That’s the impression one may get from reading Stephen Glover’s article. By the sound of him, he gets all his knowledge of Russia from his Mail colleague Peter Hitchens, from whom Mr Glover must also take lessons in logic and rhetoric.
First, a perfunctory de rigueur disclaimer that “Putin is evidently not a nice man. He has cracked down on a free Press, and locked up, and occasionally killed, his enemies… Russia behaved illegally when it seized Crimea from Ukraine in…”
The cause of sensible balance thus served, it’s time for inane apologetics. “However…the peninsular had been long part of Russia until given to Ukraine in 1954”.
He should have followed that erudite observation by saying that, give or take a couple of years, Britain acquired and lost India at the same time Russia acquired and lost the Crimea. Let’s annex Assam then – the logic is exactly the same.
Speaking of logic, would Putin be also justified to reclaim Finland and Poland? Both had belonged to Russia until 1917 and what more reason does he need?
“Then the West…” committed the faux pas of “…wooing Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population, and is regarded by many Russians as the cradle of Mother Russia.”
India has an even larger English-speaking population and is regarded by many Englishmen as the jewel in the crown. Send the Royal Marines to Bengal.
Surely what matters about a sovereign nation is how it sees itself, rather than how it’s seen by acquisitive neighbours? Czechoslovakia regarded herself as a sovereign nation in 1937, which she stopped being in 1938 because Hitler regarded her as an extension of Germanic culture.
The Russians have a similar historical reason to feel that way about the Ukraine. Kievan Rus’ was more Scandinavian than Russian, and in any case it had disappeared centuries before the word ‘Ukraine’ crossed anyone’s lips. Modern Russia owes much more to the Golden Horde, which, following Mr Glover’s logic, should give her a valid claim to Mongolia and northern China.
And let’s not forget that “Putin has brought a degree of order to Syria, which the West signally failed to do”. Paraphrasing Tacitus, now that we’re in the realm of historical allusions, “they make a desert and call it order”. Mr Glover’s chagrin over Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians is decidedly understated.
Russia, explains Mr Glover, is “a largely Christian country”, even if it does bomb civilians indiscriminately. I suggest that, on the basis of this ignorant statement (Russia’s church attendance is even lower than ours), Putin should occupy Istanbul. After all, the Scandinavian prince Vladimir got Russia’s religion from Constantinople, as Istanbul then was.
You see, I’m learning the art of shaping an argument from the best. Nothing like modern hacks to teach one how to reason logically.
“Nato… signed up the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – right on Russia’s borders… Suddenly, Russian leaders were faced with the reality of American and other Nato troops being stationed on their doorstep. You can hardly blame them for feeling paranoid.”
No one can be blamed for suffering from paranoid delusions – it’s a disease, and in Russia’s case one of considerably longer standing than Mr Glover fancies. Russia has always felt threatened by the West, an irrational feeling her rulers utilised to compensate for the dire conditions in which the Russians have had to live throughout history.
Ever since the reign of Ivan III, the last Grand Duke of Muscovy, the Russians have talked about the West presenting an imminent threat. That justified the consistently aggressive stance Russia adopted towards all her neighbours – including the Baltics.
In recent history they and the Ukraine suffered unimaginably at the hands of the Russians. A quarter of the Baltics’ population perished in the purges. Five million Ukrainians died in the artificial famine created by the Russians in 1932-1933. The culture of all those republics, including their languages, was stamped into the dirt. How much wooing do you think it took for them to want to shake Russia’s dust off their feet?
As to Russia being encircled by Nato, a small-scale example from quotidian life if I may. I’m surrounded on all sides by neighbours, most of whom are younger than me and some considerably bigger (and the men are bigger still).
Yet I don’t feel threatened, much less paranoid. All those youngsters are well-spoken and well-dressed, and none seems to harbour hostile intent. Extrapolating ever so slightly, Mr Glover’s statement would only make sense if he felt that the Russians have a justifiable fear of Nato aggression.
If he actually thinks that, it’s he who’s deluded. Nato is deployed strictly in a defensive formation, consistent with the doctrine of containment it has been practising vis-à-vis Russia since the 1950s.
Then comes another display of ignorance straight out of Hitchens’s book, verbatim. Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s, hence we have nothing to fear from Putin. One can infer on that basis that Italy could take Russia one on one in a war.
Mr Glover’s strategic thought probably provides for such an outcome. After all, Russia is pathetically weak because Nato spends more on defence, and “Nato troops (including 800 British soldiers) [are] being sent in sizeable numbers to Eastern Europe.”
It has been known since before the invention of gunpowder that it’s not the overall military power that matters, but its concentration on a critical strategic direction. The Germans, grossly outnumbered and outgunned by the Russians in 1941, proved this by routing the Soviet regular army and taking more than 4.5 million POWs between June and December, 1941.
So what “sizeable numbers” are there? The formidable force of 800 British soldiers is augmented by a US brigade of 3,500 recently deployed close to Russia’s borders.
By contrast, Russia has amassed 330,000 motorised troops on her western border. They are equipped with 10 times more tanks than Britain, Germany, France and the US contingent in Eastern Europe have altogether.
But wait a minute, Russia has a “sole 30-year-old aircraft carrier – a rust bucket… The U.S. has ten modern aircraft-carriers. Even Britain will soon have two.”
Fine, a carrier commissioned in 1990 is a rust bucket. But do let’s apply this agism to all of them. So what do we call those five US carriers that are older than the Admiral Kuznetsov and those four commissioned in the same decade? Why, we call them modern of course.
And saying that “Britain will soon have two” means that at present she has none, which makes a mockery of the country’s entire history: for the first time since 1815 France is stronger than Britain at sea.
Unlike Britain, Russia has never depended on being a major naval power. Neither did Genghis Khan’s Horde. Nevertheless both countries did reasonably well militarily by relying on an overwhelming land presence.
The only thing that makes even remote sense about Mr Glover’s article is its conclusion that the West, specifically President Trump, should try to find some peaceful accommodation with Russia before letting ICBMs fly.
He should have left it at that, sparing us his pathetic analysis. But then those column inches need to be filled, don’t they?