Simon Jenkins on Russia

Simon Jenkins has written a rather rambling article in The Times in which he warns that the western leaders, in their dealings with Russia, are in danger of stumbling into a world war.  Personally, I don’t find it a persuasive argument, especially as he seems unable to make up his mind on one of the key points:

There is no strategic justification for siting American missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is nothing but right-wing provocation. Nato’s welcome to Georgia and Ukraine, for no good reason but at risk of having to come to their aid, has served only to incite Georgia to realise that risk while also infuriating Moscow.

Western strategy is dealing with a resurgent, rich and potent Russia. It has played fast and loose with Moscow’s age-old sensitivity and forgotten the message of George Kennan, the American statesman: that Russia must be understood and contained rather than confronted.

So which is it? 

If Russia “must” be contained then American missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic and Nato membership of Georgia and Ukraine would indicate that Kennan’s message has not been forgotten.  On the other hand, if the missile defence system is intended to intercept Iranian missiles, then they do not represent “right-wing provocation” of Russia. He can’t have it both ways.

And as an aside, is there any justification for Russia’s “age-old sensitivity”?  I understand that they suffered invasions from the Mongols, Napolean, and Hitler but they are far from unique in that respect.

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3 thoughts on “Simon Jenkins on Russia

  1. Honestly I don’t buy the “Russia’s age old sensitivity” line, particularly when it’s focused at the West and not at China, where the real danger of encroachment is.

    IMO, Russian aggression in this day and time is a reflection of 1) a desire to (once again) be seen by the world as a country of equal weight and power to the US, and 2) a reluctance to lose what vassal states it has on its border and/or allow any encouragement for component nationalities to push for independence the way the Abkhaz have from Georgia.

    That said, I do kind of buy the “stumbling into war” argument. With Putin and Medvedev today threatening to abandon WTO and end all cooperation with NATO, I still haven’t seen much sign that Vova is willing to settle for anything other than 100% capitulation to Russia’s demands.

  2. Really enjoying your blog but couple of points on the age-old sensitivity and your comment — has Russia really endured anything. Um, yeah. Think several centuries of the Mongol yoke (while Europe and England were flourishing) and the 20 million Russians who died in WW2 (vs. how many Brits?)

  3. I never said that Russia didn’t endure anything; my point was that Russia’s suffering is far from unique in Europe, and others don’t suffer from paranoia as a result.

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