Coffee House From the archive

The Spectator: on 150 years of punishing Russia

6 March 2014

10:31 AM

6 March 2014

10:31 AM

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine has left western diplomats scrabbling for sanctions that won’t backfire on to the rest of Europe and America. The foreign secretary William Hague said Russia must ‘face consequences and costs’. When a policy paper was photographed that said the UK should not support trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians, Mr Hague said it did not reflect government policy. But punishing Russia is sure to be an expensive business.

Just before the Crimean War, when Russia invaded Turkish Moldovia and Wallachia in 1853, a Spectator editorial took a hard line; Russia should be punished on principle.

The present operations of Russia proceed entirely upon the old fashion of coercing other states into an alliance against their likings if not against their convictions. Not- withstanding her diplomatic cleverness, Russia is by no means a fair type of European intelligence or honesty… Like a noble in the middle ages, the Czar seeks to bribe or bully his betters into standing by him; and hitherto the minor states of Europe, if not those of the first rank, have even been obliged to sacrifice their own clear perception and their conscience to their policy or their fear. Let the principle and practice be established, that the individual shall not be suffered to dictate, but that the Powers of Europe will unite to sustain the common law of Europe, and every state would be released from this species of coercion. In other words, the conscience of Europe would be the high court of appeal, under whose protection every state should be independent, and no crowned man should make it afraid.

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But by 1927, the magazine had mellowed. Diplomatic relations between Russia and Britain were closed off after the Soviet Union was accused of subversive activities. This time, the Spectator’s stance was similar to the plans in document that was caught on camera this week.

The British people are not really as afraid of cartoons in foreign newspapers as they are of losing a potential foreign market. They might subsequently come to the conclusion that, for the sake of obtaining a purely party advantage, the Government had taken a step which sensibly diminished a portion—albeit a small one—of their foreign trade, and jeopardized world peace. And if they were to come to such a conclusion, the Government would have short shrift.

More recently, the magazine has written often about corruption and state-sponsored crimes committed under President Putin. Pavel Stroilov warned Cameron in 2011 to keep his distance from Putin. Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB rebel who was poisoned in 2006, had warned in 2002 that the West was making a terrible mistake in going along with Putin in exchange for his cooperation in the war on terror, he said. Russian dissidents today agree; one, Evgeny Legedin, warned against any business links at all:

“Merely by coming to shake hands with the dictator at such a moment, you inevitably risk accusations of appeasement. The only sensible way to deal with these gangsters is a complete boycott.”

In a 2010 article entitled There’s something rotten in the state of Russia, Owen Matthews outlined some of the worst abuses in Russia, including the death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was trying to expose a scam allegedly perpetrated by corrupt officials. It prompted a letter from Jeremy Putley:

Considering the volume of available evidence establishing the real nature of Russia today, the question must be: how can it be ethical for foreigners to invest in Russia? The death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, Hermitage’s lawyer, was surely a consequence of pursuing the profit motive beyond proper bounds.


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  • Tom Tom

    I am so pleased those students in Tienanmen Square have made a full recovery !

  • Baron

    There indeed is something rotten in the state of Russia, and will be until the generations brought up, infected by the evil of communism die out. Given that the creed’s poison, which has twisted and corrupted the character of men for decades, needs time to be expunged, only someone who didn’t experience the Red Menace may expect Russia to turn whiter than white at a stroke.

    Many things are still pretty awful there, but unquestinably the Russians have never had it so good for centuries. Trust Baron, he knows, he tasted the communist tyranny, knows enough about the conditions under Putin.

    • Tom Tom

      The British hated the Czars and loathe Russian nationalism, they really only fell in love with Joe Stalin naming streets in Colchester after him…..Communism was the love that captured the British journalists and civil servants and made them loyal slaves to Stalin……since 1956 they starting falling out of love except for the Hobsbawms et al………

      • Baron

        Quite, Tom Tom, it seems that some may still be under the spell of the legacy of the communist poison, and not only in the lands of the now defunct Red Menace.

  • Jez

    We i look at Moscow, i rightly or wrongly see the majority of people proud of who they are, with a government that doesn’t want to replace or undermine them due to money.

    I look at Bradford and see Minarets. I look at my Capital City and see the managers of that PLC wanting people like my and my family to get out.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      Are you for real?
      If you’re poor get out indeed. The state owes you nothing!

      • Wessex Man

        Do grow up or go over to the Newstatesman.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …so the state only owes you socialist nutters, eh lad?

    • Tom Tom

      It is not so much minarets as domes especially the one built to overlook the cathedral in typical Muslim style to show superiority…….and the flow of public funds into those mosques for “educaion and training”

      • Makroon

        Perhaps the “Muslims” learnt that technique from the monstrosities imposed by Catholic fanatics in Alhambra and the grand mosque in Seville ?

