this moronic Cabinet minister seems to be suggesting, then like any bully, they will draw the only appropriate conclusion, and keep on liquidating their “enemies” on British soil as and when they see fit.

  • Stephan

    This is a very childish and poor post, just a kneejerk reaction from a liberal democratic perspective and lacking in any understanding of the genuine political context of the Litvinenko execution. Your underlying assumptions are positively drowning in liberal mores which will never, never apply in Russia, and which don’t actually apply anywhere in international power politics. Of course, the state is not your friend. There is no friendship among really serious people in politics. There is only the confluence or divergence of interests.

    I guess the unnamed minister is from the Foreign Office. He will have to live with the long-term consequences of John Reid’s self-serving appeal to the feel-good instincts of Labour MPs. OK, it is nice and comfortable to be horrified like the poster because the FO is obligated to look beyond the moral question and keep its eyes fixed on this country’s greater interests. But moral posturing is not a luxury available to everyone.

  • Midwesterner

    Pa,

    Sincere, qualified and respected people used much the same reasoning to try to dissuade Ronald Reagan from taking this stance.

    General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    Wikipedia

    Reagan delivered the Tear Down This Wall speech, despite objections from the State Department and National Security Council. National Security Advisor (and future Secretary of State) General Colin Powell was one of the administration’s major opponents of the speech.

    I’m getting farther and farther from the “let them have the little things and the let us have the big ones” school of reasoning. At first glance, it seems reasonable. At a deeper look, appeasment never works long term. Ever.

  • I am amazed how some of you seem to laud the state failing in its fundamental duty. It’s a not a case of `big boys don’t cry’ but rather `fail to take a stand against this and soon you’ll have nowhere on which to take a stand’.

    I particularly like the `the FO is obligated to look beyond the moral question and keep its eyes fixed on this country’s greater interests’ comment. Apart from the appalling `obligated’ this says it all about the left, the state and the individual. In my opinion (and no, there’s no H there) a state that performs in the way advocated has abrogated the fundamental social contract which gives it its legitimacy.
    To put it more simply, this country has no greater interest than to protect the lives of its citizens from foreign powers.

  • Stephen, you are wrong on so many levels. You are only semi-coherent in fact. As canker says, a state which fails to protect the lives of people within its territory from a foreign power is, well, worthless, as that is really the primary justification for having a state at all.

    I do not give a damn about what mores prevail in Russia because we are not talking about a murder in Russia, we are talking about a murder in LONDON. If foreign powers can murder people in London without major political consequences then the British state has fallen even farther than I thought it had (which is saying something).

  • Pa Annoyed

    Mid,

    I am very much in favour of taking any stance that has a chance of working. I am in favour of the blood, sweat and tears needed to spread liberty. I was in favour of the Cold War America waged against them for decades. I am in favour of the the few small hot wars they’ve used to attempt the same changes now.

    But I do not believe the Soviet Union fell because of any speeches made while stood on the wall. I don’t believe you can reform them now by diplomatic protests or statements of disaproval. They fell before as a result of trillions of dollars spent on weapons and wars to contain their spread, so that without new territories to feed on they collapsed under their own incompetence. It will cost further trillions and many more lives like Litvinenko’s to finish the job.

    The general public today are not in the mood for anything stronger than words, and words are a waste of time. Worse, they’re counter-productive. We need their help with Iran more than they need our cooperation to run spies from their embassies here, and they’re very capable of making life even more inconvenient for us than they already do. We’re practical, we’ve made the connection that annoying the Russians is more trouble than it’s worth.

    Nobody will speak on my behalf, because that isn’t the way police states work; as if someone speaking about it would save me. When you’re living in a police state with no way out, you shut up or you die. Some choose to die, and I respect their choice, but unless other people listen and act, that doesn’t topple the state either. When you’ve made your diplomatic protest and they keep on killing us anyway, everybody will understand how powerless we are and draw the appropriate conclusion.

    You want my advice? If you want to be taken seriously, you don’t say a word and you go over there and quietly assassinate a dozen of the nastier KGB aparatchiks. You can expect things to escalate from there, of course, but that’s the way the game is played, if you want to play it.

    There is still a war for liberty to be fought, but instead, like the “useful idiots” of the Cold War, we spend our time attacking the motes in our own eyes rather than the lumber yard in the eyes of the genuine tyrants. If this website had been set up in Russia, what do you think your lives would be like? What do the think the consequences of merely visiting, let alone commenting on it would be? And yet, I believe not one of us seriously expects the 3am knock on the door for what we are doing.

