Monday, June 04, 2007

How Should the West Respond to Putin's Threat?

James Oates is a LibDem blogger I respect. When it comes to Eastern Europe he knows what he is talking about. So I was interested to read THIS blog today from him.
On the day when Putin decides that it is easier just to point nuclear weapons at Europe, rather than engage in a political debate it may be worth asking some interesting questions about what the UK is doing about the practical threat from Russia:How many Russian diplomats have been asked to leave London in the past six weeks "for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status"?How many Russian private citizens have been refused entry to the United Kingdom over the same period on grounds of a threat to UK national security?How many Russian citizens have had their visa status revoked over the same period?How many D-notices requesting that such information not be published on grounds of national security were issued over the same period?CLUE: it is more than none.

Perhaps Mrs Beckett would care to enlighten us?

Let's not kid ourselves. Russia is flexing its muscles again. Quite how Europe and the US react to this is one of the most difficult foreign policy questions of our time. I won't pretend to have the answer.


Anonymous said...

Call his bluff. A tractor load of b*llsh*t on the forecourt of the Russian embassy should make the point.

Ross said...

I get the impression that Putin is picking all these fights ( Estonia, Livenenko, Missile Defence, Gas ) to try and create a siege mentality in Russia. If he is doing that the best response has to be to refuse to rise to the bait and be very moderate in language, at least until 2008 when we will know if he intends to abide by Russia's term limits.

Unsworth said...

One of this week's most hilarious comments - "Perhaps Mrs Beckett would care to enlighten us?"

Marvellous! I had to change my trousers - twice!

Anonymous said...

As part of the last disarmanent during the cold war, both the USA and the USSR agreed not point missiles at other. It takes 10 seconds to re point them.

this is all bluster by the russians.

Anonymous said...

A former great power flexing its muscles by standing-up for its own adgenda and not really caring if the world likes it or not.

Why cant we take a lesson from the Russians.....

Anonymous said...

Ross f said " least until 2008 when we will know if he intends to abide by Russia's term limits."

No need to wait; he'll either (a) vary the constitution to permit another term (or waive the limit to his existing term) because of the "crisis" he's busily fomenting, or (b) vary the constitution to create an executive premiership, and assume that position instead.

Tsar Vlad is going nowhere, and we need to get used to that.

Man in a Shed said...

There are only two practical answers, and sitting on the fence isn't one of them - which is why the Lib Dems may have problems thinking this one through.

1) Stand firm. Threaten to re-target Russian cities and to start developing further nuclear capability. Outlaw to purchase and import of Russian Oil and Gas and build Nuclear power stations - lots of them.
2) Cave in and agree to let the new KGB (FSB) run most of Europe.

I vote for 1). This is going to make Gordon Brown's wish to renew Trident and build nuclear power stations a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

Does everyone assume that China has no warheads targetting at London?

Oh sorry the Chinese economy is far too important. Let's just pick a fight with the Russians instead.

Anonymous said...

Am I right in thinking that the last time the UK was threatened by a country with a weapon of mass destruction attached to the end of a missile - we responded promptly to the threat by invading the said country, toppling its government, putting its former leader on trial and then hanging him by the neck?

Has anyone else noticed the change in foreign/defence policy approach here?

maneatingcheesesandwich said...

He's got a point though - if the French threw up a series of anti-missile batteries pointing towards us, on the pretext that they had serious concerns about Algerian militants in the UK and the possible future instabilities of the devolved nations, we'd be a tad peeved.

Historically, the Russians have a right to go defensive, but it's probably just a load of hot air. If he really wanted to show his annoyance, he'd just turn the gas off......

Anonymous said...

maneatingcheesesandwich said...

He's got a point though - if the French threw up a series of anti-missile batteries pointing towards us, on the pretext that they had serious concerns about Algerian militants in the UK and the possible future instabilities of the devolved nations, we'd be a tad peeved.

Totally agree with you. Putin's just having a hard time with his mid-life crisis - like Blair, so no wonder all of these WMDs pointing at him are peeing him off.

Why give him an excuse to get schizoid like TB? Send Joanna Lumley over with a big bunch of flowers to keep him talking until his hormones mellow, by telling him how amazingly young and handsome he is, he'll soon calm down. He is quite sexy, actually.

Anonymous said...

Reckon if it's a real threat, start looking for diggers on green belt land ,they'll be digging out the old nuclear bunkers ,and getting them ready for this gang to hide in.

The Hitch said...

I prefer Putin over Blair , he is a proper man , the sort of chap who would much rather spend an evening beating a confession out of somebody with a lead filled hose as opposed to sitting down with a guitar or some daft theological book.
This country needs a Putin , a patriot!

