The policy document on Ukraine carried by an official and photographed on Downing Street states that “the UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians”. It has been cited as evidence that the UK government is putting the interests of the City above that of Crimea. But it does say “for now”, and it suggests that the government is considering travel bans and visa restrictions along with other EU countries. On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that economic options remained open.
“We must at least take consolation in the thought that we did not begin the war, that we are only defending our country, our native land.”
- Leo Tolstoy, Sevastopol Stories, 1855
Young Leo was writing rare nonsense but he is nonetheless instructive.
Over the weekend, in response to events in Crimea, there was an outpouring of analysis about Russia and how “the west” should respond. It was as if the focus of the foreign policy establishment hurriedly and belatedly shifted back to Russia; during the past few days one can almost hear the sound of dust being blown off cold war books. (Remember when we laughed at Mitt Romney for his comments about Russia?) The facts on the ground are what matter most but for anyone wanting perceptive comment and analysis, I have tried to link to or excerpt some of the best below.
Vladimir Putin has an op-ed in The New York Times reassuring Americans that he is on their side. Its cuddliness brought to mind the west’s wartime image of another Russian leader. I am surprised this one did not sign the piece Uncle Vlad.