Christopher Lee



Kremlin says the Brits no longer matter. Know any one who buys roubles?

6 September 2013

The Russians say the British rate no higher than a small Pacific Island about whom none has heard. The Kremlin take on the British is that the world does not care a toss what Cameron says on Syria or anything else.  

According to Moscow, the UK is an insignificant off-shore island run by ex-pat Russian oligarchs. A sort of Cayman set-up with lousy weather nine months of the year.

Forget that a whole bunch of Russian fat cats prefer to purr in London rather than Moscow and just accept that this a good diplomatic fanging. Syria has brought out the wonderfully worst in dip-speak.  The Americans are telling Putin’s lot to get real. Putin is telling the American’s to stick to the UN Security Council rules.

But why get grumps with the Brits? The answer’s a long and messy story that starts with the fact that the later Mrs Thatcher could do business with Mr Gorbachev, that modern Downing Street keeps demanding an admission from Putin that his agents murdered the former KGB officer of Alexander Litvinenko in London and that the apparently insignificant British Foreign Office refuses to stop accusing the Russians of aiding and abetting murder and mayhem in Syria.

There’s another line to follow that should not be dismissed: the British government doesn’t admire Putin.  They see him as gauche, a parvenu. a man uneasy in relatively sophisticated world-wise company who is giving to stripping to his middle-aged waist as a photo-op.  As our Great Aunt Betts would have said: “Our mother would never have had tea with his mother.”  Not one of us.

All that’s the daft side and what Russia says about the Britain of David Cameron and what Britain says about the Russia of Mr Putin, does not in the short term matter very much. Both leaders and both nations know what they think.

If there’s any pudding to be scoffed in diplomatic influence it has to be tasted in a terrible truth that is the world wide away from just the Syrian civil war.  The global economic position, the fragility of the whole Middle East s a result of Syria, the prospect of civil war in Lebanon, the unlikelihood of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement worth the paper that it’s not yet written on, the largely Sunni versus Shia war in Iraq that is killing sometimes 1000 people each month, the fragility of the leadership in so many Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the uncertain future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the unfinished and maybe unfinishable business of the Arab Spring, of African poverty, climate change and the impending disaster of mass migration as a result of all these things.

Russia has an insignificant role in balancing world government, democracy, economy and social order in any of these deeply concern issues. But the question is not Russia’s role in the world. More interesting is Britain’s role.  A busted flush rolled out and unrecognizable from the colonial great power?

In spite of the view from the Kremlin wall and, a part of the UK media, the British have enormous influences over the global spectrum of variously shaded difficulties.

For examples: other governments than Mr Putin’s recognize that the UK influence on EU reforms are considerable.  Who says so? The Germans. The UK concepts of middle management training – military and civilian – in an all but abandoned Afghanistan, will be crucial to that nation’s statehood and so will the British influences and help with the two major influences in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Britain’s aid programmes and the speeds at which they get into needy areas have long term marks on bi-lateral as well as regional relationships. The influx of overseas students to UK colleges and universities (Moscow is not a natural academic centre for global students) has long-term influence on peoples and governments they may eventually shape. Language, the BBC World Service, colonial heritage and thus the Commonwealth of a quarter of the world’s nations, the seat on the permanent membership of the UN Security Council, a leading role in NATO and above all one of the major centres of banking and finance make the UK soft-power influence considerable.

There’s something else for Mr Putin to consider. If Cameron had got through his Syria vote in the British Parliament two weeks back, then Mr Obama would not have had such a hard job with the Congress. He’s still have had a tough time, but it would have been easier with British support. That by itself shows that the British still have a remarkable and durable influence in the decision making capitals of the globe.



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