Protempore – Issue 122


Posted by in May's Magazine

Aren’t the Russians a bad lot, creeping around the UK, bumping off spies and dissidents in a macabre, real-life chapter from a John Le Carre novel? While at home they introduce laws that make certain forms of domestic abuse legal and others which persecute homosexuals and anyone else who doesn’t maraud around like their glorious, straight and tough leader, Vlad “I’m all bad” Putin.

Well, I’ll tell you what, we just won’t have it. The British Government believes in fair play, equality, law and order and compassion for all of our citizens and anyone else who is being persecuted across the globe. So how are we going to show the Russians that we mean business and that our influence in settling geopolitical scores has not been tarnished or diminished in any shape or from?

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For one thing, we’re not going to send Clare Balding to the football World Cup. Oh yes, old put ‘em up Putin must have been in a right rage about that one. But just to compound his anger, we’re not going to send any of our blue-blooded Royals over there for the footie either.

And another thing, we’ve dispatched 23 Russian diplomats back to Moscow for good measure. And we’re not alone in doing this. Diplomats are being kicked out of 23 other countries including the US, France, Germany and Latvia. Yes, even Latvia has joined the queue to give the Russian bear a hiding. OK, they’ve only expelled one diplomat but every little helps.

And what’s been the Russian reaction to all of this? Well they’ve said rather cryptically, that they will definitely retaliate “at the appropriate time” and will do so in a way that “would correspond to Russian national interests”. Which probably means that they will target the business interests of those countries operating in Russia who have jumped in to give the UK a hand in this new cold war square go.

Now like most people, I don’t have any hard evidence to prove that the Russians were behind the nerve agent attack in Salisbury and I’m not going to indulge in any conspiracy theories about the UK Government having perpetrated the attack to deflect from bad-news Brexit. But something about the unfolding narrative that the UK Government is suddenly a squeaky-clean upholder of all that is good and proper in international relations is making me queasy.

In 2017, the UK Government sold £1.1 billion worth of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia – which was visited by Theresa May as one of her first trips after triggering the formal Brexit process – has purchased arms including air-to-air missiles, aircraft components and sniper rifles. The sales also include anti-riot gear, ballistic shields and body armour. Saudi Arabia is currently engineering genocide in Yemen.

As a direct result of military action by the Saudi regime, more than 10,000 people have died, over 5,000 of them innocent civilians including many children. The Saudis have targeted schools, hospitals, markets, farms and parks. As a result of the war-induced famine and lack of adequate medical aid, 50,000 children died in 2017 alone. Mass starvation threatens 8.4 million people, which equates to one-third of the country’s population.   

A report by the United Nations also pointed to evidence of systematic arbitrary arrests of civilians, deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearances. The report talks of civilians being tortured by being beaten, electrocuted, placed in constrained suspension and being locked in a cage in blazing heat, without access to water or medical aid.

What’s all this got to do with the Russians I hear you ask?

Well right now, Russia and Saudi Arabia are in negotiations to secure an agreement to extend their alliance on oil production and control on prices. They are looking to secure a deal which would last between 10 and 20 years. Saudi Arabia has long sought to raise prices to fund economic reforms at home, the main goal being to eventually reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil-related income. Last October, Saudi King Salman became the first Saudi monarch to visit Russia, providing investment and political support for the Russian economy which has been battered by Western sanctions.

So what do we have here? The UK Government selling weapons to a murderous, regime which uses them to eviscerate innocent children; a UK Government which has also decided that the Russians are a nasty lot who should be kept at arms-length; the Russians and the Saudi’s ganging up to control oil prices; and the murderous regime raking in more money to buy bombs and guns from the UK Government and laughing all the way to the bank.

It’s a tangled web I know, but please don’t tell me that the UK Government is suddenly the cowboy in the white hat. Nothing could be further from the
truth. 

Protempore

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