Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

Britain revives Margaret Thatcher’s free market fund in struggle against Vladimir Putin

March 20th, 2015

Mr Cameron’s Good Governance Fund opens up a new diplomatic front in Britain’s confrontation with the Kremlin.

The scheme is modelled on Margaret Thatcher’s Know How Fund, which was credited with successfully Westernising the economies of Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Some £5 million of the £20 million fund, which will count towards Britain’s overseas aid obligation, has already been earmarked for reforming Ukraine. The programmes will work on sectors such as energy, banking and policing and will be run by British government officials and development experts from bodies such as the World Bank.

Margaret Thatcher with Mikhail Gorbachev

The root of the current crisis was the corruption and cronyism of the Yanukovich administration that led to civil unrest in Kiev, only to be exploited by Putin, Britain has assessed.

“We’ve said we would support these countries on a transition to democracy, and it cannot just be words,” said a British official.

“When they are facing some intimidation from Russia, we should be standing alongside them with concrete help.”

Mr Cameron unveiled the proposals over a working dinner of the European Council on Thursday night.

He warned his counterparts not to relax sanctions on Russian officials and businesses until the terms of the Minsk ceasefire are implemented in full, including withdrawing heavy Russian weaponry.

Member states are split on the measures, which are due for renewal in July.

Mr Cameron said the EU must show “intent” to Putin, who is reassuring his allies that restrictions on movement and capital will soon pass.

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The Ukraine crisis is too grave for Cameron to ignore
Video: David Cameron warns Vladimir Putin

He is understood to have ridiculed proposals from Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, for the creation of an European Union army to confront Russia.

“We shouldn’t be indulging in those fantasies when we’ve got a credible strategy weapon in the form of economic sanctions, not soldiers,” said a British official.

Daila Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian president, called for sanctions to be “deepened” in light of the deployment of nuclear armed missiles to the Russian enclave of Kalningrad. It is part of drills ordered by Putin involving thousands of troops, bomber aircraft and warships.

“Look at Kaliningrad”, she said. “Russia has deployed there nuclear missiles ‘Iskander’ that can even reach Berlin.”

Russia was accused of violating the sovereignty of yet another neighbour on Wednesday after President Putin signed a treaty incorporating the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia – a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

Georgia, the EU, and Nato denounced the move which sees the tiny state’s military merged with Russia and the economy placed in the hands of Moscow.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, said that the treaty “violates Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and blatantly contradicts the principles of international law”.

Russia gained control over the breakaway region, which split from Georgia in the early 1990s, in the 2008 war.

World War Two

Lessons from the Thirties show us why we can’t appease Vladimir Putin

May 16th, 2014

Dictators are not like you, me, Norman Tebbit or Geoffrey Dawson. They are liars. They do not believe in the rule of law inside their own country or internationally. They hate the honest expression of opinion. They never trust the leaders of other countries. All they care about is their power, which they see in a binary way: they can only win by others losing. “I know my enemies,” said one particularly famous dictator, “I met them at Munich. They are little worms.” They seemed wormlike to him because they refused to recognise his true nature. The worms crawled to him, and he despised them for it. Let us resist any temptation to crawl to Mr Putin.

Here are a few tricks that dictators play:

1. Sudden plebiscites. In November 1933, Germany called a referendum on its own foreign policy. Lo and behold, it won 90 per cent support. In March this year, with Russian backing, a referendum was rushed through in Crimea. Ninety-six per cent of those voting said they wanted Crimea to join Russia, although in the Nineties, they had voted to be part of an independent Ukraine. Comically, in 2003, rebellious Chechnya was reintegrated into Russia with an alleged 95.5 per cent vote in favour.

2. Inspire local militias that can be disowned when necessary. This was a favourite of the Serb dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, made a mistake recently when he said that Putin was losing control of extremist trouble-makers in eastern Ukraine. It is no problem for the dictator if his local supporters “go too far”. It just gives him a stronger role when outsiders beg him to help calm things down.

3. The sudden change of tack. Rage is unexpectedly replaced by pacific noises, and vice versa. After regaining the Saar in 1935, Germany said that it was “prepared absolutely to renounce war” and was happy with its treaty with Poland. Milosevic used, from time to time, to offer to raise “peace-keeping forces” in the Balkans. Just now, the Russians have been saying that there is “civil war” in eastern Ukraine, thus justifying violence. But at the same time, as the Ukrainian presidential election tomorrow week approaches, Putin turns conciliatory. As I was watching its mouthpiece TV station, Russia Today, yesterday, a bar ran along the bottom saying: “PUTIN: establishing dialogue is more important than recognising republics in Ukraine.” This was classic of the genre – saying how nice and gentle he was while at the same time claiming the existence of pro-Russian republics within a sovereign country.