Old BE said...

It's a larger re-run of the Iran situation. Iran have deliberately concocted a "crisis" to serve their internal political problems and lo and behold Bush and Blair have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

No doubt they will screw this one up too.

Anonymous said...

"Putin decides that it is easier just to point nuclear weapons at Europe, rather than engage in a political debate.."

This is a direct response to the US erecting a missile defence shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic and claiming that it is aimed at "rogue states". This after Nato has been expanding up to the borders of Russia.

If the West signed treaties with Russia at the 'end of the cold war', why did it need to carry on tightening the screws afterwards?
Where is the evidence that Russia has adopted the expansionist policies of the Bolsheviks?
Trying to recover stolen goods hardly comes into that category.

I am more concerned that the neocons will provoke a very serious conflict before being hoofed out of the White House than by Putin reminding people that he still has a full armoury in an attempt to provoke serious negotiations.

Unknown said...

"Has anyone else noticed the change in foreign/defence policy approach here?"

But, uh, we know that Russia has shedloads of nukes whereas everyone of clue knew that Saddam Hussein didn't. If he'd actually had nukes, there's no way we'd have invaded his country.

As mentioned, it's unlikely that the Russians ever stopped pointing missiles at Europe, so from that point of view it's pure bluster.

However, thanks to successive governments' failure to build a viable energy infrastructure, in a few years we're going to be reliant on Russian gas if we don't want to freeze in the dark at night. Stupid windmills aren't going to provide the power we need, and there's no time to build enough nuke plants even if the NIMBYs and Greenies wouldn't do everything in their power to prevent them.

So Britain had better get used to being slapped around after we become Russia's bitch.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone here can tell me why the Yanks are in Eastern Europe with their "defence" missiles. what the F%#@ does it have to do with them.
Dont cry freedom as that is crap and you all know it is. Coke, Mc Donalds, Haliburton that is all they care about.

Anonymous said...

Roman Abramovitch is Putin's point man in the UK. Just how much has he given to politicians in hard or soft dollars ?

How do so many Russian call girls get a it the old student visa dodge used by lord Browne and Peter Mandelson for their boyfriends ?

Anonymous said...

Of course every one knows that intercontinental Ballistic Missiles don't point anywhere other than up.

I have a strong suspicion that if Putin was building Missile systems in Poland and Czechoslovakia that we wouldn't be too happy either.

Anonymous said...

Putin does not strike me as a bluffer. If the US install missile defences in East Europe or the UK then those systems will be targetted. Simple as that.

As, under Blair's premiership, the UK has been reduced to the role of being an international 'chancer', our best strategy is probably to smile, back off and try to sell him a football club, a swanky townhouse or some hedge fund bonds.

The US are being deliberately provocative with this missile 'defence' system proposal. But let us not suppose that this is being done with NATO's interests at heart. The US is consumed with the Middle East/Israel situation and will be for many tears to come. Integration with Russia is the only way forward for Europe.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with him actually, especially when he says that at least in Russia they have an election when it is time to have a new leader.
I've got an electric cooker anyway.

Anonymous said...

Let's build those nuclear power stations and quickly. We need to be rid of this lunatic's gas.

Anonymous said...

It may be useful to remember that it was the US who withdrew from the 1972 ABM treaty in 2002. (See 'Wikipedia ABM Treaty' for more details)

So does Russia have genuine concerns? - irrespective of Putin. There is a long history, now embedded deep in the Russian psyche, of being invaded; so do not be too surprised if the Russians are in general suspicious.

Has the USA tried to have talks with Russia over this matter?

Anonymous said...

"Putin decides that it is easier just to point nuclear weapons at Europe, rather than engage in a political debate.."
The simple answer is he was i/c of the KGB before becoming President and hardly shows signs of being a gentle leader.
The politics of Eastern Europe are interesting. Russia is still wanting to dominate the ex-USSR states, let alone the rest of the old Eastern Bloc. You only have to look at its argument with Ukraine, last summer, and now this year, to show, Putin the 'old Russian Bear' stretching its paws.
The Czech govt are the most pro-western and pro-Conservative (allies of the Tory Group in European Parliament) but last year's Czech Parliamentary elections were hardly conclusive. A coalition government was formed by the majority party which included the Greens. I suspect this may threaten the whole coalition. It may be surprising if Czech Republic green appointed ministers agree with having weapons in Brdy.
On a lighter note amazed the headline writers have not made a play on "giving them the Bird!!"

Anonymous said...

