Saturday, 30 January 2016

UK: Death and diplomacy

To declare my interest upfront, I have neither love nor hatred for Vladimir Putin.

I also know many Eastern Europeans who fear and distrust him intensely, but he is nonetheless leader of about 150 million people in the largest geographical country on Earth.

But anyone viewing the latest BBC documentary about an alleged secret stash of millions, or was it billions, of dollars, would be forgiven for thinking that they were witnessing a story about the leader of a Mexican drug cartel.

Now quite where Mr Putin finds the time and anonymity to accumulate such wealth, while running one of the most important countries on our shrinking planet, I have no idea, and it was not explained.

How such a high profile figure could hope to get away with this wealth, or how or where he would spend it, presumably during his enforced retirement, was also left unexplained.

Looking at Russian history, and the way they deal with despots, I suggest that if such dealings had happened and were discovered, said retirement would be a rather short one.

Regardless of what we might call a harmless bit of fun at this powerful man's expense, it came barely a week after a UK public enquiry concluded that Mr. Putin had 'probably' personally ordered the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko here in London in 2006.

Now coincidence is one thing, but timing is entirely another, and added to a string of smears and slanders over recent years, it is becoming impossible to take much of this at all seriously.

Without excusing what he may, or may not, be doing, I am bound to ask which president, prime minister or other autocrat or leader, has not benefited from their time in office?

What really stinks here, is not the accusation or insinuation in itself, but that there are ways and means of making such claims, and I am old enough to remember when terms like 'Person in the Highest Office' and 'Most senior Government Official' were used to point to those we wished to accuse.

At a time when Syria and Ukraine are top of our shared agenda, it is impossible to see how talks cannot have been poisoned 'probably' intentionally, by such crass and undiplomatic language.