Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What makes Russia ‘great’ and what ‘belittles’ Great Britain [Ce face Rusia ‘mare’ şi ce ‘micşorează’ Marea Britanie]

Gone are the days when Napoleon Bonaparte was fearing Russia for being “the continental sword of England,” and so are the days when Winston Churchill’s Britain had to make use of the USSR as a continental sword against Nazi Germany.

Today, a general mistrust – whether polite or sarcastic at times – reigns over the relations between London and Moscow. The reasons for that are not entirely obvious.

London is no longer backing a moribund Ottoman Turkey against Tsarist Russia, nor is it offering a safehaven to thousands of White Russians, fleeing from the onslaught of Bolshevik Communism.

Neither are Britain’s and Russia’s conflicting interests in Asia so vivid as they were in 19th century, as there are is no British, nor Russian empire left.

The British armed forces are in their 10th year of what could be called a ‘Fourth Afghan War’, while London’s and Moscow’s views on Iran differ, but there’s no Great Game being played anymore. No longer British, India is rather close to Russia.

Therefore, why are Britain  and Russia are on so irreconcible terms these days?

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Of course that, beyond my above hypersimplistic geopolitical analysis, there are enough substantial differences to be found. But there are similarities even within those differences:

[1] Britain’s slow descend into a multicultural dictatorship seems incompatible with the nationalistic dictatorship of Vladimir Putin.

They are both doubtful democracies. The significant difference is that one has always been a democratic pariah, while the other has still got the BBC, which is worth several thousand bayonets, if we look at it from Bonaparte’s perspective.

Maybe Oliver Cromwell was no less of a villain than Ivan the Terrible, but it seems that only the latter’s country would forevermore be labeled as ‘undemocratic’.

On the other hand, it seems utterly inconceivable to put into question the paramount British democracy. Anyone who dares do that would be quickly dismissed as insane…

[2] Britain’s willingness to sell almost anything to foreign investors is different from the fact that Russia’s economy was handed to a bunch of oligrachs that are more ore less controllable (even when they reside in London :-) by Putin.

Either the capital is multinational or national, the sad truth is that both Britons and Russians are no longer in control of their natural resources and national economies.

Both the Communist paradise promised in the USSR or the Welfare State promised in post-WW2 Britain were illusions.

[3] Britain’s Armed Forces are facing one of their toughest enemies ever, the severe budget cuts, while Russia’s Military, in spite of a poorer budget, is rearming.

It would take some time before Russia closes all the technological gaps, however, it will always enjoy an advantage in numbers and strengths.

[4] Britain is not as alone as Russia is. Shielded by NATO membership, and thanks to the English Channel, the Perfidious Albion is relatively safe.

In no possible UK-against-Russia scenario, Britain would be forced to fight alone, as in the summer of 1940. As for Moscow, it has no true friends. Even the strategic partnership with India (a rich buyer of Russian defence equipment) could hardly be considered an alliance.

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Irrespective of visible differences like these, there must be a deeper explanation for the fact that former allies (against antichristic figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler) are at odds with each other. Which are those?

Is there a true incompatibility between Russia and Great Britain? At a first glance, there are is a majority of atheists, hedonists, pseudo-Christians and abortionists in both countries…

UK’s population is growing thanks to immigrants (many of whom are Muslim), whilst Russia’s population is in decline because of poverty, corruption, alcohol abuse, which are just the visible effects of a dreadful moral decline.

But while Britain is sinking into a swamp of irreligiousness, at least for some Russians there is hope. There is nothing to hope for in the religion of political correctness of Britain but there’s everything a man needs for salvation in the Orthodox Church.

Just as Stalin did, when he desperately needed to halt Hitler’s panzers’ stunning advance, Putin is using the Orthodox Church as a counterweight to Western influence in his country.

However, he can only use some hierarchs and the human and corruptible side of the Church; neither Putin, nor anyone else could compromise or destroy the Lord’s true Church. None of Russia’s material and political assets are as valuable as the Orthodox faith.

Even after Russia will have lost everything (large territories, control of natural wealth, sovereignty, millions of people) – in a catastrophic world war, for instance – it will still remain one of the richest countries of the world in spiritual terms.

