Russian ships are in the Channel! Don’t let coronavirus pandemic stop establishment Russophobia
Even during the Covid-19 crisis the Russian scare card is being played in the UK. While flights from virus hotspots continue to land unchecked, the British media is fussing about Russian ships’ ‘high activity’ in the Channel.
As if we Brits didn’t have enough to worry about. We’re in lockdown over coronavirus but now we also have to fear the evil Putin taking advantage of the situation and launching a full-scale naval invasion of the country. Well, that’s what you might be thinking if you’ve been watching today’s news.
Sky News Breaking informed its audience that Royal Navy ships have been shadowing seven Russian warships following “unusually high levels of activity” in the Channel and North Sea.
Nine #RoyalNavy ships have shadowed seven Russian ships in UK waters."As the Armed Forces are helping the NHS save lives in the UK, it’s essential the Navy continues to deliver the tasks we have always performed to help keep Britain safe." 🔗Read more: https://t.co/8FDdD6sbTnpic.twitter.com/PewOz5N92H— Royal Navy (@RoyalNavy) March 26, 2020
This raises fears, we’re told, that Putin may be seeking to exploit our current situation. “This really underlines concerns by senior officials about how this coronavirus pandemic across the world is a huge distraction for governments and could potentially be exploited by adversaries,” explained Sky’s foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes.
The news was first announced in a Royal Navy tweet today as if it was fresh, but Haynes then tweeted to say that actually the “shadowing” ended a week ago.
NEW CONTEXT: The Russia shadowing mission off the UK coast, which lasted 1.5 weeks, ended a week ago (so hasn't just happened). The 9 @RoyalNavy ships weren't shadowing the Russian vessels all at same time, they did it 1 or 2 at a time, supported by helicopters.— Deborah Haynes (@haynesdeborah) March 26, 2020
So why weren’t we told about it all seven days ago? Arguably, people will be more alarmed at the news of “Russian warships in the Channel” when it comes out during a ‘lockdown’. How dreadful of Putin to think of invading us at such a time when we’re grounded in our own homes and running out of toilet paper! How utterly unsporting. I bet you the blighter has never played cricket!
But hang on a minute, Carruthers old bean. The Russian ships were actually in international waters. They had every right to be where they were. The Straits of Dover, the narrowest part of the Channel does, it’s true, lie wholly within the territorial waters of Britain and France, but there is a right of transit passage under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is of course a great pity that ships passing the Straits no longer have to dip their flag and lower their topsails in salute to the English, but times move on.
The truth of the matter is that the Russians, whether or not seven ships is ‘usual’ or ‘unusual’, weren’t doing anything wrong. If they had suddenly changed direction and started heading up the Thames, then of course it would be different, but they didn’t. So what’s the fuss?Also on rt.com Russiagate all over again: Secret EU report blames Russia for coronavirus ‘confusion, panic and fear’
Rather than get all Lance-Corporal Jones-style panicky about three Steregushchiy-class corvettes, two Ropucha-class landing ships and two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates passing the south coast, and their crews coughing and sneezing on no one, we should, I think, be rather more concerned by the fact that flights from Covid-19 hotspots are still arriving unchecked at UK airports.
Where’s the outcry about that? Isn’t it crazy given the current situation that people can still come into Britain from places like Madrid, Rome and Tehran? According to Heathrow Airport’s website four flights landed from Madrid today. There’s been over 4,000 Covid-19 deaths so far in Spain and more than 56,000 confirmed cases. At the time of writing a flight is due in from Frankfurt. The number of German coronavirus cases stood yesterday at 37,323. At 14.10 GMT a flight landed from Tehran. The number of Iranian deaths from Coronavirus went up by 143 yesterday to 2,077.
Why are we being encouraged to be more concerned about Russian ships in international waters than we are about flights bringing potentially infected people into the UK? The whole thing is plain (or should that be ‘plane’) barmy.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.