ISSUES,INSIGHTS AND COLOURFUL MOMENTS-FROM THE DESK OF AN ENGLISH AUTHOR.
DON'T TICKLE THE BEAR.
We live in strange times, and for those who have lived a long time, it is a puzzling modern phenomenon. At home, even for those who don’t consider they have prospered well in the past sixty years; we are undeniably more prosperous than our counterparts of all that time ago. The state has shown a benign and benevolent aspect, even if its largesse has been unpredictable and asymmetrical. Like people - not all of the same size and proportion. It is not exactly winners and losers, just that too many have been overlooked. Not all by accident! One cannot say the same of governments, who too often appear to be the blind leading the blind. That given, at this moment we have a problem in our back garden – and not of the people’s making.
Which brings me to the main thrust of this blog. Governments have a lot on their plate, and sitting here in my aerie, I can see how easily it is for them to suffer a bout of indigestion. One of the most difficult problems remains the U.K. Prime Minister’s need to appoint ministers of which there are 22 serving in the cabinet with another 8 non cabinet ministers. They are backed by something over 500,000 civil servants. That is a lot to go wrong. Obviously, a less than able minister – of which there have been many - have confusing decisions thrust upon them by staff who may be promoting their own agenda. For example, Mr Johnson finds himself being pulled in rather too many directions, as the political mood of the nation, facing the disaster of Coronavirus disease, along with excessive inflation in the hands of a less than constructive Finance minister, is not one of peace and calm.
Just at this moment we also have the serious and less than edifying sight of Mr Johnson’s political posturing over a country that actually has the undivided attention of the Foreign Office led by a seriously lightweight minister whose Geography seems shaky over the difference between the Baltic and the Black Sea, and is quoting from a misleading and tattered hymn book supplied by the United States. Mr Johnson’s sound bites are too obviously designed to distract the nation from an orchestrated attack on his own competence. Historically, the Ukraine is a mess created out of recent United States, and European Union criminal activity and incompetence, not something Mr Johnson should be engineering to save his own soul. For the sake of sanity, it is a dilemma worth putting into some sort of order, and perspective; one I have been exasperatedly nursing for a number of years. I also do not wish to freeze this winter, as Italy receives over 40% of its gas from Russia.
Ah, Russia! Once again, the old bear is growling.
This state of affairs goes back to the Russian President Mr Gorbachev, a rather more noble President than a competent one. He was, in fact, the last President of the Soviet Union, and the noble attribute is the fact that he received the Peace Prize for his stabilizing effect on Eastern Europe along with his effort towards a new Russia and ‘Glasnost’, - open discussion. Sadly, President Bush and the United States politically motivated and abject failure to help this faltering effort led us to where we are now. Left to their own devices, Russia seems to have taken the wrong turning.
That is of some moment. Russia is the largest country on earth – 6.5 million square miles of it, with a coastline of 23,000 miles. That is one twentieth of the worlds land surface containing forests the size of Australia, and 25% of the worlds fresh water. Russia is also the largest producer of natural gas, the world’s leading oil producer, one of the top producers of gold, platinum and iron ore, along with being one of the largest producers of industrial minerals and fertilizers. It’s also estimated to have the world’s largest resource of diamonds. Perhaps, even more importantly, home to 113 million people – the most populous in Europe. They are also overwhelmingly Christian - 70% Russian Orthodox, 3% other. Above all, undoubtably, a formidably European nation, despite Russia stretching half way round the earth. They are also now having a spat with the rest of us. Why?
We must go back to Mr. Gorbachev, and his efforts to modernise Russia. He failed for the obvious reason mentioned above. The United States realized that a modernized Russia would dwarf them economically and furthermore, in time, become the most powerful nation on earth. Without financial backing Gorbachev failed to convince national politicians like Yeltsin and Putin – considered Marxist-Leninist hard liners – leading to the collapse of Russia’s economy and Gorbachev’s downfall. However, Putin who has oscillated from President to Prime Minister on a quasi-democratic regular basis has been seen to have brought various bad habits from his previous career in the KGB. Notably the suppression of political freedom. Nevertheless, Putin’s economic and fiscal policy saw Russia recover from the depression following Gorbachev’s failure, coupled with leading Russia to victory in wars with Chechnya and Georgia. All of which leads us to Ukraine and 2010.
In that year Ukraine elected Yanukovych as president. From all accounts he was not a very meritorious character, using patronage and corruption to bolster the position of his political party. But he was the democratically elected President with a political flaw in the eyes of President Obama – his leanings were towards Russia. How much this was influenced by Joe Biden, then vice president, who is said to have later manipulated millions of dollars to his son Hunter Biden under the guise of consultancy services from the Ukrainian company Burisma, while orchestrating foreign policy behind Obama’s back, can only be guessed at. (American Thinker.com, et al.) An opportunity for the U.S. to remove Yanukovych revealed itself during a political disturbance that came to be known as the Euromaidan Revolution – a demonstration and civil unrest following the Ukrainian government’s decision to sign the ‘Eurasian Economic Agreement’ with Russia instead of the ‘European Union Agreement’ with the E.U. An armed mob led by neo-Nazi Right Sector militia, now seemingly incorporated into the Ukrainian army, stormed the Ukrainian parliament forcing Yanukovych to flee. The remaining opposition parties immediately voted for a new government without the elections Yanukovych had actually agreed to the day before! This disturbance in Western Ukraine led to a polarising unrest in primarily Russian speaking Eastern Ukraine and led to the present low key civil war in the region of Donetsk and Luhansk where over 90% of voters seem to support reintegration with Russia. Observing the turmoil, and seeing the threat to its leasehold naval bases in the Crimea, led Putin to tactically annex the region. Now the region is at war.
A lesson, perhaps three, can be learnt from these events.
One: that if the efforts of Mr Gorbachev had been supported by the United States and Western European nations, perhaps a very different, truly democratic nation, might now exist in northern Europe.
Secondly: the Ukraine may probably end up like Georgia, split into two independent regions. As a guess, it would seem that Russia’s aim is to upset the country militarily before calling for talks which may lead to the eastern section being legally given independence.
Thirdly: there is a hint of hypocrisy in the West, given their interventionist disasters in Cuba (U.S. Bay of Pigs 1961), Libya (Both American 2011 and Italian 1911), and Suez (UK, France & Israel 1956). Whether Russia fares any better remains to be seen.
The West, by now, should have learnt that if you live in a glass house you shouldn’t throw stones! Or as another metaphor suggests: You reap what you sow!