As our Conservative government laments the terrible spectacle of Putin invading Ukraine, their hand-wringing has more than a touch of hypocrisy. Ukraine is a democratic nation wanting to join the European Union, which would strengthen both of them. In attacking Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is therefore harming the EU, which has long been his aim.
A government dominated by fanatics
But harming the EU has also been the aim of the government, dominated as it is 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 EU and the demise of Brussels.
And what then? The world would belong to what William Rees-Mogg called ‘sovereign individuals’: whose enormous wealth, greater than that of some governments, would put them above the law. Russian Oligarchs, fit this description perfectly.
Johnson and Putin – birds of a feather
So Boris 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.
Farage still blaming the EU
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 right-wing press, blurring 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 pretend to find Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shocking, but their sympathies lie elsewhere.
Bring your own vodka
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 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.