Tuesday, 30 September 2014

First General Richards, now Paddy Pantsdown

What's going on?  First we have General Richards, former UK army chief, calling for a rapprochement with Russia and expressing pro-Russian views, now Paddy Pantsdown is at it!  Sorry Lord Ashdown, but you will be forever known by your classic Sun-headline-based moniker (well, by me, at least).

Former marine, Lord Ashdown, states in the Times today, Tuesday 30th September 2014, that "Russia is an essential ally in the fight against jihadism. The alternative is a global religious war".  He acknowledges that "Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields." 

Putin has been saying this for years - since the first war in Chechnya in 1994 - and long before 9/11.  It's about time the west, especially Obama and the US administration, acknowledged this and stopped with their ridiculous policy of sanctions and ostracism against Russia.

Former General supports Russian position over Crimea

Last week's Sunday Times, 28 September 2014, contains an interview with one of Britain’s former top soldiers, General David Richards, who retired last year.  The article was essentially discussing the crisis in Iraq and Syria, and Friday's vote in the House of Commons to commit the UK's armed forces to airstrikes against the terrorist group ISIL in Iraq, but in it he expresses some refreshingly honest, and accurate views on Russia, which run counter to the prevailing Russophobia in the western press.

General Richards outlines his solution to the crisis, which includes, among many other things, some kind of arrangement with Russia - their assistance in tackling Islamic terrorism is crucial.  But he does on to express some pro-Russian views in respect of the events in the Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea.  In respect of Crimea, he refers to the annexation as Putin's "cleverly executed plan".   
“I don’t want to sound an apologist for Russia, but think Falklands, think Cuba, and you begin to understand what Russia feels about Ukraine.....it’s been a part of their country for hundreds of years." In respect of Crimea, he refers to the annexation as Putin's "cleverly executed plan" 
I do tend to think that you are on dodgy ground when you try to establish borders and rights to territory on the basis of a arbitrarily selected point in time (or a point in time chosen to support your case), especially in the case of historically contested territory and fluctuating borders of nation states, kingdoms, princedoms, tribes.  However, General Richards goes on to state:
"Crimea is Russian. The Russians, British and French went to war over Crimea 170 years ago. The idea that Crimea was ever going to be allowed by Russians to be part of Ukraine, or a Ukraine that was hostile, was cloud-cuckoo-land. And from a purely military sense, it was a rather cleverly executed plan."
On the events Ukraine, he expresses a more honest opinion than you usually read in the western press; he asks:
"are we really certain those protesters in the early days were properly representative of the majority of Ukraine? There were certainly some dodgy elements, and a president who was democratically elected was kicked out, however much you don’t like him."
He goes on to express his worry, which I believe is quite an honest assessment of western actions in Ukraine, Georgia, Syria and elsewhere: we get involved, we give encouragement, moral support, but we don't follow through; we keep encouraging people to get to the top of the hill but don't do enough to get them there. Perhaps like Sisyphus in Greek mythology: as a punishment for chronic deceitfulness, Sysyphus is compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Russia's opposition to action against Syria

Up until a few months ago I thought that ISIS was just a pub along Silksworth Row in Sunderland.  It turns out that an Islamic extremist group of that name has emerged which is more barbaric than Al Quaeda.  It is a well-armed, well-organised and well-funded terrorist organisations intent on creating an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and has variously been called ISIS, IS and now ISIL.  Whatever it is, it's not a state and it's not Islamic.  

Russia has been warning the west for years - long before 9/11 - about the rise of Islamic extremism, having experienced it on its own soil.  The Russian position has consistently been to ask who would govern Syria if Assad is deposed, and to point out that by arming the rebels, you fuel Islamic extremist groups, making matters worse. Whatever Russia's motivation and allegiance are in this, it is nevertheless a reasonable question to ask.

I have previously viewed Russia's support for Assad, and both Russia and China's opposition to intervention and the military action against Assad's murderous regime, to be morally reprehensible, self-serving, obstructionist and realpolitik at its worst; but, given the rapid rise of this radical terrorist organisation, comprising circa 30,000 fighters from Syrian rebel groups, the Russian position seems remarkably prescient and sensible.  

There is now talk in some western circles about engaging in dialogue with Assad with a view to assisting him crush these rebels.  There was the meeting of foreign ministers this week, which included Russia's Sergei Lavrov, on the pressing need to do something about the ISIS/IS/ISIL. On the news this morning, I heard that the US was taking military action to protect Syria's border.  

What's going on?  Its just like the shifting alliances in the perpetual war depicted in Orwell's novel "1984".