Letter on Salisbury in response to Anatol Lieven

The Times
28 August 2008

This letter was written in response to a comment page article by the fine international analyst Anatol Lieven, who quoted Lord Salisbury as a source of advice for the present Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

Salisbury was the author of splendid isolation which helped create the conditions leading to World War 1. He was an imperialist and racist. Lieven was writing from Pakistan and his writing on that country is well worth reading. He believes that we need no new conflicts and that Russia can help in the wider war against fundamendalist jihadi terrorism. I agree. But we do not sacrifice our principles nor do we sacrifice a country like Georgia as part of a new realgeopolitik. Russia faces challenges from terrorism and should seek to be a partner of Europe and the world’s democracies instead of unleashing this new Black Sea crisis.
Sir, I am not sure Anatol Lieven quoting Lord Salisbury, the author of splendid isolation, who told Parliament he would no more give a vote to the Irishman than he would to a “hottentot”, is the best example for David Miliband to be inspired by when he visits Ukraine.
Britain and the rest of Europe have to work out a policy to deal with a Russia that rejects European values and norms. Poland and the Baltic states have been told they could not join Nato or the EU because it might upset the Kremlin. But what is this new doctrine that holds a sovereign nation cannot decide what to do because it shares a border with Russia? Not for the first time, Russian tanks are in a country that does not want them there. Not for the last time, London pullulates with those who find excuses for the Kremlin’s behaviour.

British Tories and Putin

Mr Cameron's Strange Links with the Kremlin

This news release was issued today. The new edition of Private Eye carries an interesting story about the British Tories and the Russians.

Tory Disarray over Kremlin Links in Europe Council

Former Europe Minister, Denis MacShane, has welcomed the Tory decision to quit their alliance with Vladmir Putin on the Council of Europe but says that David Cameron shares the same Eurosceptic vision of Europe as a loose, disaggregated grouping of states which the Kremlin can play divide and rule politics with.

The Labour MP first exposed the Tory-Putin alliance earlier this year when, as a UK member of the Council of Europe, he led a campaign to stop a Putin placeman being nstalled as the Council of Europe president with the backing of Conservative MPs.

"I could not believe that in their obsessive dislike of cooperating with mainstream centre-right parties Cameron's Conservatives had agreed to become the Kremlin's little helpers. I welcome the decision of Cameron to order his Council of Europe delegates to quit their alliance with the Russians. But it remain pure hypocrisy on Cameron's part to call for a tough European line on Russia when he actively opposes any and all means to achieve European unity on common foreign and security policy. Every time Europe is debated in the Commons the number one target for Cameron and William Hague is the idea of a united EU line on foreign policy. This is exactly identical to the Kremlin line which wants to break apart EU nation states and deal with them one by one on a divide and rule basis. Cameron's Euroscepticism is consistent with Putin's Euroscepticism and neither will be any help to the next US president," said MacShane

See full Guardian web site story below for background (There is also a good background in the new issue of Private Eye)

