Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Times publishes my letter re Russia and Georgia


It is astonishing that the British media have so wholeheartedly swallowed the default position of hostility towards Moscow expressed by the Western security establishment, without critiquing this stance, or analysing the Russian perspective. Any survey of Western coverage will show the paucity of balance on an issue which is self-evidently not clear-cut. Western journalists (and politicians) seem to take the view that Russia has no right to influence the Caucasus, or exploit its own mineral wealth, while the West has every right to intervene in the Balkans or influence (and even occupy on occasion) countries in the Middle East in pursuit of its political and economic interests. Such hypocrisy is no basis for a reasoned argument with a country that is an increasingly important power in the multipolar international system we are moving towards.

John Slinger


  1. Yeah, it's pretty obvious this whole conflict is just a hangover from the Cold War. The USA wants to stick it to the Russians - again. The thing is, the Ossetian people voted overwhelmingly for independence way back when, and the Georgian government was a dick and didn't go through with it. Now that the Russians are trying to help them, the USA is getting all pissed, because the USA wants an intact Georgia to enter NATO and thus have them in alliance. This whole thing is pretty much happening because of American interest.

  2. I tried to add a comment to your letter in the Times but I have consistently ailed to get the comments to be attached to the articles.

    I support your & Mr Kilfoyle's approach. I have served (as Military Attache) in the USSR and worked as a civilian for 15 years on and off in all parts of the FSU. I feel that I understand the Russian psyche, history and behaviour better than Milipede. Being a Labour supporter, you may disagree but then it is our right to have different views... But on this matter I heartily support your letter.

  3. Dear Julia and David,

    Thanks very much for your comments. I am glad you agree (although I do enjoy a political debate with people with opposing views, as my friend Gary knows...)

    I think you are both right.

    Julia: one thing that is slightly worrying is if we look behind recent events and try to imagine what the top-level machinations and geopolitical calculations are in both the Kremlin and the White House. I fear that the US military-industrial complex would very much like there to be a Cold War MkII and that they will be extremely greatful to Russia for having made any future administration more likely to maintain the momentum with missile defence (and the billions in arms sales that will involve).

    Frankly, the world knows that Russia and the US cannot go to war. The sooner we admit that and start trying to forge a more constructive relationship, the better.

    David: I think that what is required, above all else at this time, is for Western analysts to try to understand (although not necessarily always condone) the Russian perspective. We must stop seeing things through an entirely Western prism. I am pro-Western and a great believer in liberal democracy. But I am also a realist, and realists must accept the actualite of Russian power in their back yard.

    I stand by what I said in my letter about the Western media. There has been a subconscious conspiracy amongst the media class. THere is a default position of viewing all Russian moves as morally wrong and hostile. In this case it is simply wrong to view them as such, without offering the readers/views/listeners some perspective and analysis, so that they could come to a balanced view. How often do you read, hear or see a journalist asking the man or woman on the street in Moscow what they feel about recent events. Aren't their opinions worthy of comment?

    Just as with the Ukrainian gas problem a year or so ago, we demonise Russia, as a gut reaction. Almost no commentators in the West said that why should Ukraine be able to purchase gas and oil at Soviet (i.e. dirt cheap) prices, while simultaneously sticking its nose up to Russia and trying to cosy up to the West. If one country possesses mineral resources, it usually seeks to exploit them in its national interest. That's what we do. WHy not Russia. The sooner we start admitting this, the sooner our relationship with Russia will become more mature.

    In my opinion!

    All best wishes,



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