I was going to talk about music and musicians, but being on a bit of a Russian roll (it sounds like I’m a piece of lettuce), I could not resist rehashing and presenting here a few bits of my previous missives from the Steppes. This will round off what Pete North is trying to explain to those who will listen.
Europe’s uneasy relationship with Russia spans many years, in fact more accurately, centuries. Somewhat disingenuously, the Russo-European narrative seems usually to identify the Russians as the ones with supposed aggressive intentions. Unless you are Russian or are a historical scholar, you could be forgiven for also making this simple mistake. For that is often how the relationship has always been presented to the public.
Russia (or perhaps just Putin – but what’s the difference. He could hardly do it all on his own!) is being presented by most of our elected politicians and mainstream media as a country with expansionist intentions. In fact, we are being asked to believe that if we turn our backs for just a moment, the Russian military would come swarming over the borders. It is only thanks to NATO and American missiles that this has not happened already.
However, this popular perception is far from the truth. The Russians have almost never been the aggressors and have had to endure countless attempts to “Europeanise” their motherland. You will note here that I am being kind to Napoleon, Hitler and the rest of their ilk with this euphemism.
One of the difficulties we seem to have is the inability to differentiate between the Soviet era and the Russian Federation era. That said, lets have a quick look back in history.
Although there are some differences and the names of some countries may be a bit different, the map of Russia and the European countries surrounding Russia is not that much different today than it was at the beginning of the last century. And, without doubt, the countries that border Russia have always had a difficult and tumultuous existence.
But not because of the actions of Russia!
Every time some or other aspiring European dictator has attempted to invade Russia, the conflict has inevitably involved Russia’s neighbours, neighbours with whom Russia has lived in peace for many years. And in every single instance, the Russians have beaten off the aggressors, often at great human cost to all concerned. In the aftermath of such reckless ventures, the Russians have sought to heighten the security of their nation, sometimes through overt and covert political influence and sometimes through negotiated treaties.
A further complication for the “in-between countries” has been the “East-West” tussle. The East being represented by Russia and the West being represented by the United States of America together with their proxy countries in Europe. Interestingly, the feelings in Europe after the Second World War to try to get along with Soviet Russia, caused the USA to have to use continual strong influence – political, economic and military – to keep Europe following the dictates of American foreign policy, rather than to risk Europe being overly influenced by the “Communists”.
However, with the collapse of communism, Russia and Europe became natural partners in many fields, whilst still strongly maintaining their respective national identities. The multi-cultural Europeans adapted to this new situation seamlessly, but the USA remained suspicious. Naturally, Russia’s neighbours sought to deal with their delicate situation in the best way possible, by being friendly and co-operative with both sides. But a new emerging super-power was not something that the USA was prepared to accept. Especially if it meant losing influence in one of the richest and most prosperous regions of the world.
So as pressure was brought to bear on Russia’s neighbours to show more favour towards the West than towards Russia, tensions started to develop. It was sad to see Ukraine, a country that was struggling to drag itself up into prosperity after years of communist rule, become the pawn of East-West power politics. There is no point in discussing why and who was to blame for the mess that developed in that poor country. You can probably guess what my opinion is.
After a glorious and roller coaster ride to riches and prosperity, following nearly a half century of war and destruction, Europe found itself in a quandary. The project devised to bring riches and prosperity had slowly developed into the structure called the European Union (EU). And those countries on the outside, looking in, wanted to be part of the success story.
Foolishly, recklessly, greedily or unwittingly, the leaders thought that the expansion of the EU was the best way forward. Although initially this expansion seemed to be a good idea, recent events have proven the opposite to be the case. And the way that this was done is probably proving to be the EU’s downfall. Blaming Russia, in general, and Putin, in particular, for the mess that we now find ourselves in here in Europe is proving to be a futile and pathetic tactic.
However, to help us understand what has been going on, I was reminded of an excellent article written a few months ago by Rob Slane:
by Rob Slane (19 March 2016)
For some time I’ve been trying to develop an all-encompassing theory to account for the behaviour of Western leaders and the media over the last few years. At times their actions and the words of many of them have appeared to be, shall we say, unhinged.
