Russian sabre-rattling has set nerves on edge not only in Western Europe and Ukraine but also among battle hardy veterans within Russia itself. Colonel-General Ivashov, senior assistant to Defence Minister Dmitry Ustinov during the invasion of Afghanistan in 1989, gave a long interview condemning President Putin. This alone should indicate to NATO politicians that the Russian body politic and its men on horseback are not one hundred per cent behind President Putin’s reckless gambit of blockading the Ukrainian coastline with naval firepower and homing in on its borders with troops (on manoeuvres) along with Byelorussian allies. It begs the question whether raising the temperature still further by issuing our own threats (on the principle that our threats can be bigger than yours) and sending a few hundred troops into harm’s way is actually a constructive way of proceeding. Being firm and being loud are not the same thing.
Certain scenarios in this delicate situation are unhelpful: President Macron chose the soft touch, being a Parisian sophisticate. Britain, however, after much thought despatched an over-ambitious politician, who has been tossed from one ministerial post to another, having spent her spare moments posing for snapshots in parodies of Lady Thatcher, to grandstand in Moscow; wholly unprepared for her meeting with the Russian bear, Foreign Minister Lavrov.
It is as though Mrs Truss decided one day to go camping in Russian forests without giving a passing thought about the wild life she might encounter. The Foreign Office for some bizarre reason calls itself the FCDO, presumably having given up on diplomacy for foreign policy as social work; its Foreign Secretary therefore no longer needed to be fully briefed about the massive foreign country she was visiting but which we are not supplying aid to (unlike China).
So Mrs Truss blundered in and misplaced the Baltic states by the Black Sea and told an astonished Lavrov to get out of Voronezh; that must have been very satisfying, but it is in Russia: indeed, as the former Foreign Office well knows, it is the place our Russian language students used to go for their year abroad. Like her or not, one thing for which Lady Thatcher could be counted on was doing her homework when dealing with Russians, to the length of showing General Secretary Gorbachev Soviet missile statistics even he had never seen (to the horror of her advisers and his). She did not just handbag them. This was how she acquired the reputation of being the iron lady, beloved of her Russian counterparts who positively swooned in her presence. So much cannot be said of Mrs Truss. No one swooned, though some may have fainted in the face of her stupendous ignorance.
Путину надоела Россия – Отставной генерал Ивашов о войне с Украиной / 08.02.22 (YouTube)
TASS, 10 February 2022.