David Cameron to pull out of partnership with Russian party
Tory leader to stop Conservative MPs sitting in Council of Europe with Russian parliamentarians who support Putin
Andrew Sparrow, senior political correspondent
Wednesday August 20 2008 12:14 BST
David Cameron is going to stop Conservative MPs sitting in alliance with Russian parliamentarians who support Vladimir Putin in an influential Europe-wide assembly.
The Tories have decided that they cannot continue sitting in the European Democrat group in the Council of Europe after being accused by Labour of "hypocrisy".
On Saturday, in a high-profile and controversial intervention, Cameron flew to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, to express solidarity with its people following the invasion by its neighbour, Russia.
Cameron adopted a more robust, anti-Russian stance than the government has. He called for Russia to be suspended from membership of the G8 group of industrialised nations and for Georgia's entry into Nato to be brought forward.
But yesterday Denis MacShane, the Labour former Europe minister, said it was hypocritical for Cameron to pose as anti-Russian in Georgia when Conservative MPs were sitting alongside parliamentarians from Putin's United Russia party in the Council of Europe.
There are 47 countries in the Council of Europe, which was set up after the second world war to promote human rights and the rule of law. It has a parliamentary assembly, made up of parliamentarians from member states, and MPs sit in groups that reflect their political beliefs.
Many centre-right parties from EU countries sit in the European People's Party group. But the Conservatives do not share the pro-Europeanism of many parties in the EPP and instead they sit in the European Democrat group with United Russia and other parties.
MacShane told guardian.co.uk that it was hypocritical of Cameron to advocate firm anti-Russian policies "when he leads the only major European party that works with the Kremlin in the Council of Europe".
But, when the Conservatives were asked for a comment, they said they would be pulling out of the group.
A spokeswoman said: "Given the recent events in Georgia, we do not believe that the current arrangement in the European Democrat group in the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly can continue as it is.
"We are already in the process of consulting our partners within the group, such as the Polish Law and Justice party and the Czech Civic Democrats about the way forward."
She said that talks about a new grouping had been going on for some time and were not just prompted by the "hypocrisy" allegations. She also said that, because negotiations were under way, it was not possible yet to say what the outcome would be.
MacShane said today that he welcomed the Tory decision. But he said that Cameron ought to go further.
"Cameron needs to support a common European foreign policy and the mechanism in the Lisbon treaty that will achieve this," he said.
"Putin supports the idea of a Europe of a loose grouping of nation states which is also Cameron's line and which would allow the Russians to play one EU member state off against another."

Who is Next on Russia's List

Part of the continuing discussion on Russia since the invasion of Georgia

This article was published by Guardian Comment is Free on 18th August 2008

We cannot remain deaf to cries for help from countries threatened by Moscow. To do so would be to repeat Chamberlain's mistake

The tone is changing on Russia. While bien-pensants in London for whom Georgians are an irritating, faraway people of which they know nothing are explaining away Putin's invasion, across the Channel reality is kicking in.
In today's Le Figaro, President Sarkozy is adopting a much tougher tone. He now says all Russian troops must clear out of Georgia and says he will call a full EU council if this does not happen.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited Tbilisi and said Georgia will join Nato. Die Zeit's weekend headline was "The Russian Danger" and its publisher Helmut Schmidt is sending a clear signal to the pro-Russian German foreign office that it is time the scales fell from its eyes.
As Sir Roderick Braithwaite, the astute former ambassador in Moscow and a man sympathetic to Russians pointed out some time ago, Russia has done far more invading than it has been invaded. Napoleon and Hitler failed to conquer Moscow but Russian armies – Tsarist and Soviet – have occupied every European capital east of the Rhine.
Hence the very different perspective on the Russian air-sea-land assault on a UN member state from EU nations closer to Moscow. Barely noticed in the crisis last week were the visits by the presidents of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine to stand alongside President Saakashvili as a gesture of solidarity.
The Russian response was to threaten Poland with nuclear weapons as the terrified Poles signed an agreement with America on kinetic (unarmed) missile defence shield bases. When Carl Bildt, Sweden's experienced and balanced foreign minister, expressed concern about Russia's behaviour, Moscow's response was to threaten a naval re-militarisation of the Baltic.
Future trouble looms over Ukraine's sovereign coast line on the Crimean Black Sea where the Russian warm-water fleet is stationed.
President Sarkozy's remarks that Russia had some rights in Georgia sent a chill down the spine of Baltic states which have Russian speaking citizens, installed after Stalin's invasion of these small countries in 1940. Finland, which fought a war with Russia in 1940, shivers at what the new Putin doctrine might mean.
The huge Polish diaspora in North America, Britain and elsewhere will see all its atavistic fears about Russia resurface. It is unlikely that Obama or McCain will risk alienating this voting bloc by adopting anything other than hard, harsh language on Russia – just as Sarkozy and Merkel have had to harden their tone and start to speak more like David Miliband, who is being reported in the continental press as being authoritative and tough on Russia in contrast to more uncritical lines from some European foreign ministers.
Putin may have thought that sweeping the Georgian pawn off the board was the end of the game. Alas, it is is only the beginning, and Britain cannot betray Poland and its fellow EU and Nato allies as Chamberlain did in the 1930s.
About this article
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Monday August 18 2008. It was last updated at 14:30 on August 18 2008.