A good spread of postings covering the whole gamut on this; from the rational, through the dangerous rednecks, to the truly mad. Sample ordering:

Ross f: Pursue a rational line of rational strategic thought that refuses to play into anyone’s ‘stirring up paranoia’ stunts (I would add whether on 'their' or 'our' side)

Main-in-shed: Adopt the unthinking redneck approach and say it’s “fight or we all die, no other choices!”; and of course if we fight in a nuclear world we all die anyway(he should come out the shed and get out more) . As ed said “no doubt Bush and Bliar will screw this one up too” … only difference; will it be Brown instead of Blair?

- The recurrent refrain of several posters calling for the insane and irrational wholesale building of more nuclear power stations as some sort of response – truly the outpourings of the madhouse (I wouldn’t be surprised to read one of them posting; “ Oh, I just call em ‘nukes’ cos its so much more macho sounding!)

Anonymous said...

By taking the piss! Quite frankly Putin is hilarious- i'd respond by saying that i would not point any missiles at Russia because Putin is doing a good job at destroying it from within! Plus, i'd make the point that the Russkies seem quite adept at blowing themselves up- Chernobyl. Pass the voddie Vlad- i want a refill!

Anonymous said...

Russia has every right to safeguard it's security. The West should have all the missiles it wants but they don't need to be sitting right on Russia's doorstep.

The Huntsman said...

Speak softly but nip out quick and buy a new big stick.

David Lindsay said... is excellent.

Furthermore, if these new weapons really are to defend us all against Iran, then why are they not in Turkey or on Cyprus? If they are to defend us all against North Korea, then why are they not in South Korea or Japan? Of course, it would be physically impossible for North Korea to launch a missile strike against Europe. But then, it would have been physically impossible for Iraq to launch a missile strike against the US, or even Britain.

No doubt on both sides, but certainly in the West, we are dealing with people to whom the world only made sense in terms of the Cold War, and who have therefore been beside themselves ever since the Cold War came to an end. The likes of Noriega, Aideed, and for that matter Saddam Hussein have been held up as serious threats to the West, just because there had to be one, there just had to be. Exhausted, the old Cold Warriors have now turned their attentions back to Russia. They must feel like they have come home.

They are even backing the ghastly regime in Uzbekistan, and the laughable but not funny regime in Georgia (which claims to have received ninety-nine per cent of the vote last time - contrast the reaction to that with the reaction to the vastly more credible Ukrainian result), because those regimes do what is required against Russia. Russia is blamed, on absolutely no evidence whatever, for various murders both on her own soil and elsewhere (including in Britain). Britain welcomes a man of fabulous and highly dubious wealth to use this country as his base from which to demand the overthrow of Russia's elected government. And so forth.

Of course, Putin's Russia is not without serious faults. But Russia needs to be encouraged to think of herself as an integral part of the Biblical and Classical civilisation that is the West, and as that civilisation's bridge both to the world as defined by Islam, and to the world of the Far East, linking them to the West and to each other precisely by reference to the Biblical-Classical synthesis, and so overcoming anything in them that might ever give rise to any "clash of civilisations" such as is absurdly held to be happening at present. The Russian ethnic group, now both within and beyond the Russian Federation, is at once descended (as its mythology has it) from forest-dwellers in Scandinavia and the Baltic, and tied by blood to every people of the former Soviet Union or Tsarist Empire: European, Central Asian, and East Asian.

To that extent, Russia is the West's gatekeeper against subjugation to Islam or to anything Far Eastern, and such has indeed been her historic role, shared with all the Slavs, and not least with the Serbs, so that, among very many other things, Russia is absolutely right to oppose the ridiculous theory of Kosovo as a sovereign state.

David Lindsay said...

That should, of course, be - sorry!

David Lindsay said...

html - have you got that, ml! Why has this failed to conme up twice?

Anonymous said...

The Russians clearly do not believe that these American missile bases in & near Poland are aimed at Iran. Neither do I.

The western powers promised not to extend NATO if the Soviets left eastern Europe. They guaranteed to "take no action against the territorial integrity or unity of Yugoslavia". They signed the ABM treaty. It is also a matter of record that NATO, whose constitution requires them to engage in only purely defencive war (Yugoslavia?), has recently redefined aggression as not selling oil & gas at the price NATO wants - a clear & deliberate military threat against Russia.

It is the first duty of any government to protect its citizens from "foes domestic & foreign" & this is all that Putin is doing. I have said before that our contempt for international law & our most solemn treaty promises has made the world a more dangerous place. We will not make it safer by ratcheting up this contempt further.