“Russia is a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma” said Churchill.
In the early 1980s I lived next to Greenham Common airbase, secure in the knowledge that if a nuclear war broke out (and at times it seemed possible) all my young family would die. I was primarily working in defence, so if I wasn’t at home I was usually on a military base somewhere and would share their fate, which was somewhat comforting.
I didn’t visit Russia until 2007 and then only Moscow. Red Square and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier were tourist “must sees”. It is impressive, very impressive. By that time my military history education was fairly advanced. I understood that it was the enormous sacrifice and courage of the Russian armies and people that had won WW2. That is not to denigrate the allies, my father had been at Dunkirk, north Africa Italy and Greece (2DCLI) spending 8 years of his youth in the army, but the west had it easy compared with the eastern front.
In WW1 and WW2 Russia was an ally. In the 19th century it had been the enemy (Crimea, the “Great Game”) but then Germany had been an ally (Waterloo) and France the enemy.
Russia is being painted as an enemy now – but is it, does it need to be?
The answer must be no. There is no need for Russia and the “West” to be in conflict and every reason for them not to be so.
Russia lost the cold war – its economy collapsed. The reaction of the west was to turn its back and try to bring what had been parts of the “eastern block” under western influence. Many of the former eastern block countries are now looking to reestablish their links with Moscow. Putin had an unenviable job – Russia had a crisis of confidence, was in a terrible financial situation and unsurprisingly he adopted a “hard man” approach.
Sanctions against Russia will not improve relations. Trump’s call for Russia to be re-admitted to the G8 is sensible.
Another Churchill quote “Jawjaw is always better than war-war”.