But is he right on this occasion? The atrocities in Syria follow hot on the heels of alleged Russian responsibility for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, so the evidence is stacking up. It seems that Russia – albeit in the sole guise of Comrade Putin – really is a dark, dangerous and deceitful interloper on the world of advanced, enlightened civilisation. But then we’ve known that ever since the Iron Curtain descended on Europe and the Cold War produced lots of spy movies in which the Russians were almost always the primary villains, haven’t we?
But let’s go back to a few years earlier when the Russian Revolution did away with the Romanov Dynasty and replaced it with a proletarian administration. That must have shocked the Establishments of Western Europe to their bootlaces. Here in the enlightened west we’d been used to being ruled by a class system in which the aristocracy were leaders by right of birth. (Actually, we’d allowed ‘trade’ in by then, but we’d been sure to give them peerages of various ranks so that they, too, could be seen as aristocracy and conveniently forget that their ancestors were Anglo-Celtic peasants, not Norman or Germanic thugs.)
Well, the Russians let the side down, didn’t they? There we were in a nice comfortable world of Tsars, Kaisers and Empresses of India, and along come a bunch of Russian peasants to throw their spanners in the wheel of the cosy European Establishment. And they carried red flags, for heavens sake, which they didn’t even have the decency or erudition to call ‘rouge.’ And even the Cossacks didn’t like them.
I suspect it was the events of 1917, even more than Stalin’s Terror or the establishment of a powerful Communist force on Europe’s doorstep, which condemned Russia to be forever the butt of negative propaganda. Or at least they laid the foundations for it. If anything bad happens and the Russians are anywhere near, it was probably they who did it. That’s how we tend to see things in the west.
So what of Syria? Well, if Mr Putin really is complicit in the slaughter of huge numbers of innocent men, women and children in Syria – not to mention the firing of the missile which brought down flight MH17 – it seems entirely reasonable that he should be arraigned on charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. But is he? How do we know the extent to which the invective flung down to us by politicians and the media is factual, and how much is the product of a century of anti-Russian bias? It would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that the western media is incapable of purveying spurious propaganda just because we like to call ourselves ‘the free world.’
I offer no opinion on this and I make no judgement. I’m just curious and feel the need to be circumspect. As for where we go from here, I really don’t know.