Thursday, March 27, 2014

Farage in Fantasyland

There were some interesting comments made by both leaders in the Clegg vs. Farage debate about whether Britain should be in the EU.

The point howeer, where I thought Nigel Farage completely lost it was his preposterous attempt to blame the EU for what is happening in the Ukraine.

The European Union gets many things wrong but the idea that the EU is in any meaningful sense responsible for the change in government in the Ukraine or for Russia's subsequent actions only makes sense in the looking-glass world of Russian propaganda - and now apparently also of UKIP propaganda.

The EU tried to negotiate a trade agreement with the previous Ukranian government. Signing trade agreements is what the EU does and it's one of the things they are actually fairly good at, though I have some sympathy for those who urge counting your fingers after shaking hands on such negotiations.

Such trade deals do not have to involve detatching the countries with which we agree to trade from their existing alliances. Granted, if Ukraine actually joined the EU there might be border control issues but we were years away from that.

The situation now is way past there being any chance of the solution everyone should have aimed for: nevertheless best option for Ukraine would have been to act as a bridge between East and West with good relations and lots of trade with both the EU and Russia. This need not have been a threat to Russia, as anyone except a paranoid ex-KGB man ought to have been able to see.

Unfortunately the President of Russia is a paranoid ex-KGB man and he decided to offer the previous President of the Ukraine a deal for closer trade with Russia which was clearly presented as an alternative to the one with the EU.

When the former Ukrainian President went for that deal, everyone in the West accepted it as a fait accompli. The idea that the EU encouraged the people of Ukraine to overthrow their government is preposterous nonsense.

The problem was that the rejection of the trade deal was the latest in a pattern of unpopular, bad or corrupt decisions which many Ukranian people were already angry with, many of which had nothing to do with the EU. Nobody forsaw quite what an explosion of anger it would touch off, though perhaps in hindsight the regime should have.

When there were protests about it, it was the former Ukrainian government, not the EU, which decided to order snipers to shoot down people in the demonstrations - which instead of frightening people, provoked further outrage. And don't lets forget, it was the Ukrainian parliament, not the crowds on the streets or the EU, which passed a motion of no-confidence in the Ukrainian president and set up the new interim government.

If anyone has "blood on their hands" it is the former Ukrainian government, not the European Union or the British government, and Mr Farage should know better than to throw that sort of language around without justification.


Jim said...

You really want to start reading Booker's column each week Chris.

Jim said...

Farage has missed so many open goals over the last couple of years. Its quite ironic really that you criticise the only one he, quite rightly, took a shot at.

Though with my record in the blair years its quite funny. I disagreed with Tony on pretty much everything he and Gordon done. The only thing and the first thing I agreed with him on was his "holding terrorists for 40 days proposal" which was also the first time he was shot down in flames by his own back benchers

Chris Whiteside said...

Well, obviously, you are entitled to your opinion but this time I disagree.

At his best Booker is brilliant, but at his worst he is completely off the wall, and I only had to read the first four lines of his Telegraph article to realise that on this occasion his dislike for the EU had driven him into a total reality bypass.

Just ask yourself this. What do you think Christopher Booker and Nigel Farage would say if the EU organised a "Heads I win, tails you lose" referendum in which both options on offer gave them what they wanted. Do you imagine that they would regard a 96% vote in such a referendum organised by the EU as having any validity whatsoever?

So why is it any more justifiable if Russia does it?

I agree that it's quite possible that a genuinely democratic referendum in the Crimea - which this most certainly was not - might have produced the same result. Just as a genuinely democratic referendum or election on the Sudenland in the late 30's might have produced the overwhelming vote for the Nazis which the election they held after grabbing the area did.

That does not justify Putin's breach of his promise to guarantee the borders of Ukraine any more than Hitler's similar grab of the Sudetenland was justified.

The EU has many, many faults, but the agreement they were trying to negotiate was not an attempt to "take over Ukraine," they were trying to trade with them.

As for Mr Blair - if his 90 day detention without trial was likely to have been applied only to terrorists I might have had some sympathy.

But when you had a government whose anti-terrorist legisation was used against an octegenarian member of their own party and concentration camp survivor for shouting "Liar" at the Foreign secretary at Labour party conference, I'm very glad that even their own backbenchers didn't dare give them the power to lock people up for three months without charge!

Jim said...

If the EU want to trade then there is no problem is there.

The EU trade with China, no problem.

If they want to invite them into the single market they can, Iceland, Norway and Lichensten seem to manage as members of the EEA

If they dont want to be EEA members but stil want to access the single market, they could do that too, Switzerland seem to manage that.

If a trade deal they really want then a trade deal they could have. Dont forget how the EEC was sold in the uk, which led us were exactly?

Talk of trade deals are fine, but when its a mask for "ever closer union" then its not a trade deal is it.

Jim said...

I really dont know why this is coming about lately Chris, usually I agree with you, but the last few you seem well off base.

i can agree to disagree with you on money and stuff, that is ok. I think we have got to the end of that one, which is we agree to dis agree.

but with this, no sorry chris, but no!

Though i will give you credit that although you may well not agree with this post, you at least do have the courage to let me post it, and for that bit i do commend you

Chris Whiteside said...

Jim, it is possilbe that both of us are having to work against our strongly-held gut instincts on this. I cut my political teeth in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall and when CND was one of the most vocal political opponents of anyone on the right of the Labour or Liberal parties, or in the SDP or Conservatives. The second general election I was involved in was the 1983 "Missile Election."

So I grew up and began my politial involvement in a world where the Soviet Union was public enemy number one and the large number of unilateralists and other people who could not see this were not just people I disagreed with but supporters of a policy which I thought then, and still think now, posed an existential threat to the United Kingdom as a free country.

The present-day Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union and Putin is not Breshnev or Andropov but in the last few weeks he's been a damn sight too close to it for my liking.

One thing about Russia which I am 100% certain has not changed is that they respect strength and despise weakness. They used to see people in the West who took their side or advocated unilateral disarmament as useful idiots - I remember once when Andropov was Soviet leader and wanted a treaty he decided on a show of honesty and said what he really thought about CND, which was

"Let no-one expect unilateral disarmament from us. We are not naive."

I think the West's attitude to Russia now has to be "tough but fair" and we can't afford to have Western institutions publicly sniping at one another.

There is a long history of British politicians and political activists developing a deep distrust and fear of Russia which has not always been justified. I grew up at a time when it certainly was.

It's possible that I'm in danger of seeing Russia too much with Cold War eyes and people who defend Putin as too much like the naive and dangerous idiots who campaigned for CND in my youth.

It's also possible that people who allow their hatred of the EU to make them take Putin's side and blame the West for what is happening really are serving as Putin's "useful idiots" as CND did thirty years ago.

Now coming back to your point about what the EU as aiming for.

Does the EU like to move neighbour countries from trading partners to EU members to ever closer union? Sometimes they do.

But the treaty being offered to the Ukraine was decades away from that point. We were a long way from the stage at which it might have pulled Ukraine out of Russia's orbit. Ironically, I think Putin has made Western Ukraine see him as the enemy in a way which could easily have been avoided. And that is his fault, not that of the EU.