    I am very pleased to see criticism of Russia’s illiberal ways on this site and calls for something to be done about it, and the fact that it is only in the context of complaining about one of our own cabinet ministers scarcely spoils it at all! 😉

    Good luck with the campaign to stop appeasement.

  • Midwesterner

    You want my advice? If you want to be taken seriously, you don’t say a word and you go over there and quietly assassinate a dozen of the nastier KGB aparatchiks. You can expect things to escalate from there, of course, but that’s the way the game is played, if you want to play it.

    Serious? Are you advocating that response? Or are you putting it up as strawman advice to make your case look like a better alternative?

  • Julian Taylor

    It’s not just the very recent events that give cause for alarm. The process of using various unpleasant methods for starting internal conflicts, removing your political opponents, removing former KGB officers and so on can very easily be done by Putin & Co now by making use of the ‘blame the mafia’/’blame the Chechnyans’ tags that are now so readily available. Poor Anna Politkovskaya’s murder was pretty easily laid at the door of the bovine and deeply unpleasant Ramzan Kadyrov – a man described by German human rights organisations as,

    a “war criminal” who had personally taken part in the torture of civilians, has alleged that up to 70% of recent murder, torture, rape and kidnapping incidents in Chechnya have been committed by Ramzan’s thousands-strong paramilitary.

    The Independent (that paragon of factual reportage and unbiased opinion) refused steadfastly to condemn Putin, preferring instead to accuse Boris Berezovsky and various other emigre Russians for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, Politkovskaya and others.

    As for the Foreign Office’s standard useless comment of, `the FO is obligated to look beyond the moral question and keep its eyes fixed on this country’s greater interests’, one is reminded of the famous quote from WW2. When the FCO was faced with the dilemma of ‘trading’ Jews held in Belsen, under the infamous ‘Kuhhandel’ proposal, Foreign Office diplomats circulated a famous memo advising against this on the basis that ‘diplomacy should in no way be confused with humanity’.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Not necessarily that particular response, but one of a similar magnitude and nature, yes. That is, if you’re serious about making a difference and you think you have the strength of will to see it through. I don’t think we do, though; not just as a government, but as a nation. Sad.

    Why? Do you you think ‘they kill our guy, we expel their diplomat’ is really going to have them shaking in their furry boots?

  • Midwesterner

    Silly me, I was thinking back to a time when leaders led. When our power was real and our leaders’ words meant something. Now we are drowning in a sea of rhetorical flourishes not to mention mundane blathering from inept committees and cardboard heads of state.

    I should have thought of the decrepit credibility our governments’ leaders have now. B2 ain’t no RR. And TB certainly ain’t no MT much less WC. The motto now seems to be “bluster loudly and wave a magic wand”. They vacuum up more and more police state powers to compensate for their own absolute inability to plan, persuade or lead.

  • Pa Annoyed has a valid point in one sense. The people who routinely denounce Western constitutional republics as tyrannies have forgotten what real tyranny is. They don’t have the excuse of lack of real-world examples, either. Probably the majority of the governments on Earth are even worse than Putin’s.

    That being said, the West can’t allow the Putin regime to get away with assassinating Litvinenko on British territory with no reaction at all. Thugs interpret lack of response to such acts as a sign of weakness. If the regime gets away with one Mafia outrage, it will be that much more emboldened next time. We can’t afford to let a government which controls the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal think that the West is so easily intimidated. I’m not saying Britain (or the US) should “send a gunboat” or even carry out an assassination in Moscow. But there has to be some kind of response. Sending the signal that “we’re afraid of you and we need your fossil fuels, so we’ll let you get away with anything you want” is the worst thing we can do.

    It’s also necessary to make the Russian people aware that their rulers are behaving dangerously and turning Western opinion against Russia. Remember that the Putin regime is actually fairly popular at home because, incredible as it may seem, life in Russia today is better and freer than at any previous time in its thousand-year history. This is, of course, mostly a dire comment on the quality of Putin’s predecessors (he is truly the worst ruler Russia has ever had, except for all the others). Putin’s dark side needs to be brought to the Russian people’s attention. Who will do that if not the West — and what better example than a murder like this?

  • Orson

    The plot thickens….

    Litvenenko was not all he seemed(Link).

  • emdfl

    Sounds like something almost anyone in upper-management at the US State Department would say.

