Tuesday, 15 January 2008


Britain’s relations with Russia are going down and down. The latest problem concerns the Russian government’s suspension of any ‘cultural activities’ outside Moscow. Combined with Putin’s threat to expel staff from the British Council, a round of ‘tit for tat’ is on the cards – again.
What I don’t understand is why this isn’t all major news. Well, that isn’t true. I do understand. We think we have bigger threats to deal with, such as Islam.

This is a big mistake.

Islamic terrorism IS a threat, but not necessarily the long term threat we believe. Far more important is the fact that we’ve merely had a respite from Russia since 1989 whilst the Russian political psyche reasserted itself.
In typical western short term fashion, we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and subsequent fall of communism, as the beginning of a new phase of world history. But the reality is, there was little difference between communism and other Russian political ‘systems’.

Okay, a committee replaced a despot, but the idea of totalitarianism remained intact.

And after a brief flirt with democracy, the Russian bear is back, as I knew it would be.
It had to be. It had to be, because there are two primary elements to the Russian psyche. First, it is a vast land with a vast population, and without regional government, the only way to keep the people in check is a dictatorial bureaucracy.
And second? Russia has no natural barriers against invasion from the west. Only the Russian winter has ever saved them – and usually only just. Hence, there is a deep paranoia within Russia which will always assert itself, and always they will over-react to it, and become a threat to us in turn.
As our eye is off Russia, we should perhaps remember this.

© Anthony North, January 2008

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