Daily archives: August 10, 2008

There Are No Good Guys, But We Must Be Most Wary of Russia

Russia has no right at all to invade Georgian territory – which South Ossetia is. Russia’s actions are illegal. The US and UK, who launched an equally illegal and much more devastating invasion of Iraq, are ill-placed to be outraged. Georgia was acting lawfully but unwisely in attacking rebels in South Ossetia. But Putin is lying when he says Georgia was engaged in genocide, and Georgia’s attack was itself less devastating than Russian attacks on Chechnya – a precisely parallel situation. So Russia is also being hideously hypocritical.

But we cannot just say that all the major powers involved are behaving terribly. That is true but not enough. Lenin’s Tomb has an excellent analysis.


But it is marred by the tendency of the left to think anyone opposed to Bush must be a good thing, and so give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Putin has plenty of blood on his hands also, and not only in Chechnya.

The truth is that life for ordinary people in the ex Soviet countries which have had “Orange Revolutions” like Ukraine and Georgia, is much, much better than in those which have not, like Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. That is so evident as to be undeniable to anyone who has actually been there.

Yet resurgent Russian nationalism is a major threat to Europe, and so Georgia must be supported as Russia tries to increase its hegemony over the former Soviet Union.

Russia’s attempt to leverage its Russian minorities into political power has been most obvious in Georgia and remains a major threat in the Ukraine. Given its own opposition to separatism for the many ethnic areas within Russia, this is not a question of principle. I posted on this last week.


Most commentators have quite correctly picked up on the fact that this is in large part about control of oil and gas pipelines. Those who have seen me lecture know that I have been talking about Russian pressure on Georgia for the last four years. My professional eye on the diplomatic dances around the invasion shows me that, as I predicted, energy dependency has made Germany a Russian client state within the European Union.



Those in Poland and Scandinavia who have been campaigning against the Nordstream gas pipeline project are absolutely right. European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons is not only an environmental abomination but also a major security risk. A Russian pipeline through Poland would be designated a major strategic national security interest for Russia – and for Germany. I can see easily see it becoming a cause for future conflict.

An immediate ceasefire is required now and a de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted, unless we eventually want a war for East Ukraine. Sadly, the West will learn the wrong long-term lesson. The answer is not to strengthen NATO. NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not the solution. By encircling and humiliating Russia, not least with new missile systems, NATO has creaated the climate in Russia so favourable to Putin.

The new NATO is the main symptom of the West’s chronic inability to create a new post cold war security structure. By clinging to and expanding NATO, we merely made the return of the Cold War inevitable – much to the benefit of the arms industry and military establishment. If our leaders had any imagination, they would realise that the answer is to wind down NATO and create new structures into which Russia should be drawn.

It is already a decade late for such thinking. With Bush and Brown at the helm and the military and arms industry in grater control than ever of policy in both the US and UK, it is currently impossible.

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Grumpy Thoughts from Edinburgh

I have been having a great time here with Nadira in Edinburgh. Audiences for the show have been extremely appreciative, though being on at 1.30pm they have not been huge, averaging around 50.

A couple of things have rather spoilt my mood today. I gave an interview to Radio Scotland for a morning talk show called Shereen. It is at the end of this feed (the link only works for one week). http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00cy4m1

As the last word an alleged journalist named Penny Taylor accuses me of exploiting Nadira, which is pretty nasty. I am not sure in what sense she meant – I am subsidising rather than benefiting from Nadira’s show. If she meant in our relationship, well Nadira is 26 now and well capable of making up her own mind. But what is especially annoying is that Ms Taylor has neither seen the show nor read my book.

If you listen to the whole programme (which I don’t recommend) you will hear that Ms Taylor was also giving strong views on the Georgian crisis despite being blissfully ignorant that South Ossetia is actually part of Georgia. I don’t mean she felt it should not be part of Georgia – I mean she really didn’t know that it is. Most of us are reticent to speak on subjects of which we know not the most basic facts. But evidently not Ms Taylor.

Giving forth opinions on a show you haven’t seen is foolish. Writing a review of a show you haven’t seen is thoroughly reprehensible. That appears to be the most likely explanation for what Greer Ogston has done in The List. http://www.list.co.uk/article/10991-the-british-ambassadors-belly-dancer/

Ogston writes:

Nadira Aleiva (who was mistress to the controversial former ambassador in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray) tells her story through the medium of song and dance


Now it would be difficult to sit through seventy minutes of The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer and fail to notice that it is not a musical. Nobody sings, at all. But the Fringe Festival office made a major cock-up and listed the show under “Musicals and Opera” in the Fringe programme. So if you hadn’t actually seen the show, but were cobbling together a review from the material about it you can find on the web, you might feel you could safely say the story was told through song and dance.

You would of course then end up looking very stupid. Take no notice of The List.. It publishes fake reviews.

This is where I come out as a grumpy old man. The abundance of silly review sheets, giving five star ratings to appalling amateurish shows by their friends in the incestuous world of fringe theatre, is a minor annoyance. Much more annoying is the almost complete absence on the Fringe of any endeavour of serious artistic intent.

This is my home town. As a young man I saw Steven Berkoff play Hamlet in a college gym, and Brian Blessed play a (surprisingly subtle) Macbeth in a church hall. Real actors of merit and experience crafted challenging performances for their art and for self-development. You always got the earnest student productions, and they are still around and welcome, but you are lucky to find a good one. But with over 2,000 fringe shows, we are deluged by purveyors of highly derivative stand-up comedy of mostly mediocre quality. At night the Fringe venues are positively anti-intellectual, as drunks roam around and belch laughter to “Observation comedy” about when your relationship is established enough to let your partner see the skidmarks in your pants. Bill Clinton famously described the Hay on Wye festival as “The Woodstock of the Mind”. Edinburgh is becoming its Ibiza.

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