  • Stephan

    It is naive to demand that the British security apparatus protects London targets of FSB or other professional espionage organisations. But when you then turn that demand into a special test of the state’s worth you are simply making use of things for your own little ideological aims.

    Anyway, the fundamental point is that Russia has its own distinct political and national interests. It is a state which is not constructed on Western ideas of liberal democracy and is not beholden to them. Regrettably, its system makes actions like extra-judicial murder entirely possible.

    If its security officers execute little men to intimidate big men, they will do it anywhere they like. This is the reality, and it is by no means any kind of test of the worth of a second-party state where such an event occurs. Your premise is flawed and, I would say, hopelessly opportunistic.

  • guy herbert

    Stephen, you are wrong on so many levels.

    You missed he is Stephan. I suggest there may be cultural significance in the vowel, even before we get to the word “execution”.

    The idea that values are geographically inherent (and hence in this case that Russia can never be liberal) is very widespread. It even happens, pace Stephan, with geopolitical facts. I’ve come across apparently mild, charming, Chinese students who became incoherent with rage at contemplating the idea that some people could consider Taiwan a separate country.

    But however much emotional investment people have in their particular preferred form of governance (and I take Stephan to be saying he prefers tyrranny, liberalism being too close to anarchy) these things are not fixed. Western Europe has not always been liberal. And it might cease to be so. There are very anti-liberal forces at work in Britain, which has historically one of the best histories of the rule of law.

  • Stephan

    Very good, Guy. I must correct you a little. My choice is not liberalism>anarchy versus Eurasianism>tyranny. Anarchy is also tyranny if I depend on a man who rejects normal human bonds because he has heard that this is way to be free.

  • Of course a state cannot prevent an assassination on its territory in most cases. But it can take proportionate relatiatory action after the fact to discourage further crimes in the future. If it doesn’t, the tyrannies will naturally conclude that they have a free hand.

    It’s nonsense to think that Russia can never overcome tyranny. Ukraine, which is a very similar culture, had the Orange Revolution.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I find some of the apologias, for want of a better word, for Russia’s use of murderous force to be pretty lame, however some folk try to paint it. If the state cannot protect or seek to protect citizens from murder and robbery, then the elemental nature of the contract between citizen and state is null and void. Lots of world-weary comments about realpolitik, the interests of nations blah blah does not get around that glaring fact.

  • Thank goodness some people see what’s going on here. Jonathan Pearce’s comment gets us back to the point:
    “If the state cannot protect or seek to protect citizens from murder and robbery, then the elemental nature of the contract between citizen and state is null and void”

    If you don’t get this then you understand nothing about Perry De Havilland’s original post.
    This issue is not negotiable. Attempting to avoid performance of this duty is a repudiation of the fundamental underpinning of our tacit agreement to cede power to the state. This duty is the ultimate sine qua non. Not, I hasten to add, the duty to succeed, but the duty to try to protect the citizen and the consequent duty to seek to punish those who attack them.

    Of course, when I put it like that, I see that this state in which we live has been failing in this duty for years.

  • andrew duffin

    The government’s concern, which nobody here seems to have picked up on, is that since our nuclear power stations are about to become obsolete, and we have ducked the requirement to start building new ones in time, the Russians already have their foot on our necks.

    Putin controls the gas-tap. Upset him and we will come to a stop, literally.

    Fine principles don’t really come into this, it’s simple realpolitik.

  • Stephan, you completely miss what I am saying. The way the British state protects people cannot be by some massive security effort against the Russian secret services but by making it politically expensive for the Russian state to murder people in Britain. The British state’s job is to protect people in Britain and if they need to, start shooting people in Russia if that is what it takes to do that. What you must never do is treat it as acceptable and something to be appeased. At the very, very least start throwing out some of their diplomatic staff.

    If need be, start assassinating members of the Russian security services if that is all these barbarians understand. Russia is, to use Mao’s term, a paper tiger. It is a weak by almost any measure (UK GDP = 1.8 triillion USD/ Russian GDP = 1.6 trillion GDP with a bit more than twice the population). It’s demographics are catastrophic, its institutions weak and corrupt. There is simply no reason to act as through Russia is a major player on the world stage who can act with impunity because it is economically and socially unimpressive and its ability to project military power is extremely limited.

  • canker:Of course, when I put it like that, I see that this state in which we live has been failing in this duty for years.

    Indeed. The role of the State is to enable its citizens to go safely about their lawful business without let or hinderance..

