As they lament the terrible spectacle of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine, the UK Government’s hand-wringing has more than a touch of hypocrisy.
First published: March 2022.
Ukraine is a democratic nation wanting to join the EU, which would strengthen both of them. In attacking Ukraine, Putin is therefore harming the EU, which has long been his aim.
But it has also been the aim of the Conservative government, dominated by the so-called “Brexit Ultras”, fanatics who openly hoped that Britain’s exit would be followed by other countries, leading to the collapse of the European Union and the demise of Brussels.
And what then? The world would belong to what Rees-Mogg called “Sovereign Individuals”, whose enormous wealth, greater than that of some governments, would put them above the law. Russian Oligarchs, by another name.
So Johnson and Putin, though superficially very different, are birds of a feather. For one, the glory of a global Britain. For the other, the glory of the old Soviet Union. For both, the primacy of self-interest.
Putin may be derided as an autocrat, but what about Johnson’s regime? It has already seen the illegal suspension of Parliament, attacks on the courts, attempts to stop the right to protest, and a cavalier disregard for international law over Northern Ireland, to name a few things at random.
As John Harris pointed out in the Guardian, Conservative politicians have long been happily accepting huge sums of Russian money with no questions asked, while ignoring Russian meddling in British elections. Remember the Russia Report of 2020? That long-delayed report, or what was left of it after the censors had their way, could not rule out that Putin had had a hand in the Brexit referendum of 2016. He was certainly delighted at the result, cutting our island off from the protection of the pack, as a wolf does with its prey.
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But it is Nigel Farage who defends Putin with the kind of ugly metaphor one can only expect from recidivist Brexiters. He blames the Ukrainian Crisis on the EU, as he blames everything else on the EU, saying it had “poked the Russian bear with a stick”.
Farage may be an extreme example, but as Harris points out, his views have wide support in the rightwing press, blurring out not just into Toryism but many parts of English society characterised by money and power. What the Russia Report called “a lot of Russians with close links to Putin” may profess to find the Ukraine situation shocking, and indeed some of them may now have quietly distanced themselves from Putin’s actions, but for many, the old loyalties will die hard.
Putin occupies a high profile in the Russian media, but so does Johnson in Britain. Johnson’s face stares out at us from every newspaper, just as Stalin gazed at his obedient followers from every poster in the Soviet Union. Though Johnson is often seen as a clownish figure and a mini-Trump, the parallel with Putin and other autocrats also has validity. It has even been claimed that Boris Johnson has Russian ancestry.
No problem with that, Boris, I had guessed as much from your name. Next time Vladimir is over here, why don’t you invite him to one of your famous Downing Street parties? Tell him to bring his own vodka. Clap him on the back, tell him a few jokes, and persuade him to go easy on his territorial ambitions.
Otherwise, frankly, our future doesn’t bear thinking about.
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— AUTHOR —
▫ John King, Retired doctor & Remain campaigner.
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- Text: This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 6 March 2022. It was also published in Central Bylines. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
- Cover: Shutterstock/Rustic. Licensed from Shutterstock to the author.