Normally, I’d be the last man to praise the BBC for anything, least of all for its political commentary. But this time they put paid to a serious matter with a single word, and my hat’s off to them.
This is how the BBC communicated the news of five Bulgarian residents of the UK caught spying for Russia: “The Bulgarian nationals are accused of conspiring to gather information which would be useful to an enemy between August 2020 and February 2023.”
Can you guess what the magic word there is? It’s ‘enemy’ of course. That one word is so replete with meaning that practically anything else said on this subject would be superfluous.
Our most important broadcaster identifies Russia as an enemy, and not just since 24 February, 2022. This reminds me of France’s former ambassador to Russia who once told me he had seen nothing wrong with the Putin regime until that fateful date, only then to reassess in one fell swoop.
According to the BBC, Russia has been our enemy at least since August 2020, when those Bulgarians embarked on their spying mission. That one word puts everything in its place.
If gathering intelligence information for an enemy is a crime, then surely so is spreading enemy propaganda. When this is done by a foreign national, it’s as bad as espionage. When it’s done by a Briton, it’s worse because it introduces an element of high treason.
That’s exactly what William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, was hanged for in 1946, the last person to suffer that fate on that charge. That precedent would settle any legal squabbles if Britain were officially in a state of war with Russia, which isn’t the case.
As it is, I’m sure clever barristers would point out the fine legal distinctions between serving the cause of a de facto enemy by spying and by propaganda. I’m sure such legal nuances exist. But for the life of me I fail to see any moral difference.
It’s no secret that Russia is conducting a full-scale propaganda effort aimed at undermining Western resolve to support the Ukraine. The exact words change depending on the situation, but at present there are five key points the Kremlin is communicating either directly or through its stooges:
- The Ukraine has no chance to recapture the territory occupied by the Russian invaders.
- Hence all the deaths and economic damage are in vain.
- Britain has no dog in this fight. It certainly isn’t a clash between good and evil.
- Both sides are equally corrupt, except the Ukraine is even more so.
- Both sides, and also Britain and the rest of the world, have a vital interest in an immediate and lasting peace. Britain and NATO must do what they can to bring it about.
This takes me to Peter Hitchens, a frequent visitor to this space. Before Russia’s aggression he had extolled Putin’s regime for years, describing it as “the most conservative and Christian in Europe.”
That was the thrust of the Kremlin’s effort to recruit allies among European parties that like the sound of the words “conservative and Christian” but are in fact neither.
So Hitchens, who isn’t the only British champion of Russian fascism but one with the widest audience, constantly extolled Putin, expressing regrets that we aren’t blessed with such a strong leader.
After 24 February, 2022, the photographs of Bucha and Mariupol made that line difficult if not impossible to sell. Hence the Kremlin had to change tack, and so did Hitchens. His latest contribution to the fascist cause enlarged on each of the five points above.
To wit, Point 1: “… the large-scale recapture of the land lost to Russia in 2022 looks less and less likely as the days shorten. Those who invested heavily in a summer offensive against Russia have so far been disappointed.”
Ergo, these rhetorical questions (Point 2): “Does this just have to go on and on filling graveyards and doing severe economic damage to Ukraine and Europe? With what aim?”
On to Point 3: “I’ve never been able to grasp what Britain’s interest is in sustaining a costly and risky war in South-East Europe between two corrupt and ill-governed hunks of the old Soviet Empire.”
The interest is in stopping a fascist regime explicitly dead set on territorial expansion beyond the Ukraine. Stopping such juggernauts is easier and less costly while they are beginning to build up speed than at a time they get to roll at full pelt. If Hitchens can’t grasp it, he’d be well advised to study European history of the late 1930s, and also speeches on Russia’s aspirations by Putin’s mouthpieces.
Point 4 isn’t far behind. Yes, these are “two corrupt hunks of the old Soviet Empire”. But, “you can barely breathe in Ukraine without encountering corruption.”
The implication is Russia doesn’t restrict your respiration quite to the same extent. That is a lie.
If you look at the less damaging kind of corruption, the fiscal kind, Russia sits above the Ukraine in every corruption index I’ve seen. The country is run like a Mafia family, with those close to the godfather enriching themselves unimaginably. Russia, one of the poorest countries in Europe, is run by a government of billionaires headed by reputedly the world’s richest man, Putin.
Those fortunes have been made by pumping Russian national wealth into conduits leading to private accounts in Western financial institutions, and from there to yachts the size of a football pitch and palaces in Europe and North America. None of that can be said about the Ukrainian government, corrupt though that country undoubtedly is.
But looting the country’s treasury isn’t the worst type of corruption for politicians. Corrupting their flock into pursuing evil ends is. And there only an idiot would even compare the two countries in question.
The Ukraine doesn’t pounce on its neighbours. It doesn’t murder, rape and loot its way through other people’s lands. It doesn’t kidnap children by the thousand. It doesn’t constantly threaten the world with nuclear annihilation. It doesn’t fund every subversive party or splinter group in the West. Russia is doing all those things. Shall we talk corruption now?
And finally Point 5: “If our concern is truly for the people of Ukraine, then we would be much better occupied promoting a lasting peace than in fuelling and paying to prolong a war in which actual Ukrainians die and suffer, and gain nothing much in return.”
So we should promote not only any old peace, but a lasting one. Now, I love lasting peace. Don’t you? Of course you do. All God’s children love lasting peace, especially at a time when so many people “die and suffer”.
But here’s the rub: how are we supposed to “promote” peace and make sure it lasts? And what shape would this blissful outcome take?
Western countries, including the UK and US, have vowed not to have any negotiations that don’t include the Ukraine. And the Ukrainian government has stated that the only starting point for peace negotiations would be Russia’s withdrawal from the occupied territories. The Kremlin is equally determined to keep them.
Hence the only conceivable way for us to “promote” peace would be to stop supporting the Ukraine, which Hitchens gleefully informs us is happening already. The Ukraine would then have no means of defending herself and would have to accept whatever peace terms Putin dictates.
But anyone with a modicum of nous would know that such a peace would never be lasting. Russia would retrench, lick her wounds, rearm and then resume pursuing her declared goal: humiliating the West and rebuilding the Russian (or Soviet) Empire. Since some former parts of it are NATO members, the world will turn into a powder keg.
In other words, what Putin and Hitchens want isn’t peace, lasting or otherwise, but Russia’s victory, and it’s touching to see two such not-so-great minds thinking alike.
In still other words, Hitchens is spreading enemy propaganda. And if you question the modifier, ask the BBC. It knows.