    NueArbeit (Macht Frei) has failed. Imbeciles like Joan Ruddock are still out there making it worse with their idiotic unreason. Getting nations to give up nuclear arms is like herding cats. You cannot herd cats by marching off down the path merrilly shouting “Follow me!”.

  • Putin controls the gas-tap. Upset him and we will come to a stop, literally. Fine principles don’t really come into this, it’s simple realpolitik.

    Wrong. Russia is an insignificant trading partner of Britain and we are simply not dependent on Russian gas.

  • Stephan

    Boy, you people don’t listen so much, do you? The example used by this poster does not prove his argument that the British state reneged on its contract with its people (not “citizens”). He made this argument purely because that is his ideology, not because of anything deducible from the facts of the case.

    OK, you tell me precisely in what way the British state failed to protect Litvinenko. Did they, by some amazing scew-up, fail to provide a food-taster with gieger counter in Itzu’s?

    Look, you can make case that Putin is a criminal tyrant or that FSB is out of control. Then we can argue about London-based “oligarchs” (meaning Gaidar’s Jewish criminal friends, of course, though only Russians can say so), what can be done to recover what they stole, the moral equivalency of Russian state terrorism etc. On much of this we can should be able to agree because the facts and principles are not in dispute. But there is no case to construct out of this affair about the failure or otherwise of the British state.

    Find some other measure by which you can say they failed, if you must. But don’t make it dependent on stopping the FSB. No one can do that.

  • Stephan

    Perry, check out future for North Sea gas, then think about Bitish national interest.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Stephan writes:

    Perry, check out future for North Sea gas, then think about Bitish national interest.

    So what point are you making, Stephan? That we should kowtow cravenly to the Russians on matters of security like this?

    I dunno if you were referring to my particular comment, but in arguing as I did I was merely reminding folk of what is at stake in this issue: a man, under the supposed protection of the British state, was killed allegedly by agents acting for another state. In response, the actions or rather, inaction, of the current UK government has been passive at best, supine at worst.

    As I said, there is supposed to be an implicit contract between the citizen (or subject, let’s not get anally-retentive on terms) and the state. If the state cannot deliver on its most basic raison d’etre, it has reneged. For similar reasons, I defend the right of homeowners to defend their homes with lethal force if necessary, since there is mounting evidence that the state has defaulted on this function.

    If that is pure ideology for you, I plead guilty with a happy smile on my face. If you want simpering realpolitik, go and read the FCO website.

  • Midwesterner

    As I said, there is supposed to be an implicit contract between the citizen … and the state.

    Only in a state based on the preeminence of the individual. In collectivists states, it is the needs and priorities of the state that are preeminent. How a politician (or any one else) stands on this matter is a clear indicator of whether they are collectivists or not.

  • Stephan

    Johnathan, the point I am making is that this post is a thirteen year-old’s effort. The justification at 12.37 today is even more childish, recommending the British government to start shooting people in Moscow. Really, I mean … really, what is this person saying here? Why is he associated with this forum? Can’t you feed him some political polonium 210?

    OK, so I love Russia and I love Britain, where I have spent almost all my life. What do I want for their relationship? Only mutual understanding and peaceful, cooperative co-existence. But you have to understand that Russia is not all bad and Britain all good. Britain harbours criminals and will not send them back to the land of their crimes to face justice. Britain works with Americans in their effort to establish global hegemony (a very old pursuit, incidentally – a matter of Land versus Sea, and not just a PNAC thing). Russia has a moral case AND a geopolitical destiny too, and it is in my opinion a great tragedy that FSB makes it possible for people like this poster to say crazy, immature things where there should be real, thoughtful and informed debate.

    Anyway, I am done and I leave now.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Only mutual understanding and peaceful, cooperative co-existence. But you have to understand that Russia is not all bad and Britain all good.

    What makes you think that Perry, yours truly or most other contributors believe that Russia is “all bad” and Britain is “all good”? Puhleese, read the blog for a while and you will not get that impression, as far as Britain is concerned, anyway.

    Britain harbours criminals and will not send them back to the land of their crimes to face justice

    Britain has in fact extradited many people to various places, including the recent notorious example of three Natwest bankers accused of involvement in the Enron affair. You may remember reading about it. It was highly controversial, to put it mildly. This nation is also covered by the provisions of the EU Arrest Warrant system.

    Russia has a moral case AND a geopolitical destiny too, and it is in my opinion a great tragedy that FSB makes it possible for people like this poster to say crazy, immature things where there should be real, thoughtful and informed debate.

