Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context.
3 September 2014
JAW-JAW BETTER THAN WAR-WAR
Three letters from readers in today’s London Guardian represent a refreshingly non-orthodox take on the Ukraine imbroglio:
- A letter by Anthony Kearney from Lancaster:
“In your editorial excoriating Vladimir Putin (‘Lies and Deceit’, 30 August) you neglect to mention one glaring fact. Namely that without the illegal coup in Kiev earlier this year, sponsored and funded by the US and applauded by the western media, there would have been no annexation of Crimea, no civil war in eastern Ukraine, no downing of planes, no incursions from Russia or anywhere else, no damaging sanctions, and no looming threat of a third world war. Putin may be a liar or not, but it’s hard to see how he’s responsible for any of this.”
- A letter by Ian Flintoff from Oxford:
“To understand Russia we need to go a little further than speculation on internal politics (‘Inside Putinworld, where few risk speaking truth to power’, 30 August). We need to understand what to be Russian means to Russians and why so many are still angry and heartbroken by what they see as the shameful betrayal of their motherland by the westernising and degrading years of Yeltsin.
To understand these things better we might learn something of the language: its nuance, beauty of sound, complexity and vigour, only perhaps equalled by those of English in the hands of a Shakespeare. We should read, at least, Pushkin and Chekhov (in the originals if possible), Dostoevsky if we have the courage, and also consider the story of a people who moved from tsarist serfdom to the first man in space in just about half a century.
And if we think we can intimidate Russians with threats, sanctions and the rattling of arms we should repeat to ourselves, several times, Stalingrad, Stalingrad, Stalingrad.
Then, perhaps, we might claim to understand a little better what it is to be Russian.”
- A letter by Gillian Dalley from London:
“As a strong and long-time supporter of the EU, I never thought I’d contemplate the idea of our leaving it. However, the more that those member countries which were formerly part of the Soviet Union exert their influence over our collective approach to relations with Russia (‘Europe’s balance of power finally shifts east’, 1 September), the more I am beginning to see it might become a moral necessity.
The EU and Nato have been encroaching into parts of Europe that historically have never been part of their sphere of influence or culture, and goading Russia for months, if not years, into a reaction – over Ukraine especially. They then turn on Russia as if surprised by its reaction. How can we preach democracy and self-determination when we have been bribing and enticing former Soviet countries into our fold, encouraging them to adopt overtly aggressive positions towards Russia ever since the end of the cold war? Instead of seizing the opportunity to build a new Europe of peace and cooperation, one which includes Russia, we are simply expanding and rebadging the old anti-Soviet bloc in order to oppose our traditional “enemy”. Perhaps the only honourable position is for the UK to have no part in this.”
The contrasting conventional Cold War Russophobic stance is put in a fourth letter from a reader writing from the command centre of the military-industrial complex of the European Union (EU) and Nato:
- A letter by Annika Hedberg from Brussels:
“In September 2014, it is shameful and embarrassing to be European. Shameful because people who live in countries that are members of the European Union or closely associated with the EU live in fear. They fear that the Russian aggression continues and if it is directed in their way, they have no certainty that the EU will have the resolve to guarantee their safety.
Embarrassing because our leaders manage to play an overwhelmingly strong hand so poorly. The EU is big, Russia is small. The EU is rich, Russia is poor. The EU (together with its allies) possesses the most advanced military capability in the world, Russia does not. Russia’s economy is eight times smaller than that of the EU (and 16 times smaller than that of the EU and its allies). And still the EU leaders manage to position the EU as if it was responding from a position of weakness.
Less than a decade ago, EU leaders sold the treaty of Lisbon to EU citizens on the premise that it would allow the EU to defend its interests and to project its values more effectively. Following the weekend’s summit, now is the last chance for the EU to demonstrate that the leaders were not wilfully and cynically misleading the EU population. Only a principled and strong response will do.
Real and effective economic sanctions will hurt the EU as well. But the EU is in an immeasurably stronger position to deal with them than is a fundamentally fragile and weak Russian economy. And mobilising the necessary military capability to halt and reverse the unlawful Russian incursion to the sovereign territory of an EU partner does carry a cost.
But sometimes it is necessary to draw the line and be prepared to pay the cost of one’s convictions. Now is such a time.”
Antigone1984 sides emphatically with the sentiments expressed in the first three letters. As UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) said at a White House luncheon in 1954: “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
- Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
- Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
- The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
- Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
- Ladder (21 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
- Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.