4. The propaganda of the deed. Do something utterly outrageous (invade Abyssinia: Mussolini; take over the Crimea: Putin), and then watch the world flounder. This does not always work (see Galtieri: Falklands, Saddam Hussein: Kuwait), but the able dictator understands the weakness of his opponents. Although what happened in Crimea is wholly illegal, the West protested limply and the Ukrainian government allowed its military presence there to collapse. Having achieved so much so easily, Putin knows he can now toy with the next mouse before killing it.

5. Never stopping. Power hunger cannot be satisfied. As the world gloomily contemplates Ukraine, Putin is starting to coerce the neighbours in his Eurasian union – Belarus, Kazakhstan – towards his military will. He is ignoring his obligation to inform the government of Lithuania what he is doing in the Russian naval enclave of Kaliningrad. He is on the march.

6. An obsessive dislike of homosexuals combined with a curious taste for being photographed in manly and warlike poses, sometimes stripped to the waist. Often linked to an emotional ethno-political endorsement of religion but a conspicuous contempt for that religion’s morality and love of peace.

Modern Russia is less totalitarian than its Communist predecessor, but, unlike the Soviet Union, it has a great deal of our money and is paying us with it. Its TV stations are fronted by Westerners. Its oligarchs are the toast of London estate agents and Riviera yacht salesmen. Our banks have lent to its billionaires and enterprises on terms that were not duly diligent. The West buys its gas. The former chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, is closely linked with Russian gas and oil business and recently celebrated his 70th birthday in St Petersburg with V Putin as his honoured guest (can we not apply sanctions to the Schroeder bank account?). Preposterous think tanks pump out Putinolatry. (Do look up the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, whose symbol is the bridge there named after the reactionary Tsar Alexander III.) And I doubt whether Lord Mandelson’s Global Counsel consultancy is urging measures against Russian associates of Mr Putin with large piles of loot.

The essential appeaser’s error is to say, “Let’s be reasonable”, to a person to whom reason is anathema and so ends up, by mistake, endorsing tyranny. In January 1939, The Times’s leading article declared that, “Certain grievances in Europe which threatened war have now been adjusted without war, even though…the adjustment has been hasty and crude, and bears the marks of force.” War came less than nine months later. Putin seems to be sorting out “certain grievances” in this spirit.

It is not easy to see what the West can do about this, since it plainly lacks the will.

World War Two

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German minister compares Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler

April 5th, 2014

The Russian foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador to complain on Thursday.

“We consider this kind of pseudo-historical excursion from the German minister to be a provocation,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “This analogy is a crude distortion of historical events and facts. An official occupying such a high placed position must give an account of his words,” the statement added.

Bernd Reixinger, the leader of Germany’s Left Party, demanded that Mr Schauble apologise to Russia for his “tasteless” remarks. Ralf Stegner, a senior Social Democrat MP described the finance minister’s comparison as “definitely not useful”.

Chancellor Merkel has said that the annexation of Crimea is in clear breach of international law. However, she has distanced herself from Mr Schauble’s comparison and insisted that it is an action which “stands for itself”.

Pro-Russian activists wave Russian flags during a rally in Donetsk, Crimea (AFP)

Mr Schauble told the German television channel ARD on Thursday: “I am not so stupid as to compare someone with Hitler.” He said his remarks had been quoted “in isolation” and out of context.

But in Russia that was cast as a “refusal to apologise”.

In March a Russian history professor lost his job after making direct comparisons between the Crimean annexation and Hitler’s take over of Austria in 1938.

Andrei Zubov, a professor at Moscow’s Institute of International Relations, wrote in an article in the Vedomosti business daily headlined “It’s Happened Before” that Russia could be on the brink of war and that “we must not behave the way Germans once behaved, based on the promises of Goebbels and Hitler”.

The university, which is formally part of the Russian foreign ministry, said Mr Zubov’s public comments about the Crimean affair were “harming the learning environment,” and he was fired for “knowingly and repeatedly” violating the institute’s charter and code of conduct.

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