    Country’s are the sum total of the individuals who compose them. I do not believe Russia, Britain, the Planet Zog or Peckham have “destinies”. People may have them, but countries do not. I usually find that when people talk about national destinies, it is time to start digging those shelters, hiding the wallets and generally taking defensive actions.

    Sorry Stephan, but your attempt to apologise for Mr Putin’s charming associates must be counted a failure.

    brgds

  • Jonathan,
    Blame Dostoyevsky for the destiny thing! It is Russia’s manifest destiny to poison British citizens and for the British state not to respond.

    Could be, could be.

  • Nick M

    I’m reminded of an episode of The Simpsons. Homer ends up commanding a nuclear sub and US-Russian relations reach crisis point. At the UN the Russian ambassador flips over the “Russia” tag on his desk and the obverse reads “USSR”.

    They haven’t really changed.

    Russia is a paper-tiger. Perry is right about that. The country is going to hell in a hand cart and yet we still take the buggers seriously as a major power. Right, they still have a shed load of nukes and, at least on paper, quite a military but Perry is also right that they can’t project it. The utter fiasco of the Chechen wars proves that.

    Russia is almost a failed state. They have staked everything on their capacity to export natural resources and weapons (last year they overtook the USA as the global leader in defence exports) but this is because they really can’t offer anything else. My wife is a Russian graduate and a professional translator. Despite Russian being her primary foreign language she gets much more work in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. Why? No bugger wants to do business in Russia because “Pooty Poot” can nationalise things at the drop of a hat. I know a guy who is a very well-off banker. He made a lot of cash overseeing the installation of modern electronic banking systems in Russia in the 90s. Funnily enough he no longer works there. After he married his missus got a little concerned at the fact that he went to work in Moscow with a convoy of armoured Mercedes and armed mercs. He took a pay-cut and now works in England.

    Russia is totally despotic. Putin has seen the natural wealth of the country and he sees that as the future because that is something which the state can control in a way that it can’t control individual entrepreneurship. In many ways Russia is becoming like a middle-eastern petro-state. The sooner we can rid ourselves of our energy bind the better. And if the Russkies can be forced to actually make things (other than weapons) or provide services to pay their way the better it will be for everyone.

    They are not our friends. They recklessly export weaponry to enemies like Iran and they murder folk in London. They object to our wars in muslim countries, yet blithely carry out something tantamount to genocide in Chechnya*. The sooner we take them down a peg or two the better. We are more powerful and we ought to show it. They might be SPECTRE, but we still have Bond don’t we? And Felix?

    *Admittedly, I sometimes suspect the Chechens probably deserve quite a bit of what they get. I’ve seen some bad things in my 33 years but nothing has come close to the sheer horror of Beslan or the theatre siege.

  • Boy, you people don’t listen so much, do you?

    You are the one who is not listening, mate…

    OK, you tell me precisely in what way the British state failed to protect Litvinenko. Did they, by some amazing scew-up, fail to provide a food-taster with gieger counter in Itzu’s?

    Asked and answered, so as I said, you are the one not listening. No one (other than you) suggested that directly interdicting the Russian covert ops lads was why the Britsih government has failed in its duty. Are you hearing this time? What it being said is that by appeassing the buffoon in the Kremlin, THAT is how they are failing us. By suggesting that that political relations between the British state and the Russian state are more important that the fact the Russia state is murding people in London, THAT is what the problem is.

    Find some other measure by which you can say they failed, if you must. But don’t make it dependent on stopping the FSB. No one can do that.

    I think you vastly over-estimate these clowns and you vastly over-estimate the value of Russian gas to Britain. It has been clear for some time that once the preposterous ‘green-but-no-nukes’ fad passes, massive investment in nuclear energy is where the future lies. Give it 10 years, tops.

    In the short term, perhaps the most cost-effective way to deal with Putin is throw a little money are the problem and start destabilising Russia (some value for our tax monies spent on the security services perhaps? Let them get back to spying on Russia and a bit less on us) and perhaps even doing to some of the people at the top what they like doing to other people. If there is one thing Russia has no shortage of, it is people who will do anything to anyone for money.

    Stamping on them in the various international forums would be cheap and easy too (they are absurdly sensitive to what people say about them) but the current lot in Whitehall lack the balls to do that.

    I find it very hard to find post-communist Russia very intimidating.

