Prodding the Russian Bear


During an election campaign, one can rely on one’s opponents to pick on any chance remark and blow it out of proportion.  This seems to be happening with Nigel Farage’s comments on Russia, Putin and the Ukraine.

Nigel has remarked that in terms of the political and diplomatic (and potentially military) chess-game over Ukraine and the Crimea, Putin has played a blinder.  He has totally out-smarted his opponents (particularly the EU).  So naturally UKIP’s opposition, starting with Paddy Ashdown, has characterised UKIP as “apologists for Putin” and supporters of Russia against the West.  One only has to write that down to see how absurd it is.

No one in UKIP has suggested for a moment that the Russian behaviour is anything less than reprehensible, and illegal.  No one in UKIP supports the interference of great powers in the affairs of smaller nations – indeed we have criticised the Western propensity to intervene first, and fail to clear up the mess afterwards.

Nigel’s primary objective was to criticise the EU’s strategy (or indeed lack of strategy).  Roosevelt’s advice was to tread softly and carry a big stick.  The EU has taken the opposite course.  It went trampling around in Ukraine, dangling the prospect of EU membership and funding, and failing to carry any sort of stick at all.  It appears that Brussels simply didn’t bother to think through the possible Russian reaction, because if they had, it was entirely foreseeable that Russia would be very annoyed indeed.  Direct interference in Russia’s “Near Abroad”, its traditional sphere of influence, was bound to cause ructions.  Loss of the Ukraine would have been a major humiliation and a domestic set-back for President Putin personally, and he wasn’t going to let it happen.

So Brussels could have stood back and allowed the status quo to continue.  Instead, it prodded the Bear.  It provoked a quite unnecessary crisis, and now has no idea how to respond.  With 30% of European gas supplies coming from Russia, it simply dare not apply serious sanctions.  We’ve handed Putin a political opportunity that he could hardly have dreamed of or engineered himself, and he’s taken full advantage of it.  Chances are the Western reaction will blow itself out, leaving Putin with the Crimea, and President Barosso with egg on his face.

So game, set and match to the Kraken in the Kremlin.  Or at least the short game.  Maybe Putin hasn’t thought carefully enough about the medium and long-term.  The Russian economy has failed to reform and modernise.  It remains a bandit economy based mainly on fossil fuel exports.  But the one positive outcome of the Ukraine crisis is the sudden realisation in Europe that the EU urgently needs fuel resources that are more diverse, and as far as possible indigenous.  It must cut its import-dependency, and especially it must rely less on unstable suppliers, especially those like Russia who have demonstrated their willingness to apply fossil-fuel blackmail.  (We in UKIP have been arguing this point for a long time.  It’s taken the Ukraine crisis to get through to the thick heads of the Eurocrats).

At a time when Europe is tentatively debating the plusses and minuses of shale gas, and is blinded by the negative anti-shale propaganda from green lobbyists who are (ironically) funded by the European Commission itself, there could hardly be a stronger impetus for drilling in Europe.  We cannot sit on our hands and give in to Russian blackmail on gas when we are ourselves sitting on decades – maybe centuries – of gas supplies, but are too pusillanimous to exploit it.

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14 Responses to Prodding the Russian Bear

  1. Mike Spilligan says:

    I made a long reply on your Ukrainian Reflections post so I don’t want to add much, but when you say that the Russian action was reprehensible I do wonder what else they could have done instead? The EU / USA provocation was more than just “reprehensible” and vacillation on Russia’s part may have meant more bloodshed if they had decided to step back then, seeing that they had no negotiating position, decided to “retake” Crimea.
    Longer term; well, who knows? …. but I’d bet (formerly being a Russian resident, long term) that the dire predictions in the US and UK MSM — the Baltic republics next, Putin tries to recreate the old Soviet Union, etc., – are just nonsense, and proposed by people with other agendas.

  2. Thomas Fox says:

    To use the word “Pusillanimous” describes in one word the dithering of this EU governance as regards Ukraine, before I write any more comments there is a need for me to improve my grammar?

    • eddie coke says:

      And perhaps “Putinanimous” is its opposite. (I do admit to having to look up pusillanimous though!)

      • Jane Davies says:

        I had to look it up too! One is never too old to learn a new word. Well impressed Roger so much better than to say “cowardly”, it has an educated ring to it! Good blog as usual, I wish I could have been a fly on Barosso’s wall when all this kicked off!

  3. David H. Walker says:

    With regard to the Russian economy, I could not agree more with you, Roger. Think of the time and toil the EU has wasted on alternative energy while becoming dependent on Russian fuel.

    Perhaps the US’s and EU’s best move will be to destroy Russia’s ability to profit from oil. Do you think China would take up the slack for Russia, and buy the oil formerly bound for Europe?

