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RESPONDING TO BRITISH MEDIA

29.10.2015

Russian Embassy on the Times editorial

To: Letters Editor, The Times

 

Dear Sir,

Your editorial, which accompanied Ambassador Yakovenko’s interview (26 October) is full of grossly misleading statements on Russia’s foreign policy. May I set the record straight before your readership?

1. International law. Nato violated it in Serbia in 1999 engaging in a futile bombing campaign for 72 days, ending up asking Moscow to help extricate it from that embarrassing fix diplomatically, which we did. Then came the disastrous and illegal campaign in Iraq. Tony Blair has just admitted his part in this adventure that cost the lives of at least 100 000 Iraqi civilians, who I assume hadn’t been warned in advance of the time and venue of bombing. In Libya Britain stretched the UN mandate, as always, “for a good cause”, which turned out to be dangerous in terms of both terrorist threat and migration onslaught on the EU.

2. Do we still have to talk of lies in high places and to international partners? Shall I say that anything done in circumvention of the UN Security Council is illegal and unilateral, irrespective of the number of members in coalitions of the willing. What about $500 mln used by the US Administration in its ‘train and equip’ program that produced 4 or 5 moderate combatants on the ground? And what about the letter of 50 US military intelligence analysts on doctored intelligence reports on effectiveness of the coalition bombing of Isis?

3. As to ‘the annexation of Ukraine’, people in Kiev will be surprised to read that. The people of the Crimea chose freedom from a nationalist rule. We never doubted Ukrainian sovereignty over south-eastern regions of the country. The Minsk-2 agreements are explicit on that. By the way, even the Chatham House experts admit that they meet Russia’s interest. The Minsk-2 is a credible recipe for a political solution as opposed to a military one conducted under the Orwellian newspeak of ‘anti-terrorist operation’. Whatever Russia did, the point has been made that the crisis doesn’t have a military solution. Overall, our critics
in the West cannot come up with evidence to support their allegations, or probably, they don’t know how to manage their perceived truth.

4. As to destabilizing Europe, perhaps, the war in Iraq did precisely that. Not to mention, that Britain helped the US Administration sell it to the Americans. Zb.Brzezinski cannot forgive that British disservice to the ally.

5. As to Nato. Will you ask Nato people to explain how come that Nato membership turns out to be a source of insecurity, rather than the other way around?

6. As to ‘shattering the basic laws of war’, we have already responded to that, although some evidence to support that allegation would help. So far there is none. Like in the case of the ‘public inquiry’ into A.Litvinenko’s death. Why is the Coroner’s inquest not good enough? After all, the death of Boris Berezovski, another Russian national who died strangely in Britain when he was contemplating return to Russia, couldn’t be explained by the inquest which put up with an open verdict. Since you raised the issue, I’d like to state once again that Russia will never accept a decision other than passed in open court with adversary scrutiny of the evidence. Now the British secret services brought the case of the strange death of GCHQ officer a few years ago to credit our account. I wonder how many more there are in their closets to dispose of in the thick fog of the current freeze of our bilateral relationship. This, too, reminds the outcome of the Dutch inquiry on the Malaysian MH-17 disaster. Too little evidence and too much of it pushed aside, lots of indulgence towards Kiev, who refused to provide airtraffic control recordings.

7. Our strategic bombers, according to your military, never violated the British airspace, and their training flights have nothing to do with Britain. It is part of our strategic stability equation with the US.

8. In his interview the Ambassador didn’t bemoan the lack of political dialogue with Britain, nor was offensive in any way. It was just a statement of facts. Naturally, it is unfortunate. We don’t impose ourselves as interlocutors or partners upon anybody. We manage the Ukrainian crisis with our French
and German colleagues. On Syria, neither suspicion nor prejudice prevents us from being in touch with everyone in the region. We would welcome any positive contribution of Britain to this effort. It is not us who has frozen themselves out of the real debate on real issues.

As to our ties, we have a lot to do in areas of culture, people-to-people contacts. That keeps us perfectly busy. It was Sir Winston Churchill, who famously defined fanaticism as inherent inability to change the topic. We have done it and feel happy enough to keep in touch with a broad cross-section of British society. As to our work with media, it falls within modern definition of diplomacy for public opinion matters both back home and in a country a diplomat is accredited to.

9. In Syria we intervened militarily only after a year of the coalition’s campaign, which was ineffective, ambivalent, to borrow from Henry Kissinger’s recent article in WSJ, and looked like a cover for letting Isis put pressure on Damascus, while serving as a recruitment vehicle for Isis. He, by the way, deems our intervention in Syria as ‘a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region’. What is wrong about it?

Our Air Force operation is small, effective and quite affordable (see FT of 26 October for that). It is fully to the point. Our military is doing their job. There is nothing phoney about it. Certainly, we are worried that our Western partners cannot provide intelligence on Isis infrastructure and contact numbers of FSA, especially in view of the previous talk of substantial polarization of forces on the ground.

Hope, you’ll read Jimmy Carter’s piece in ‘New York Times’, where he calls for an agreement between the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey on a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. He believes that Russia’s intervention ‘has helped to clarify the choice between the political process in which the Assad regime assumes a role and more war in which the ‘Islamic State’ becomes an even greater threat to world peace’.

May I also refer you to Frank Neale, who in his letter to the FT
(26 October) suggested that ‘Nato should welcome the Russians attempts to have a go, given the West’s singularly unsuccessful attempts to achieve peace in the region over the past 60 years’. Russia did have a go against Hitler, why not Isis, which is, as all of us agree, absolute evil.

It looks like a Munich moment to us. It is still possible to stop Isis, if everybody gets serious about it. Appeasement of Nazi Germany passed that point in the fall of 1938, with its military potential hugely boosted and the trust further eroded between the governments who would become allies in the final event. Have we learnt this lesson of European history?

Your analysts overlook the fact that the single most important factor of the current mess in Syria were naïve expectations on the part of opponents of the Syrian Government that the West would intervene militarily, like it had done in Libya, and on the part of the Western capitals, that the regime would fall apart just because they wished so. The West deluded itself and misled others. What does Russia have to do with that?

10. On ‘inverting the facts’, please, be more specific. If you don’t like what the Embassy does media-wise, that is another matter. But we are quite successful in that. We just enjoy the debate, which is very British. I don’t know how British it is to give your own Government the benefit of the doubt. Hope, you remember the widely quoted phrase by Samuel Johnson on patriotism.

And finally, in my humble opinion, Britain’s problems, domestic and Foreign Policy ones, are all home-grown. They cannot be blamed on Russia.

Sorry for a long letter. But your editorial was long on allegations and short on facts. We want our correspondence to be about winning the argument.

 

Yours truly,

              Konstantin Shlykov,

Press Office of the Russian Embassy

 




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