  • Jim

    The sooner we can rid ourselves of our energy bind the better.

    Amen, brother, in so many ways! The Islamofascists view Saudi oil as their own great nest egg – Chavez bought his re-election with his – countless other examples spring readily to mind.

    But I find my pragmatic self resonating to Pa Annoyed, in the matter he addresses: you’re right about the crime, so what are you going to do about it to ensure with the likes of Putin, that it doesn’t happen again? And please document your solution well: you’ll get lots of opportunity to use it.

    PLEASE, PLEASE don’t come-away imagining that by demurring, I (or Pa Annoyed, from reading his posts) approve of the situation – but desperate diseases require desperate remedies. Talk is cheap, money builds houses, and no strongly-worded diplomatic protest is going to elicit so much as a shrug from Putin (or Chavez, or Ahmadenijad, or… you fill in the blanks). Tyrants see their actions as necessary to keep them in power: nothing else matters. Like bad-tempered dogs, they must be beaten severely with a stick before it penetrates that they must not behave in this manner (at least, not to you), and such action is not in the offing for any of them at present, regretfully.

    But I find it egregiously intolerable that a Minister of the government should react in that manner. His comment equates to a bored “so what?” If he is Foreign Office, he may point-out the difficulties of stopping Russian hit-men while retaining Russian goodwill to the Assembly: that’s what he’s there to do. But to express unconcern over this murder in the manner he did, is a clear violation of just about every ethic that one should rightfully expect from a senior elected representative in a constitutional democracy.

    He deserves to lose his job – if not at the hand of Her Majesty’s Prime Minister, then at the hands of the voters next time-around (with maybe a severe beating with a stick thrown-in for good measure – one can’t be too careful!). Best of success identifying him.

  • HJHJ

    Given that the government here would probably (even now) get into trouble by bumping off troublesome people here in the UK, the perfect arrangement is that it gets the Russian government to do it for them, and the UK government reciprocates by bumping off troublesome people in Russia. Nobody gets in trouble for doing this because relations between the two countries are deemed too important for any action to be taken.

    Perfect solution!

  • Jim: If he is Foreign Office, he may point-out the difficulties of stopping Russian hit-men while retaining Russian goodwill to the Assembly

    If he was our FO and not, seemingly, their FO bod, he would be saying the Litvinenko case would mean Russia must assist so as to not damage OUR goodwill to the Assembly!!!

    These lickspittles sure know how to appease. They are simultaneously bullies and cowards.

  • Michiganny

    It is this type of discussion that makes this blog so valuable. Orson’s link was my first reading of what Russians are thinking. It does not persuade me, but it is worth reading.

    Finding the rationale for the killing touches on an incredibly interesting point: Putin’s showmanship. Here is a guy who does not just give good speeches about terrorists in a water closet. He also saved his family from a burning house during one campaign. And please find me another politician willing to don the pajamas to jujitsu-slap somebody for the good of the voters!

    That was just the interview. Now that he has the job, he applies his near-Stalin-like cynicism in a much-bigger game. And my God, how his Soviet upbringing has stood him in good stead. The fate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one tranche of near abroad after another, Russia’s media, economy, and civil society are all determined by him. And not only has he roped in all these forces, he has done so by keeping the people’s love and fear. Machiavelli would have given him high marks, style points even.

    But back to Litvinenko and his demise. I would bet Putin is delighted that we are all focusing on the lurid events he set in motion, not the motive. Polonium stories are sexy, if polonium deaths are not. And there is absolutely nothing sexy, especially in the west, about some crappy south-Russian apartment buildings in cinders. And that is all Litvinenko was good for. He highlighted what everybody thought right along: I knew the Lusitania and the Alamo. They were good friends of mine. You, provincial bombings without link to Chechnya are no Lusitania or Alamo. You are no reason for even a trumped-up war, not even a Gulf of Tonkin on a bad day.

    But that is Putin. He takes references to water closets and makes himself king of all the Russias (well, at least two of them). He takes over an economy by putting one guy in jail. He sets a hemisphere aflutter with one poisoning. He creates a war out of a few burned-out flats. And, by God, he won that war, too. We are lucky there are term limits for this guy.

  • tdh

    The Russian mafiacracy doesn’t need to project military power; they’ve got their ChiCom allies and their fifth columnists (in tribalist garb in the Ukraine) to do the dirty work. Their ought to be serious economic consequences for the Sino-Neosoviet axis’s international behavior even absent the murder in London.