Russia, Georgia, What is Europe's Policy?

This is one of the interventions on the Russian-Georgia conflict and what it means for Europe and the democratic world.

This article appeared in the Independent, London 20 August 2008

The mood has darkened across the whole of Europe

After eight years of division within Europe on geo-political strategy, is the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, building a new sense of purpose in Europe and between the EU and the US? After the unhappy era of George W Bush diplomacy which led to greater divisions within Europe and between Europe and the USA than in past decades, is Mr Putin the new wizard who can unite Europe and reforge a 21st century Atlantacism?
Far from being a chess match in which the Russian grandmaster knocks a pawn off the board, all of Europe is looking hard at what the Putin doctrine means and it does not like what it sees. In the first days after the Russian land, sea and air invasion of a UN soveriegn President Sarkozy was patting himself on the back after his high-speed shuttle between Moscow and Tbilisi, while Berlin believed its decision to block Georgia's access to Nato was the correct policy.
Today the mood has darkened. Mr Sarkozy now says Russia must withdraw completely from all of Georgia. Mrs Merkel says Georgia can join Nato. Poland rushes to sign a deal with America on missile defence. Ukraine now moves to the frontline as Kiev looks west to Nato and the EU in Brussels for support, rather than north to Moscow for orders. Even Belarus says it want to build relations with the EU and with America.
Putin apologists in the West like to blame America and the Bush-Cheney years for worsening relations with Russia. Yet Senator Obama will not allow himself to be outflanked with accusations of being soft on the Kremlin. Putin has given the American arms industry and Democratic as well as Republican neo-cons a perfect opening to launch a new Cold War.
The Kremlin wants to drive a wedge between its neighbours and other European states, and between America and Europe. And in its version of Euroscepticism, Moscow wants to disaggregate EU member states into competing nations that reject EU unity.
How should Europe respond? Europe needs its own doctrine to deal with a Russia which rejects the European Union’s norms of rule-of-law, freedom of expression and a state accountable to justice and independent political parties. It is not a remake of the Cold War. Russia is reverting to a 19th century nationalism at a time when Europe and the world needs post-national institutions like the EU to allow proud nations to cooperate and grow together in place of the zero sum politics of the Kremlin.
Today we need a containment and co-operation policy with Russia. Russia is weaker than Putin's rhetoric implies. It has an unhealthy shrinking population the size of Bangladesh and a GDP per capita lower than Equatorial Guinea. To be sure, Europe needs Russian oil and gas and Russia needs European investment under FDI. So co-operation aimed at drawing Russia closer to European norms of an open market economy should remain policy.
But on the political front, it is time to admit that efforts since the early 1990s to be friendly to Russia have failed. Far from the West seeking to humiliate Russia, the doors of every western institution have been opened to Moscow. Her generals sit as observers at Nato meetings. Russians have been made welcome at the Council of Europe.
Russia is European by culture and it is in Europe that the bulk of Russians live. It took many patient years of containment before Sovietism expired. Sadly, Russia has refused the chance to become a full, open, partner of Europe on the basis of democracy, rule of law and respect for European norms and values. A new policy based on as much containment as necessary and as much co-operation as possible is needed.
Conservative neo-con language is as useless as those who find excuses for Putin's doctrine of anti-West aggression. Russia has insisted on asserting national interests and defied international institutions and rules. Europe should fashion a containment-cooperation policy that offer Russia full partnership but on modern European terms not the 19th century nationalist politics Putin practises. If not, the sabre-rattlers in both Moscow and Washington will resume their old game.