  • http://batman-news.com The Commentator

    There has been a coup in Ukraine, the country has no legitimate government although the EU now refers to the coup leaders as an “interim government” (bit like they did after the coup in Egypt). As the former colonial power power Russia has quite reasonably moved in to protect military installations and prevent further bloodshed. This is what France recently did in the CAR and Britain did in Sierra Leone. The real problem here is that western politicians hate the Russians, in any other context this would be described as xenophobia and racism. The other problem is that the EU keeps interfering in the affairs of other countries thereby destabilising the whole region and bringing us closer to another war in Europe. Worth remembering when we come to vote in May…

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      You cannot make a statement like that without paying me baksheesh.
      What? You object? You can’t do that. You must pay me baksheesh or never mention those who have been on the streets FOR MONTHS again.

    • Baron

      Good point, Commentator, except perhaps that the Western politicians don’t so much hate the Russians as the man the Russians have voted for to lead them. If Putin embraced the progressive rainbow, equality, gayish agenda, or at least kept shtum about it, he would be allowed to join them.

      The enlightened Western elites have always lived with dictators if not easily than than at least profitably (Gaddafi, Mubarak, others), still do, (the Saudi lot, the Chinese commies).

      • Tom Tom

        When will I get a Government representing my views or perhaps a media, an MP, a Church, ?

        • Baron

          How about taking a hint from Kiev, hiring an armed mob, storming the House, forming a government with people you like …. Our leaders seem to be backing such an approach, it may be worth considering.

          PS: This is meant in jest, Tom Tom, God forbid you or anyone else were to take it seriously. Baron has to say it for in the enlightened Britain he may have his collar felt for inciting violence, people making similar jokes had.

    • Curnonsky

      So Putin is annexing Crimea in the name of preserving Ukrainian democracy? Come off it. There was never the slightest threat to Russian military installations nor Russian-speaking citizens – if ruse that isn’t straight out of the dictator’s playbook I don’t know what is.

      Putin is naturally terrified of winding up dangling from a lamp post, and he has taken advantage of the unprecedented jelly-spined weakness among Western leaders to make his move. Next stop, the Baltic states.

      • Baron

        If you right the next stop for Putin is the Baltic states, we have little to worry about for ages, Baron reckons.

  • http://english-pensioner.blogspot.co.uk/ english_pensioner

    Cameron should be putting the interests of this country first. We are no longer an empire nor are we the world’s police force. We have no interests of any importance in the Ukraine and so we should keep out and not interfere.
    Once, when we were an independent country, not part of the EU, we might have offered our services as disinterested mediators, but these days we can’t even do that. Cameron would be best employed ensuring that the EU and Ashton don’t do anything stupid which is prejudicial to Britain’s interests.

    • HookesLaw

      We are not policing anybody in the Crimea or Ukraine, just promoting the interests of free elections and democracy. its in our interests.

      • Makroon

        “Free elections and democracy” ?
        Don’t you mean street “direct action” to impose regimes which are more pro-western ?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Come orf it. We were treated yesterday to the lesser and worst of the three evils, the over-privileged human blancmange and the braying red donkey, pontificating sanctimoniously about Ukraine as though:-

        a) it was any of our bleeding business; and

        b) we actually had the wherewithal to do something about it.

        Laughable. Putin has more gumption in one little finger than you’d find in the whole of that Brussels-whipped charade occupying our Parliament.

        • Wessex Man

          the dreams of the Eurocratic, pen-pushing desk generals of the EU are nowhere better summed up by being Hookie!

          I don’t want and don’t want any of my family being drawn into a war between Russia and the Ukraine, let em get on with it and keep our noses out for once!

      • Tom Tom

        Pity we have so little influence in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia

      • http://english-pensioner.blogspot.co.uk/ english_pensioner

        Just like we have. Free elections, which the electoral commission described as of third world standards in some constituencies following the last general election, and a democracy where unelected EU officials dictate many of our laws.

      • telemachus

        So you support the forthcoming free vote of the Crimean people in 10 days time

        • saffrin

          I doubt the EU will though. We all know how they feel about any of the democratic processes.
          Can we afford another if they get it wrong?

          • telemachus

            Forget the EU
            This is global power politics and the EU is still, thanks to Eurosceptic faint hearters still an economic self help group
            *
            What we are seeing is Putin as a strong man as Stalin who will get his way
            *
            As will the brave Crimean People

            • saffrin

              Seeing as the EU likes to claim its origins began as a means to stop war in Europe, when do you think they’ll get around to not promoting World conflict.
              All Putin is doing is bringing order to places Brussels likes to promote public unrest.
              If anything, they should take the Nobel Peace Prize off of Obama and give it to Putin.

              • telemachus

                Quite

        • Dr Ian Tordoff

          I was married to a russian speaking ukranian for ome time
          they are many such people who do not want to be subject to dictator putin and such a country without sensible law
          what about their freedom
          have you considered them
          no you haven’t
          because you ignorant of all the
          complexities of this situation
          and perhaps lack the intellect
          you realise thesame

        • Dr Ian Tordoff

          so tell me your age
          your country of residence
          and why you feel competent to voice an opinion
          on such things
          have you lived and worked in Russia and Ukraine
          like I have ???
          or are you an armchair traveller and commentator !!!!
          come on give me some reason to respect your
          opinions and ideas – i really would like to be positive
          about you and your life seriously

          love to you (maybe)

  • Colonel Mustard

    Western governments are happy to overlook the internal brutalities and impositions of such regimes until such time as they spill over into so-called foreign policy issues. Thus we had the odious spectacle of Corporate Cameron and Co cosying up to China for crumbs (and internet censorship technology).