    The last thing the Russian people would need would be the confusion of a murder spree in Moscow; it would be too convenient a milieu for dispatching more Putinista opponents.

  • Stephan

    Hi guys, excuse me while I just reply to Michiganny.

    Look, friend, eXile is a Jewish publication. If you want to understand Russians you must first understand that we SEE Jews, which you cannot, and we can hear what they are saying about their hosts, which you cannot. To see and hear isn’t hatred, by the way. That’s a special Western way of thinking that has nothing to do with us, thank God.

    So eXile, while it is OK for light reading, does not tell you what Russians are thinking. t tells you smething crucially different … naturally, how to be a Russophobe. and, especially, a Putin-phobe!

    Actually, we have a strong approval for Putin because he saved the nation from the Gaidar’s “reforms” of the 1990’s and gave us back our pride in Russia and in being Russian. Of course, we know that he is a toug, even ruthless leader and no liberal. But strength is necessary in Russia at this time, and we despise liberalism, so that’s alright.

    I do not see any knowledge in your truly misnamed blog of the metapolics of Russian nationalism (Eurasianism), without which you cannot really grasp the completeness of opposition of Russian system to Western system. They cannot exist at all in the same geographic space. Since the linear theory of liberal progress is false, liberalism does not and will never obtain in Russia.

    The antagonism between the two systems is mirrored in and part of the older antagonism of Jes for Russian patriotism. Today, you must, of couse, be Russian to understand the depth of this antagonism, though if you know the history of the two revolutions – the one of 1917 and the one of Gaidar – you will get a pretty good idea.

    Officially, of course, everyone pretends that none of this exists But it exists. When you read eXile just bear that in mind.

  • John K

    Can we agree that Putin is, to all intents and purposes, a fascist?

  • Jim

    An article on the ugliness in U.S.-Russia relations, that explains a lot of things I’d wondered about (Link) (sorry if the URL doesn’t work: my first URL post). There’s a lot going-on apparently, that isn’t common knowledge; if only a small part of it is true, it isn’t all “us=good; Putin=bad.”

    This doesn’t nearly excuse any state for killing another state’s citizen, particularly on its own soil, but it gives a clue as to the desperation that might cause it to take action like this.

    This could be very bad, everybody: we’re going to have to watch this one carefully.

  • Michiganny

    Stephan,

    You have a rather interesting way of discussing citizenship, though it is probably not a conscious one. You see, here in the west, we have the concept of citizenship. It is not based on blood, tribe, et cetera. That is why Englishmen can be upset that one of their fellow citizens was killed by a foreign power, even if William the Conqueror is not anywhere to be found in his family tree. Conversely, that is why you make such an interesting point about being Russian versus being Jewish. A citizen of Russia is no Russian if he can be identified with Jewish ethnicity. Well, to you.

    But if that concept of identity is how you want to define the world, I hope you don’t mind letting us know where you stand on the national destinies of some other nations. How about those Balts? Shouldn’t the Russian speakers in those three countries get thrown out, if the true Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians say so? Aren’t Russians trodding true Polish soil in Kaliningrad? I’d say, by your definition of the world, they are.

    Second, I agree that eXile is a light read. But, then again, the snippet of dialectic argument you treat us to, regarding the metapolitics (?) of Eurasianism, sheds almost no light at all. By the way, I have no blog. And I certainly don’t care about anybody’s linear theories of politics. The same goes for geographic impossibilities of one political system or another. After all, Tblisi is making a go of democracy. So is Kiev. You aren’t really telling us that the birthplaces of Stalin and Kruschev, both integral parts of the Soviet Union, can be democratic while Moscow cannot? Hmm. It would take one beautiful theory to make me agree with you. In other times, you would have been hung out to dry for such Great Russian Chauvinism.

    And here is the last turn of the screw on all this: If you are implying you are more Russian than, say, Trotsky, because he had a Jewish name and you do not, then please say so. It will be safe to say we will be laughing at you instead of with you.

  • John K

    Aren’t Russians trodding true Polish soil in Kaliningrad?

    I’d have said it’s German, East Prussia and all that…

  • Johnathan Pearce

    But strength is necessary in Russia at this time, and we despise liberalism, so that’s alright.

    What sort of “strength” are we talking about, Stephan? Does it include the ability to murder anyone who gives the regime a dirty look?

  • Michiganny

    John K,

    Prussia was under Polish sovereignty until 1660.

