“Russia is behind it. They were the ones who shot down that plane.”
That was the line given to us by one of our fellow parishioners at the 8am service, in Maryland, on Sunday.
Oh my… he is losing his mind, we thought. How would he know who shot down a plane 5,000 miles away?
But throughout the US media, dinner-time chat and after-church conversations, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is condemned. Without trial. Without due process. The rush to judgment was so quick that even the kangaroos hadn’t got to the courthouse when the verdict was handed down.
In the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, here in London, we overheard a conversation:
“What do you think the international community should do?” asked an earnest voice. The speaker, a middle-aged woman, seemed to want to ‘do something’.
Her companion took her question and threw it back at her, wrapped in so many good intentions it took her a while to figure out what was in it.
“We in the international community need to focus attention on these things. We need to develop a dialogue. We need to build faith in our institutions. Blah… blah… generate a consensus… work with aid agencies and NGOs… focus on civil society… blah… blah…
“Putin can’t be allowed to get away with this!”
So universal is the opposition to the Russian head man, so fiercely is he set upon by the world-improvers, and so many fingers point in his direction, we feel a compulsion to come to his aid.
And so we take up a defence of Russia and of Vladimir Putin. We do so not in pursuit of justice (we’ve given up on that), but on the trail of mischief and provocation.
In the first place, Russia has a long history of misery – most of it self-inflicted. One of the episodes, not entirely self-inflicted (though greatly self-aggravated), was in WWII.
The country lost 25 million people in that ghastly war. It only survived because it was able to pull back across the steppes, wearing out its enemy in mud, cold, and extended lines of communications. Distance, space and time are Mother Russia’s historic allies.
So, it is understandable for Vladimir Putin to want to save at least eastern Ukraine, as a buffer against the next invasion from the West.
Meanwhile, despite the assurances given by George Bush I and other American presidents and secretaries of state, Russia’s periphery states have been drawn towards Nato, Europe and its potential enemies
According to press reports, the US meddled in Ukraine, helping to unseat its democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, so that he might be replaced by someone more agreeable.
Why shouldn’t Putin meddle back?
In the second place, if it turns out that it really was Russian separatists, it is extremely unlikely that they were operating under orders from Moscow.
Finally, compared to the reckless and murderous way the US and its allies throw their weight around, Russia has been remarkably restrained and civilised.
|People in jail (per 100,000)||716||475|
|Number of wars since 1989||9||11|
Give the guy a break. Whether in terms of jailing people or killing them, Mr Putin is not the worst.