    The 19th Century British stance over Moldavia and Wallachia was ridiculed and scorned by exactly the same generation of political activists who now, in power, having emasculated Britain’s big stick, wring their hands and throw temper tantrums over their inability to do anything but make hollow speeches whilst juggling sanctions and trading benefits.

    Suck it up you wazzocks. Maybe Steven Fry can give you some advice on how best to proceed.

    • dalai guevara

      We note you are finally preparing yourself for a future of (a) Eurocorps under the umbrella of (b) the Catholic faith whilst land reforms will deliver (c) the pushing back of corporate/aristocratic Britain in return for an increased communally-owned essential public services infrastructure.
      Well done, it’s all there – in your post.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Yes, you show a unique ability to read things into comments that reflect your strange, arcane and barely fathomable assumptions. Nothing about Eurocorpse though, or the unified Catholic faith, land reform or communally-owned essential public services infrastructure in my comment.

        You should team up with barking. You’d make a good double act re-writing others comments to produce gobbledygook that only you two appear to understand.

        • dalai guevara

          Now now Colonel, no diversions now please. We have been here many times before. The Church, Parliamentary legitimacy in issues of representation, a broke and broken state no longer in the position to fund a large military due to catastrophic failures in… banking.

          It is you who mentioned “Corporate Cameron”, “emasculated Britain’s big stick” and Steven Fry. I then merely expand on that focussing the thoughts you thought you never had.
          A team right there.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            You have a team of squirrels trapped up in your skull, lad. That’s the only explanation for that disjointed gibberish.

            • dalai guevara

              Not a single of any of my predictions has not materialised, tovarishch – starting with the CCGT/windmill revolution way back, now predicting that Liam F will not be the next SG of a European-led NATO.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Do the squirrels eat much?

                • dalai guevara

                  Let’s not forget – you are Milliputin, tovarishch.
                  Hate Cameron = Love Labour

                  That’s how it works in the two party state and you know it.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Don’t buy your squirrel food on-line. It’s often tainted, and you’re squirrelly thinking enough without ingesting mercury, too.

          • Colonel Mustard

            You are one to write of ‘diversions’! Yes, I mentioned those things but not the others. You are the one adding 2 to 2 to make 5, not I.

            • dalai guevara

              You got it in one (well, it took a while) – “the team” with extra value added.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …you mean, extra squirrels?

  • Mark McIntyre

    Much of Eastern Europe hates the Russkies – particularly regarding their Soviet guise.
    How to let those semi-civilized Russkies know how much they are hated ? – demolish all the war memorials to the Soviet Forces and export the resultant rubble to Russia !

    • Baron

      This qualifies for the most imbecilic posting for a long time, if not for ever, it doesn’t smell of racism, it is racism, fortunately for you, Mark, the Russians are white, of the Christian tradition, their leader is not of the same rainbow, multy-culty, equality stock as ours, hence you safe.

      The Russkies have saved Europe twice from a tyranny, whilst living under the worst kind of it, which was hoisted on them, they didn’t vote for it, if it were not for the millions of them who lost their lives, you wouldn’t be spewing this trash today.

      Baron suggests next you wake up before you open your mouth.

      • Makroon

        World war II, what was the other occasion ?

        • Baron

          The Corsican, Makroon, the one that we, the British have finished off.

          • Tom Tom

            finished off with Prussian support – sine qua non

        • Tom Tom

          WW!, defeating Napoleon at Borodino, —maybe your poor education left you licking stickers for a history scrap book but you could join a library

          • Makroon

            Yes, Napoleon certainly qualifies, point taken Baron.
            However, know-all PPE grad Tom, mentions WWI, where Russia was roundly defeated, with massive loss of life and tipped into turmoil in 1917, and certainly did not “save Europe from tyranny”. especially since Nicholas II was much of a muchness with the Kaiser. By precipitating the revolution, you could say that the effect of WWI on Russia, was to ultimately result in tyranny in half of Europe.

      • Mark McIntyre

        Calm down ‘Red’ Baron !

    • Tom Tom

      I am sure there are countries across the globe ready to dig up CWGC graves too and blow up British war memorials…….

      • Wessex Man

        yes indeed, why those so-called allies of Call me Dave, our Libyian friends kicking over and smashing WW2 graves, another one that went well under Dave!

      • Mark McIntyre

        We should help them ! – by bringing those graves home !

    • the viceroy’s gin

      It is a sin to insult the honored dead. They’re gone, and their memory shouldn’t be abused.

      • Mark McIntyre

        The Honoured Dead ? – honoured by whom ?? – not Moi !

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes, you want to dishonor them, insult them, which is a sin.

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