    But I do not think that diminishes the point at all. There is nary an inch of land in that neck of the woods that cannot be claimed by more than one group. And most of the peoples there have odd mixes of heritage and history–like Poles with Ukrainian names, a Georgian leading Russia in the second world war, the fact that the food stocked in the “Jewish” section of the ethnic aisle in my local food store could be from four or five national menus, et cetera.

    And that is why it is an utterly bankrupt argument to pretend that there is something wholly unique about any of these groups. With that being the case, Stephan’s posts evidence that odd nationalism, once known as Great Russian Chauvinism. Its resurgence was a theme of Colin Thubron’s In Siberia. A distinct sympton of Russian nationalism is “accusing” people one disagrees with of being Jews. Perhaps we are seeing that here.

  • Michiganny

    For what it is worth, it is amazing how few people on this site are baying for blood at the death of Litvinenko. If this had happened in, say Cleveland or Dallas, it seems hard to believe you would find anybody in government or not calling for restraint or mentioning international relationships or oil.

    The question would simply be a matter of how much to retaliate. Perhaps there would be a mistaken missile attack on an ITAR-TASS office in Baghdad or Kabul, for instance.

    With all the prevarication that occurs daily in the British governement, can’t there be some health and safety issue that would be used for cover to retaliate? Does Aeroflot really need all those (or any) landing slots at Heathrow?

  • Nick M

    I read Stephan’s comments with great amusement. He became increasingly unhinged with each. Is he worth fisking, or has Michiganny done it for me?

    Well, I have to have a pop. Well, obviously Stephan is rabidly anti-semitic. He SEES Jews (his caps) hmm… Well Haley Joel Osmont saw dead people. WTF. That is one of the most bizarre statements I have ever read on Samizdata. This guy isn’t Borat in disguise is he? It might come as a remarkable surprise to Stephan that here in the jolly old UK we have about 250,000 Jews. Now I’m not saying I SEE them all (the plantir being out of action at the mo) but I have SEEn some of them. In one case extremely intimately and repeatedly. A few others I just played Monopoly with. Well, obviously the first was an evil succubus and the rest were cheating capitalists who kept on dominating the orange set and wickedly cheating me out of my Monopoly money for equally fictional Zionist causes.

    I’m vaguely surprised that Stephan wasn’t smited, but oddly glad that didn’t happen. The Russian Soul. Chekov and all that. The wife (who speaks the lingo) told me all about it… That’s getting a bit old isn’t it?

    Fighting wars costs blood, treasure and (sometimes) prestige. Losing them costs even more of the above. It is time the likes of Stephan and the rest of Russia realised that. You lost the Cold War. You lost fair and square. We didn’t “cheat” and you weren’t “stabbed in the back” by a fifth column of yids. You just lost because your economy, military and politics weren’t as good as the ones over here. Get over it. Build a proper country. And stop being so bloody xenophobic. You’re not the only country that lost a once mighty empire.

  • Paul Marks

    Michiganny has a point. I doubt that Mr Putin really sits about reading works on Marxist doctrine – after all Marxism was already being mocked in K.G.B. circles even in his day.

    Yes he nationalizes natural resource companies, and he gets rid of all the independent television and radio stations (and most of the newspapers), and he increases government spending (although he has paid for some of that with the higher revenue he has got from his flat rate income tax – as well as the money he gets from oil, gas and so on, [without bothering to invest in the future of these industries of course]).

    But this is (I agree) more to do with just “statism” (to take a word from the ruler of Turkey in the interwar period) than with Marxism.

    It is the same with Mr Putin getting rid of the election of state Governors (appointing them instead) and the undermining of trial by jury. Just as keeping conscription (against the plans of Yeltsin) was not really a matter of Marxist “industrial and agricultural armies” (Communist Manfesto 1848), and more a matter of getting a big army on the cheap.

    Of course any “Great Russian” nationalism is rather absurd now. For while before the First World War Russia had one of the highest fertility rates in the world – now the fertilty rate is about one baby per woman.

    And even a fertility rate of 1 is overstating the case – for the Muslims in Russia have a much higher fertility rate (thus distorting the average) and no Great Russian nationalist would accept a Muslim as a Russian (even less than they would accept a Jew).

    Indeed the very definition of Russia was born out of centuries of war with the Muslims.

    At a time when Putin struts about like a poor man’s Ivan the Terrible, Russia, indeed Orthodox civilization, is dying.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    NickM’s annihilation of Stephan is outstanding.