We had a bit of barney in the papers and news media this weekend, the Russians are coming, or rather they came and went their way through one of the world's busiest shipping routes. The headlines engaging this topic were just a teensy bit bizarre, I'm not that sure how often war ships are spotted in the English Channel but it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to learn it was something like, every bloody day. Of course this is a special case because while we're not exactly at war--yet, with the Russians we are engaged in a degree conflict because we're allied to the powers trying to bring down the Syrian state, while the Russians on the other hand, are Syria's ally. I suppose there's something to be grateful for in the fact that the conflict with Russia, at present, takes the form of an exchange of stern words rather than anything more dangerous. It has though, been a certain cause for bewilderment that the credibility of the public pronouncements accompanying episodes such as this, is quite so tenuous, or is it really such a surprise?
Just suppose for a moment that uncle Vlad was every bit as bad as implied by our politicians and the media. That he circumvented and suppressed democracy in his country and held on to power by the most brutal means. One of the means would be a clandestine paramilitary force associated with the ruling party. While the association would be close and the loyalty of that paramilitary group unquestioned, it wouldn't be wholly financed by Vlad or his party, rather it were left to its own devices to raise funds for both its own activities and Vlad's party. Such means would include blackmail, extortion, drug trafficking, prostitution and murder. What a shocking state of affairs that would be, how do you think it would play in the British press? I'm thinking we'd be hearing about it a lot, every day in fact, with accounts of this abhorrent behavior emblazoned across the newsstands.
Of course there's been no such paramilitary involvement in mainstream European politics since Nazi Germany has there? Oh really, well let me tell you about an organization you've never heard of: Service d'Action Civique. You've never heard of 'em because--well not a very convenient fact to be bandying about in the media really. Thankfully this organization was consigned to history, when the voters in their country, France in case you hadn't guessed, got fed up with the party ruling their country since the end of the war and voted in someone else. Thing is though, this paramilitary group was alive and kicking through the 60's, 70's and into the 80's, merrily going about their business and how did the British government react? Were there any trade sanctions or angry speeches in the house of commons? Er no--what the government in fact did was get into bed with Frenchy and open up the British market to his industry and agriculture.
So how does this relate to the current difficulties in our relations with Russia? My explanations is that, all sins are forgivable (if not publicly so) if there's something in it for the lads. So uncle Vlad, yeah he probably isn't someone you'd want to annoy and he is, let's face it, a politician so he's subject to the same circumspection we should reserve for all politicians. As for the other stuff, the things that're hinted at, like political rivals at home and abroad being subject to threats and assassination, well who knows? What I do know is though, if he were French and he were doing it in 1964, everything would be just fine.