The Guardian’s hounding of Russian diplomats: Back to the future, back to the USSR?
On 1 December 2012 The Guardian newspaper, widely believed to be centre-left liberal and associated with the Labour party, published two articles, obviously meant to exaggerate the Russian Embassy’s ability to pursue the national interest in the bilateral relationship with Great Britain. For that we would only be grateful, but for one thing. That is hounding, in the process, of Russian diplomats, stationed in London and trying to frighten people off the Embassy by dusting off the old bogeyman of KGB and FSB.
As to the KGB and FSB, we’d like to refer the authors to John Le Carre and his Secret Pilgrim in particular, where he explores with lots of authority, the nonsense the secret services on both sides of the Cold War divide had engaged in.
The paper can’t help basking in perceived finding the so-called Kremlin’s hand in minor difficulties in the Conservative Party. It is assumed that people there do not decide for themselves, but are dupes of the Russian Embassy. It is a fitting reminder that those were the New Labour Governments that allowed our bilateral relationship to deteriorate to the point where it became open to negative impact of all sorts of accidents, including held hostage to private interests of some Russians living in Britain, who have accounts to settle in Russia and with the Russian Government. It has to be noted that the Russian authorities have requested, in due course, extradition of about 40 Russian nationals on criminal charges (fraud, money-laundering etc.).
This situation became a function of our merely becoming at odds over the War in Iraq. Do some people want to repeat that dubious accomplishment taking advantage of our differences over another international issue, this time that of the settlement of the Syrian crisis?
We, indeed, welcome any initiative of the British civil society aimed at building up mutual trust and understanding between our two nations. All the more so, that there is a lot of room for improvement, partly to make up for the time lost since 2003. The Rossotrudnichestvo, a federal agency reporting to the Foreign Minister, has recently established a program modelled on the American Open Society (by the way, our US partners lobbied our Government hard on that count).
We consider such exchanges to be a normal practice, opening up another major channel of people-to-people contacts. They fit in the positive dynamics within the overall context of our relations.
Their current state creates huge opportunities for contribution by British politicians and general public. The official visit to Moscow in September 2011 by Prime Minister David Cameron, contacts held in London by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during the Olympic Games provide enough grounds to talk about the restoration of full-scale political dialogue between our countries.
On 29 October 2012 First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable co-chaired the 9th session of the Russo-British Intergovernmental Steering Committee for Trade and Investment. Russia is about to lift the ban for import of meat products from the UK (imposed because of epidemics of British cattle in the past).
The interaction in the sphere of establishing an International Financial Center in Moscow is widening. A number of Russian companies are interested in listing at the London Stock Exchange. British imports to Russia increased by 57 % in 2011. Around 600 British companies are successfully doing business in Russia. Both countries are keen to develop cooperation in high-tech areas.
Our mutual agenda comprises not only intense joint action at the UN Security Council and other international fora, but also within the framework of cross presidencies of Great Britain in the G8 and Russia in the G20 in 2013. The large-scale preparatory work is being carried out for the cross seasons of culture in 2014. In the run-up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 Russia is interested in British experience in hosting major sports competitions.
We are well aware of the existing bias, instincts and prejudices of some who would like any progress in our relationship to wait for the moment when we see eye to eye on issues of democratic development. Such an approach smacks of self-righteousness. Do we need to say that no country is now in good shape in terms of economy, fiscal situation, state of democracy, quality of political elites and, finally, the media? Russia is also far from perfect, and whatever problems we have we are willing to discuss those with our partners, including the British. That is, in fact, done at all levels. After all, Russia, naturally, is in a momentous transition, sort of goods in process, not finished goods in a state of end of history rot. We don’t claim moral high ground, but ask for a reasoned debate.
Since the state of the British media is a topical issue, it would be only fair to say that Britain’s international partners have a huge interest in their health, Russia being no exception. We did have those problems with the British mainstream press in the past. For example, it played a critical part in engineering the unnecessary Crimean War, which broke the European order and created an opening for the militaristic Prussia, which lacked political culture of moderation (read Henry Kissinger for that), to grab the whole of Germany. That war started the countdown to WWI and all the tragedies that followed. In fact, it is only now that we are getting out of this historical cycle. This impact is not outweighed by few advantages, such things as the Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale’s heroic service and the recognition of ordinary soldiers’ humanity.
Orlango Figes details that in his Crimean War. He also mentions that the press hounded the then Secretary for War Sidney Herbert out of office partly for his being a grandson of the former Russian Ambassador in London Count Semyon Vorontsov. Fortunately, his good name was restored and his statue makes part of the Crimean War memorial.
So much for the press and its role in Foreign Policy. We hope, the media, the Fourth Estate will exercise its freedom responsibly for the good of Great Britain and its international relationships which are a major source of economic growth and prosperity in our interdependent world. Hopefully, the blame for parts of British media’s blatant disregard for common decency won’t be put at our Embassy’s door.
We challenge The Guardian to publish this comment in full to prove that it is, after all, about reasoned debate and not the search for the weapons of mass distraction, British politics may be in need of.