If only the same could be hoped for Britain! The more Britain has achieved in terms of civilisation, the more spiritually barren it is…

For generations, Russians have been accustomed with losing everything, and maybe only the bitterness of another devastating blow in historical terms will help them come to their senses and rediscover the meaningfulness of Orthodoxy.

For Britons, it is very likely that any earthly victory will inflate their delusions, while any defeat will push them into despondency. In either case, they seem doomed, as they’ve got not metaphysical lifebuoy in their inane quest for material prosperity.

[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


MunteanUK said...

Photo Legend:

As I’ve got no pictures from Russia, I used an image of the Russian Church of St. Nicholas from the centre of Bucharest – built in 1905-1909 for the Russian community, now used by the Romanian Orthodox Church and known as The Students’ Church – to illustrate this article.

Gregor said...

Hi Bogdan

This is an interesting article

My only problem is I think you give too much credit to British politicians/ media. I’d actually say that the bad relations are almost entirely one way, that Britain has been appalling in its interactions with Russia, especially in its ‘asylum’ to terrorists, gangsters and oligarchs.

And we can’t say that this is due to any pride or principles: we are happy to extradite anyone to the USA.

Subsequently we faced humiliation when Litvinenko was poisoned. We don’t even know who ordered the poisoning, but the simple fact is that we always refused an extradition treaty with Russia. So in international terms our allies were very polite on the surface, but reading between the lines they basically told us ‘this is your own fault for being so foolish’.

I’d say another similarity between Britain and Russia is that both countries reached a zenith in the late 19th century. But here there are similarities and differences as well. Britain’s media/political class have a weird sense of imperial greatness which ironically overlooks almost anything good that came out of the empire (eg technology/ English as a lingua-franca) and turns it into a weird morality tale about bringing democracy to the world. Which it didn’t. Similarly they’ve forgotten their protestant missionary work, but have a kind of very obnoxious secular Protestantism: i.e. Being nosy and interfering without having faith in God but only in themselves.

Of course, now Britain is in no shape to have an empire even if it wanted to. This has led to a weird kind of paradox that many in the British political elite have a weird pan-Saxonism which they think brings imperial grandeur, but which actually makes them look pathetically sycophantic to almost anyone else.

Case in point: Will Hague going to Washington to grovel and wearing a baseball cap.

The weird thing is I think you’d need to be British to realize just how embarrassing this is: a middle aged, middle class Brit trying to be ‘cool’ and also using sycophantic language in a way he thinks looks tough.

Gregor said...

For Russia the same nostalgia has brought about, perhaps, a sense of possessiveness in central Europe and Central Asia. At first sight this is bad. Many countries (Poland, Romania, Estonia) want nothing to do with Russia. But others (most Central Asian countries, many Byelorussians and Ukrainians) do.

I personally hope the Russians show more respect for the nations that want to be independent of them. But who knows? With the EU becoming increasingly a PC tyranny, maybe more conservative Poles and Romanians will start looking eastwards for shared values.

And, as you concede, most importantly the Russians seem to be rediscovering Orthodox Christianity. This is surely most important.

Another 19th century force they seem to have rediscovered is patriotism combined with belief in strong central government to advance a specifically Slavic culture.

This is something I suppose I have mixed feelings about: I think it is better than a politically correct multiculturalism. But it also has a pretty brutal side and rather hypocritical undercurrents (e.g. how many middle class Russians support the strong state but bribe their way out of the army, though then few British warmongers will have kids in the army never mind have been there themselves). However, the curious thing about Britain is that conservatives increasingly define themselves by being pro-American rather than pro-British. I definitely prefer sovereign democracy to having a leadership that owes its loyalty abroad.

It will be curious to see how things develop. Personally, I suspect that Britain will cease to exist before too long as if Britain keeps going the way it is, Scotland will want independence. Maybe Russia, by contrast, will expand its borders into Asia and Eastern Europe.