But it was only when I heard what the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, had to say in the House of Commons on 14th March that the penny finally dropped for me and my all-encompassing theory was finally settled. He was answering a leading question on the Russian withdrawal announcement from Syria, put to him by one of those servile members of the so-called Conservative Party who clearly sees his job as being the asker of leading questions, rather than calling the Government to account. Here’s Mr Hammond’s reply:
“Somebody goes in to another country, starts bombing civilian populations, destroying hospitals and schools. If they decide they have done enough, let’s not give them too much praise. It’s a bit like ‘did he stop beating his wife’. The fact they are there in the first place is something we have to continually protest about. We certainly should not give them any credit for simply withdrawing from these illegal activities.”
What is wrong with this statement? The word everything springs to mind. Firstly, although Western leaders have consistently said that Russian airstrikes were targeting schools and hospitals, often drawing on the Coventry-based one-man-band known as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights for proof, we now know from a leaked NATO memo that privately they were impressed at the accuracy and efficacy of the Russian strikes.
Secondly, this is the same Mr Hammond who voted in favour of the war against Iraq, who is part of a Government which dismembered the state of Libya, and who has consistently supported the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria. His bleeding heart humanitarianism is therefore more than a tad nauseating and to paraphrase his own analogy, it’s a bit like a wife-beater getting upset over someone shouting at their wife.
And finally, there’s that bit about Russian activities being illegal. Of course they were the opposite of illegal, since they were done at the request of the Government of the sovereign state of Syria. Mr Hammond wouldn’t understand that, of course, since he is part of a Government that despises the idea of national sovereignty and has consistently meddled in the affairs of sovereign states, which pose no threat whatsoever to Britain. British bombing in Syria was illegal, and for Mr Hammond to accuse the Russian campaign of being illegal is a stunning display of selling a falsehood as the truth.
But you might wonder why his speech gave me the answer to my search for an all-encompassing theory to explain the policies, words and actions of Western leaders, and what that all-encompassing theory is. The answer to the first part is this: Mr Hammond’s words were so utterly, mind-numbingly stupid, that it became clear to me that there must be much more to it than meets the eye. Surely no-one in such a position could voluntarily come out with such trash and expect anyone to believe it, could they? Yet the fact that he clearly did expect people to believe such an unhinged and false statement, solved the mystery of what is going on.
Isn’t it obvious that the whole thing has the Hand of Putin all over it? Isn’t it clear that Putin has been Weaponising Stupidity itself? And wouldn’t that explain all the other instances of stupid behaviour we have witnessed over the past few years?
But how, you say. Well let’s say that the Russians have invented some way of making people do or say really ignorant or stupid things — things that actually work against their interests and those of the people they lead. And suppose they have also discovered a way of putting it into capsule form. Well, Putin and members of the Russian Government have met with most high ranking Western leaders at various forums haven’t they? They’ve probably even had a cup of tea with most of them (emphasis on the word probably, which is a British legal term for certainly). How easy would it have been for them to slip a pill into their drink while they weren’t looking?
What about the media, though? Whilst the capsule explanation might explain the behaviour of a handful of politicians, they can’t have had tea with every Western journalist that writes stupid things about Russia or the Middle East can they? Of course not. But then if they have invented a way of Weaponising Stupidity, and if they have discovered the technology to put it into capsule form, who’s to say they can’t find a way of, say, pumping it into newspaper offices through the air-conditioning?
All well and good you might say, but it does beg a question: Why would Putin want to make Western leaders do and say stupid things? What benefit would he get out of Weaponising Stupidity? Again the answer is obvious, is it not? The more the leaders of Western countries and the media have displayed their folly and sheer ignorance, the more they have dragged their countries towards collapse. And since Putin’s goal is obviously to Weaponise the World, no doubt for his own dastardly reasons, you can begin to see how it would be in his interests to use Stupidity as a Weapon to achieve his aims. Can’t you?
Then again, I don’t want to be overly dogmatic about my new theory. I may be wrong. In fact, I still hold out the possibility that the truth might well be much simpler. It could just be a case that we really are run by ignorant buffoons who never learn, and even if Mr Putin were inclined to develop a way of Weaponising Stupidity, he’d actually be wasting his time.
Normally, Rob’s article would have been a contender for the Peter Smith’s “Funniest Story of the Month” competition. However, it was disqualified because, although the theme of the article is funny, in reality the conclusion is shockingly true and it’s sad!