  4. Maureen Gannon says:

    At an early age I was taught if in doubt ask WHY? so when the west ‘s sabre rattler’s started I could not understand Why , Why was we supporting a rebellion to displace a democratic head of state? why was neo con Senator Macain out there , Why was Germany then us supporting the rebels?. then Russia was the enemy, Why oh Why oh Why was we being dragged into all this Obama on the phone to one and all , then it became clear Germany wanted the Ukraine in the EU net, then the blip came Crimea said no we are Russian, then it dawned on me I believe I found an answer The home for the Russian fleet well surprise surprise it’s in Crimean waters . so the ever encroaching German led EU was stopped in its tracks, and german Dominiance halted ..
    We really must get out of this cesspit , or Europe will be conquered with not a bullet fired.

    • Flyinthesky says:

      The whole point of the excercise is to secure a place for NATO, read USA, to gain a position on the Russian border, it has never been about freedom, trade and democracy for the Ukrainians, notwithstanding the eu doesn’t do democracy, at all, ever. Nigel said the right thing at the wrong time and it’s been deliberately maligned by our compliant MSM. The staus quo, read vested interest, is under threat and every UKIP opinion will maligned and manipulated accordingly. Despite not being a great fan of Putin the west is definitely the aggressor in this instance.

      • catalanbrian says:

        So Lithuania, Norway, Latvia, Estonia, Poland are neither members of NATO nor do do they have a border with Russia? I really must go back to school to learn the new UKIP geography

  5. Richard111 says:

    I understand the Ukraine is the bread basket of Russia. Russian scientists keep talking of the coming ice age. Putin must be under pressure to retain close contact with all countries that will be able to grow food for Russia as the global temperature drops. He is NOT going to let the Ukraine join the EU.

  6. Richard111 says:

    Some news I have not seen or heard on the BBC…
    “Biryukov said Moscow had not seen so much snow on April 1 in 130 years but assured the mayor that the city would be unburied within 24 hours.”

  7. David says:

    Mike Tyson was not well liked by many, but all would say He was brilliant in the ring. In my view that is what Farage was saying re Putin. Fair comment.

  8. Mike Stallard says:

    a. I saw Baroness Ashton of Upholland’s face twice demonstrating in Kiev against the elected government. She must therefore be in favour of the revolution which toppled the elected government. But where are her tanks?
    b. If any Russian politician was sitting beside Alec Salmond while he was on about how marvellous Scotland would be after the inevitable independence, do you know what? I would be really cross!
    c. And who has gained the most out of the crisis? Well could it possible be Putin?

  9. Alan Taylor says:

    Having read Roger’s view, (and most of the other comments), I’m very surprised that no-one appears to know either the history of the Ukraine, (or indeed, about the close family and personal links between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples).
    Firstly, very large areas of the Ukraine, was formerly Russian territory, (mostly given after the Russian revolution), a large part was handed over by the former Soviet leader Khrushchev, in the 1950s, indeed, even Kiev (the present Ukrainian Capital), was the former capital of Russia !!!!.
    This coupled with generations of intermarriage, means that there is scarcely a Family in the Ukraine without close Russian relatives.
    Therefore, in my opinion, this whole situation, has been brought about by unwarranted American, and European Union “interference”, in what can only be considered as Russia’s back yard.
    America investing large sum’s of money, in the region, ( to gain financial and political influence), and the Euro Union, by dangling the unobtainable “carrot”, of possible future Ukrainian entry into the European union, promising “streets paved with gold”, which unfortunately, is what manyUkrainians believed, (especially, the poor and the young).
    I must also state that I am not a great fan of President Putin, but given this situation, what reaction could you expect from him, when the possibility of being further surrounded by new NATO Countries, was starting to happen right under his nose.
    I know that I’m now an old man, but surely everyone must remember, (or have been taught), what happened when the USSR tried a similar adventure in Cuba in the 60s…..Nearly the end of the World !!!
    Well patient reader, my advice is: Stop believing the BBC news, and if you are interested, try doing a little research…..( or look into History), all the answers can be found there…..

  10. Anyone with a grain of commonsense knows that the US was behind the kicking out of the DEMOCRATICALLY(a word the Yanks commonly misuse) elected Ukrainian president and the installing of an illegal regime in Kiev – surely everyone has heard the conversation of the foul mouthed State Dept woman discussing who the Americans wanted to replace the overthrown president. I heard an interview – NOT on the shamefully biased BBC – with a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church and he explained how bad life was under Yeltsin when the oligarchs were allowed to plunder the assets of the USSR and how things began to change very much for the better when Putin took over. He is a true Russian patriot. I am a great fan of Putin and wish we had a leader like him who looks after the interests of his country and its population first and foremost instead of the miserable lot who misrule our country at the moment.

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