Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, Gazprom and Champions League football

700px-Map_of_Ukraine_political_simple_blank.svgThe annexation of the Crimea by Russia, or its secession, raises a whole bunch of questions in my mind:

  • the West may have been too friendly to Russia over the last few years – I expect Russia was saying ‘we’re all on the same side really‘ when it might not be true.  It’s important to know who is on your side, and who isn’t, and treat them accordingly
  • the West has looked as though it is more interested in the Russian economy than in right and wrong – and perhaps Russia is more interested in land and power than in trading with the West
  • when you see Gazprom listed as a sponsor of Champions League football it’ll look pretty odd if things blow up further in the Ukraine and Crimea before the final in Lisbon on 24 May
  • some might wish we had a few more wind turbines scattered around the UK in case Russia turns off the gas pipelines
  • Putin appears to pay quite a lot of attention to wildlife causes – cuddly mammals at least
  • there is one regular reader of this blog in Kiev – hi there!

10 Replies to “Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, Gazprom and Champions League football”

  1. Hi Mark

    The Russians I have met have all been great people, just like us. It seems curious to me that you should question whether the west has been to friendly with Russia. Surely trading, sporting and cultural exchanges are the best way forward between all people’s. Given the way they stopped the nazis at a massive cost to their population we owe them a great debt. The Russian people have had a tough time since the fall of the Soviet Union and are starting to regain their confidence. The west meddled in the overthrow of an elected president and installed a regime which includes members of Ukrainian groups descended from ones that fought on Hitlers side. It’s not surprising that Russians in eastern Ukraine and Crimea felt threatened by this and looked to Russia for support. Crimea was part of Russia for hundreds of years and its citizens voted en masse to rejoin it. The hypocrisy of the western media which has generally supported wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and nearly Syria until thwarted by Putin is stomach turning.

    Some think the whole Ukraine thing has been stirred up because the US is sore that Putin stopped them invading Syria. All I know is that I am off on a birding trip to Kamchatka in May and it would be best for all parties if friendly relations can be restored as soon as possible.

    1. Western governments have certainly mishandled the whole crisis and as a result have ended up looking foolish and ineffectual. It is also true that some (not all) of the groups involved in the overthrow of the Yanukovich presidency are decidedly unsavoury. None of that though – or the individual loveliness of Russian people – can be said to justify Putin’s actions. He has shown no regard for international law and acted as a bully, moving his troops into another sovereign state. The democratic legitimacy of the of the referendum is nil if it was held under foreign armed occupation and anyone publicly speaking in opposition to the proposal was bullied into silence by armed thugs. As far as I am aware many non-russian Crimeans boycotted the ballot.
      It is also stretching a point to suggest that the west installed the new (interim) regime in Kiev though I would agree that our cheering from the sidelines may have encouraged the protestors to overplay their hand and precipitate the deepening of the crisis.
      I agree that it would be best for all if friendly relations can be resumed as soon as possible but that cannot simply be achieved by ignoring and tolerating Putin’s aggression.

    2. Philip,

      Just come to this recently.

      Let’s not be starry eyed about Russia’s role in WW2, or subsequently in eastern Europe and further afield – it was unremittingly brutal and self-serving. Russia and Nazi Germany secretly divided up respective spheres of influence as part of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-aggression Pact, that lead directly to the start of WW2, see here – .

      Russia attacked neutral Finland in 1939, and annexed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by force. Following Germany’s attack on Poland – as a result of which France and the UK declared war – Russia attacked Poland as well, annexing the eastern half of the country. The Russians then imprisoned the Polish political class, intelligensia and officer corps and subsequently massacred them at Katyn and elsewhere, see here – . (They were of course simultaneously doing the same to their own citizens in the infamous Gulags. Lubyanka etc – to the tune of around 25 million by some estimates……)

      Yes, the Russians bore the brunt of the land fighting against the German army in WW2, but would not have prevailed without significant logistical support from the US and to a lesser extent ourselves – think Arctic convoys etc In the final chapter in Berlin, the Russians raped, looted and murdered their way through the city committing unspeakable crimes against German civilians. These war crimes have never been acknowledged, nor have any Russians stood trial for them.

      During the Cold War, the Russians suppressed national self-determination in eastern Europe – by force in Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia – and fomented conflict in Korea, south-east Asia and the Middle East. Most dangerously, they almost triggered a global nuclear conflict over Cuba in 1961. Their invasion of Afghanistan proved to be one of the factors that finally put paid to this truly evil empire.

      Some of us spent a lot of time chasing and escorting Russian nuclear bombers around northern UK waters during the Cold War, and they are still probing today, see here – Those nuclear bombers are a long way from ‘mother’ Russia!

      Trading, sporting and cultural exchanges are good ways of trying to allay mutual suspicion between nations and their citizens (although not apparently if you are homosexual and were interested in winter sports in Sochi).

      Individually, Russians can be warm and friendly. Collectively, and led by a thug like Putin, they can be very menacing and destructive. Putin – and many Russians – understand only strength, they need to be handled accordingly.

  2. If FIFA was an organisation equipped with a functioning moral compass they would probably be regretting their decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and be busy making plans to move it elsewhere. Instead, as usual, they’ll be burying their heads in the sand and do absolutely nothing, although Blatter will undoubtedly come out with the type of shameless, self-serving statement that would make even an NFU County Chairman blush. It will be probably be left to individual nations to boycott the tournament.

    Mmm…I wonder what price Russia and North Korea are to meet in the final ?

  3. Cameron, of course, is already using the above to further the case for Unconventional Gas in the UK. So predictable.

    1. “predictable”

      As is the need for gas and diesel back-up generation to spin up quickly when it blows too soft or hard. The oil and gas suppliers love green energy.

  4. “looked as though”?!

    We ARE more interested in the economy than right and wrong.

    Consider our government’s close ties with non-democratic countries with terrible human rights records in the Middle East ( or their decisions on the environment (from badgers to bees and neonics) – economic growth trumps sustainable/ethical development every time. It’s called “economic reality” (ha ha) or “realpolitik”, but it’s really expedient hypocrisy.

    But then the government represent us and we could vote them out. We also could only buy fairtrade products, sustainably harvested fish or organic food, resist the urge to upgrade our phones or walk/cycle to work instead of driving, but we don’t. At least I don’t. Not always, or even often.

    And so long as we idolise those who earn big money, as long as we promote a culture of consumption, that is what our children will do too. So it seems perverse to expect our politicians to act differently. We’re all collaborating in this and to a large extent it’s natural that we act to maximise our own selfish best interests.

  5. As if on cue this just landed in my inbox – another western corporation doing what makes money rather than what is right:

    Every pound we spend is a moral choice (do we buy this cheap product, that ethical but expensive one, or even better go without?) and it strikes me that it is becoming almost impossible to avoid giving one’s money to corporations acting in ways we wouldn’t endorse if we were involved in the action directly. From child labour to palm oil products, from arms trade tax revenues funding our healthcare to tax-dodging online book retailers/coffee shops. What chance do we have to “do the right thing”?

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