Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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.

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