After this, who knows what will happen? I think British foreign policy is based on false consciousness and it could fall apart quite easily. Similarly Britain’s economy is based on some rather dodgy ideas and could also fall apart. For both these reasons, I think British antipathy to Russia is rather exaggerated: that many in the media/political system might sincerely hate Russians but not sincerely want to spend lives and money on any potential conflict.

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor (part one),

It's always nice to read your lengthy and interesting comments, and I must accept your criticism.

Inevitably, my view is influenced by the discourse of the British media, where contemporary Russia is depicted - more or less outrightly - as an 'archenemy' of present day UK.

Since I'm not a skilled specialist on London-Moscow relations, but rather just an amateur observer of foreign politics, I guess you will accept my limitations.

Here are some of my remarks to your comments:

[1] Your image of Britain as an 'asylum' for all kinds of Russian crooks and criminals is at odds with the image projected by the British establishment - that of a country offering a haven to liberty seekers, revolutionaries, great misunderstood thinkers etc.

Looking at the fact that Britan gave shelter to dubious 'heroes' like Karl Marx and Julian Assange or to vitriolic Islamic preachers, I'd tend to agree with you.

On the other hand, I can't ignore the fact that Britain's openness has helped thousands of people escape the persecution in their countries.

French Huguenots, Tsarist (White) Russians, Jews, Poles (during WW2), even some Romanians after WW2 etc have found refuge in the UK.

Maybe what has been a laudable openness of Britain over the centuries is now steadily turning into something else... As long as anyone risks being extradited to the USA, it means Britain is not a safe place of refuge anymore.

Moreover, I guess London wouldn't grant asylum to millions of threatened Christians around the world as easily as it offers its protection to all kinds of 'gangsters', as you - probably very correctly - call them.


[2] Of course, I'd also say that Britain didn't 'export' democracy anywhere!

Americans have built their own democracy, and the people in India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore etc - although more influenced by the Westminster system that the USA - have also built their own political institutions.


[3] Dear Scottish friend, please believe me that I need not be 'pure stock' British, in order to be able to understand how ridicule Will Hague must have looked! :-)

In the early half of the 19th century, Romanian nobles and those from the emerging burgeoisie were immitating Russian 'modernized' boyars. Later on, after 1848, they 'copied' directly the French, not through Russian mediation.

No matter how ridiculous it was - and you can imagine there's a lot of good Romanian literature on that snobbish mimicry! - I bet it couldn't have been as ridiculous as Hague's 'performance'.

For such a primitive, backward, unmodernized country like Romania was in the 19th century, such an attitude was excusable...

...but not for a member of Her Majesty's Government 2012!

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor (part two),

[4] You touched a very sensitive point for many people in Eastern Europe... There's an 'ancestral' fear of Russia in this part of the world that most Britons can't understand.

Thanks to living on an island and haveing a good Navy, Britons have lost the 'fear of invasion' - they only 'relived' it a bit in 1940, when Luftwaffe's bombers were attacking England, wave after wave.

In Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania + Moldova, there is a more vivid memory of Russian abuses...

There's a saying (which some attribute to Bonaparte) - "Scratch the Russian, and you find a Tatar" - and many people in this part of the continent have found to be true :-(

Obviously, I'd also like to see more respect from Russia to her neighbours, but... I simply can't make any assumptions on this...


[5] I also believe that there's considerably much hope for the better in regards to the Russian nationalistic model than in the UK's multicultural model, although both are prone to excesses.


[6] The world is on the brink of disaster, and the Orthodox faith offers meaningfulness, whilst the ideas of 'idols' like Darwing, Hawking, Dawkins, Hitchens etc offer nothing.

From this perspective, although Russia may be directly involved and more severely affected by another world war than Britain, the Russians could still find their way to the light, to the true light of Christ.

In the meantime, Britain (with or without Scotland) has no spiritual tradition to turn to...


[7] From a strictly economic point of view, both the UK and Russia are relying on fictions that provide them no 'insurance' against the turbulent times ahead of the world.

America could still regain self-sufficiency, while Germany and France still have powerful and relatively diversified economies.

To the contrary, Britain is too dependant on financial services which can be so easily made useless in times of war.

The same applies for Russia, which is depending on massive sales of raw materials, whose prices drop in times of war, and markets are disrupted.