The level of the political and media classes in the UK

The level (intellectual, let’s not talk about moral) of these people is frighteningly low. Here are some examples.

The Defence Secretary, (author of a recent extremely confused article on Putin’s views on Ukrainian history), has today explained that if Russia invades Ukraine Putin’s government would not ‘endure’. From the Daily Telegraph:

He added that Russia would experience “such long term isolation and economic impact” that it would be difficult to “see how the government that committed it would be able to endure in the long term with its people.” 

Oh dear. They still seem to be embedded in the phantasy that Russia is just about to invade Ukraine. In fact one of the many reasons why Russia is not just about to invade Ukraine (other than if they have to intervene if Kiev attacks Donbass) is precisely this. Invading Ukraine would not be popular in Russia. People would not understand why it had happened. Lots of people have family connections with Ukraine. Contrary to what UK politicians love to tell people – that Russia is ruled by a dictatorial regime – the government is in fact susceptible and answerable to the public mood. It would indeed be extremely hard for the government to handle the popular feeling against such an irrational and uncalled for invasion (though there would be support for a limited operation to defend Donbass against aggression from Kiev). If Ben Wallace could think even a little bit it might occur to him that this could be a reason why Russia is not about to up and invade Ukraine. (After all they keep telling us that Putin and his “cronies” run a dictatorship and that Putin personally is clinging to power; which claim is completely inconsistent with the view that they are about to invade Ukraine and as a result lose power; unless he believes that Putin is not capable of thinking all this through himself). Ben Wallace perhaps thinks he is clever to come up with this new threat. But all he must be doing is adding to the inevitable impression in Moscow that when it comes to the UK they are dealing with complete morons. Other reasons why Russia is not just about to invade Ukraine include that there would be no economic benefit to doing so; that in military terms they would extend their border with NATO thus increasing the problem they are concerned about rather than solving it; that Putin sees Ukraine as a ‘brother nation’ – and is hardly likely to up and kill thousands of fellow Slavs for no reason.

Liz Truss the UK’s Foreign Secretary keeps confirming that she is totally out of her depth. Recently she mixed up the Baltics and the Black Sea. “we are supplying and offering extra support to our Baltic allies across the Black Sea”. In her meeting with Lavrov she apparently responded to his pointed question about whether the UK recognizes Russian sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh – where their troops are located – by saying that Britain would never recognize Russia’s claim to these regions. It isn’t that she didn’t know that Rostov and Voronezh are Russian regions that is the problem. It is that, not knowing, she obviously tried to bluff it and guessed that he was talking about some areas in Donbass. Anyone with any professionalism would simply have said “Sorry; what provinces do you mean?”. Also – she appears based on the reports of this blunder [1] to believe that Russia is laying claim to Donbass! (It could eventually come to that if Kiev continues to block Minsk but we are a long way from that point now).

Parts of the media seem to be also suffering from an intellectual deficit. This is the Independent reporting on this story: “The meeting between Ms Truss and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday was testy and ultimately unproductive, as the Russian minister taunted her, dismissed her demands, and even accused her of lacking knowledge about basic geography”. Lavrov didn’t “taunt” her. He commented, with sadness and some humour, that the meeting had been like a deaf person talking with a mute. They were listening but not hearing each other. He didn’t “accuse” her of lacking a basic knowledge of geography. If he did indeed comment on this problem in the press conference (I am not sure he actually did *) it was not an “accusation”. It would have been a simple observation of fact. The Independent continues: “Following Ms Truss’ failure to make a breakthrough, British defence secretary Ben Wallace arrived in Moscow on Friday to meet with his Russian counterpart as fears grew that conflict could break out imminently.”. Ms Truss’s “failure to make a breakthrough”!! One can only wonder. She pitched up, ignored, according to Lavrov all the materials they had presented, posed in a Russian style hat in Red Square and issued a bunch of threats. Does the Independent journalist really believe that approach was going to lead to a diplomatic breakthrough? This is just rubbish.

It looks like the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is about to follow up this performance with an equally abysmal display of what passes for British diplomacy these days. One can understand the comments of the Russian Defence Minister Shoigu that “Unfortunately, the level of our cooperation [with the UK] is close to zero and about to cross the zero meridian and go into negative, which is undesirable” [2] (Update: it looks in fact that once on the spot Ben Wallace was at least able to muster a little bit of basic courtesy. Unlike Truss then we can at least say that his visit would not have done any damage).

Finally – even though it is freely available in English on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry the actual Russian point of view on the meeting between Truss and Lavrov and on UK-Russia relations is largely not reported on by the British press. [3] In particular the entirely rational and important comments by Lavrov about the UK pumping Ukraine with weapons and how this is hardly likely to encourage Kiev to implement the Minsk peace accords – hardly makes its way into the narrative in the British press. (Actually the Telegraph quotes Shoigu as commenting that the UK is ‘gorging’ Ukraine with weapons – but this view is it seems edited out of the Guardian and Independent narratives). It is as if they cannot bring themselves to report the Russian point of view. This is entirely tribal. Pre-rational. (Mythic – more on this later but it is clear to me now that UK political and liberal media circles in fact operate at the pre-rational level of social development known as ‘mythic’. At this level tribal belonging is all important and is reinforced with myths about the world which have some kind of explanatory power. e.g. “Russia is bad and irrational. We are always in the right on every single point”. This fully explains why she appeared to Lavrov, who is a rational operator, as not hearing anything).

* This could well be another mistake. It appears that it was the Foreign Ministry spokesperson who mocked Truss’s knowledge of geography in a ‘blog post’. [4] It is possible that Lavrov also did in the press conference following his meeting with her – but I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else (and in fact I doubt the experienced diplomat Lavrov would do that).

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/feb/10/russia-must-respect-ukraine-sovereignty-liz-truss-talks-open
  2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/02/11/putin-russia-ukraine-crisis-latest-nato-liz-truss/
  3. https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1797962/
  4. https://inews.co.uk/news/world/russias-sergei-lavrov-describes-liz-truss-talks-as-speaking-to-a-deaf-person-amid-ukraine-tensions-1452975

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer