An open letter to Boris Johnson
I am writing to you ahead of your visit to Moscow, where you’ll be meeting among others, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
You’ll remember me as the antiwar journalist who wrote quite a few articles for the Spectator magazine when you were its editor. Despite our political differences we always had friendly relations. You showed you weren’t a gatekeeper by publishing my work.
To cut to the chase, your visit to Moscow this week is extremely important and should be used as an opportunity to rebuild British relations with Russia.
When you were writing for the Daily Telegraph in the first part of 2016, you quite wisely called for greater UK-Russian co-operation. You praised the Russians (and Assad) for their efforts in helping to liberate the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra from the clutches of ISIS.
You wrote: “It has been Putin, who with a ruthless clarity has come to the defense of his client, and helped to turn the tide…
If Putin’s troops have helped winkle the maniacs from Palmyra, then (it pains me to admit) that is very much to the credit of the Russians.”
Yet sadly since you became Foreign Secretary, you’ve changed your tune. Instead of opposing the neocon-inspired tsunami of Russophobia, you’ve gone along with most of it. You have greatly disappointed those who perhaps naively believed you would improve UK foreign policy by taking a more realistic ‘old-style’ paleoconservative approach which respected national sovereignty.
In October last year, you broke with diplomatic protocol and called for people to protest outside the Russian Embassy in London over their actions in Syria which you had praised just six months earlier.
Very unusual call from the Foreign Secretary to hold demonstrations in front of the Russian embassy. New form of British diplomacy? pic.twitter.com/rzxUkGyyrQ— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) October 11, 2016
In April you canceled your planned visit to Moscow and traveled to the G7 talks instead, where you urged other countries to consider fresh sanctions against Russia (and Syria), saying that Vladimir Putin was “toxifying his image” by backing Assad.
But if Russia hadn’t supported the Syrian government, ISIS/Al-Qaeda affiliates would probably have taken control of the whole country. Is that what you wanted?
Your anti-Russian stance was maintained throughout the year.
In October, you joined in with the obsessed RT-bashers, saying it was a “scandal” that Labour MPs appeared on the news channel. You seem to have forgotten that your own father, Stanley, had recently appeared on RT to promote his latest book. Was that a “scandal” too?
It’s my belief (and I wrote about it here) that you attacked RT to curry favor with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose Times newspaper has been waging a relentless campaign to de-legitimize RT and pressurize Ofcom, the media regulator, to take it off the air.
At The Spectator, you published a wide range of views. It’s sad to see you lining up with the fiercely censorious New McCarthyites on the subject of Russian media today.
Trying to keep in with the Murdoch media empire damages your credibility, Boris. Take the subject of Russian ‘interference’ in the Brexit vote. You told the Sunday Times last weekend that “there’s some evidence that there has been Russian trolling on Facebook.” Yet at the end of November, you said the government had seen “no evidence of any country successfully interfering with our robust electoral system.”
The Electoral Commission revealed that Russia spent less than one dollar on ads to allegedly influence the Brexit vote.
The ‘Russia fixed Brexit’ trope is fake news pushed by the same bunch of fake-left neocons who promoted the Iraq War. Talking of which, do you remember the conversation we had at the birthday party of our mutual friend Stuart Reid, in March 2003?
I asked you if you genuinely believed the guff about Iraq possessing 'Weapons of Mass Destruction.' You took your time to answer and then looked at me and replied along the lines of: “You’ve got to admit Saddam’s not a frightfully nice chap.”
In other words, you knew full well the claims of the warmongers were false, but you justified your support for the Iraq invasion on the grounds that it would at least remove from power a person whom you wouldn’t want to invite round for tea and biscuits on a Sunday afternoon.
The Iraq War, of course, proved disastrous, as you have admitted, and led directly to the rise of ISIS. The current neocon hoax over ‘Russian interference,' could have even more calamitous consequences if it leads to a military confrontation with Russia.
As British Foreign Secretary, you should be looking to ease tensions with Russia and not increase them still further with belligerent Cold War rhetoric. Take the subject of sanctions. These have cost some British companies a small fortune. Here’s a report on the damage from the BBC from 2014 and that’s three years ago.
The situation would be even more dire if anti-Russian hawks get their way and sanctions are intensified further. The FT reported last week how British homes were set to be heated in the New Year with gas transported from a Russian project targeted by US sanctions. The FT revealed:
“A person close to Russia’s energy ministry said the tanker delivery made the UK’s decision to back sanctions against Moscow “look like someone biting the hand that feeds him.”
The sanctioning of Russia is clearly not in Britain’s best interests so why on earth do we go along with it?
You’re intelligent enough to know the real reasons behind the current wave of Russophobia. The Endless War lobby, whose policies have caused so much death and destruction around the world, are desperate to prevent any ‘détente’ between London and Moscow. Did you ever see that Morecambe and Wise comedy film “The Intelligence Men” made in 1965? The plot involved a sinister organization called ‘Schlecht’ who were out to sabotage a visit by a Soviet trade delegation. In the mid-60s Schlecht-types were regarded as dangerous extremists, today, in Britain, they are embedded in quite large numbers in the media and in Parliament and screech ‘Russian troll’ at anyone who dares to criticize them.
But criticize them we must.
There’s so much Britain and Russia could do together to help solve the most pressing problems of our age, from climate change to battling against terrorism. But you can’t beat terrorism if you support it, and unfortunately, Britain under the baleful influence of the neocons has been doing that in the Middle East and North African countries where it’s been pursuing the policies of ‘regime change’ against secular governments. Just check out the work of Mark Curtis on this, his new updated ‘Secret Affairs’ is out in January.
What we need is a complete democratic overhaul of British foreign policy – to put the country on a new path. That isn’t going to happen overnight – but one small step could be made in Moscow this week.
Do the right thing in Russia, Boris. The right thing for Britain and the world. And to get you in the mood, here’s a video, from 1943, of a British politician praising our ‘gallant’ Russian allies and the sacrifices of the Red Army.
A committed Marxist? No, it was one of your Conservative predecessors as Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden.
Yours sincerely & happy Christmas,
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.