Azara Blog: David Miliband patronises the Russians

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Date published: 2008/01/17

The BBC says:

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has described Russia's actions against the British Council as "reprehensible" and a "stain" on the country's reputation.

He said council staff had been grilled by Russian security services on issues including their family pets' health.

Such actions were "not worthy of a great country", he said, reading out EU and US messages of support for Britain.

The council has suspended work at two Russian offices, saying "intimidation" made it impossible to continue.

Tensions have been growing since Russia refused to allow Britain to extradite a Russian businessman on suspicion of murdering a former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, in London in November 2006.
In a statement to MPs, Mr Miliband expressed "anger and dismay" at Russia's actions.
"We saw similar actions during the Cold War but frankly thought they had been put behind us," he told MPs.

"I think the whole House will agree such actions are reprehensible, not worthy of a great country, and contrary to the letter and spirit of the legal framework under which the British Council operates, notably international law"

He said the Russian foreign minister had made it clear that its "attacks" on the British Council "were linked" to the Litvinenko case.
He had decided not to take similar actions against Russian activities in the UK - such as masterpieces scheduled for show at the Royal Academy - and said the British Council would continue its work in Moscow.

He added: "Russia's actions against the British Council are a stain on Russian's reputation and standing."

Everybody knows that the Russian government is unsavoury (at best) and was probably involved somehow in the Litvinenko murder. But the British government has handled the situation extremely badly from day one. In particular, instead of resolving this quietly, government to government, they had to endlessly blab to the media about how dreadful the Russians were. And the statement by Miliband today is more of the same, and extremely patronising to boot.

And gee whiz, he's not going to send back the masterpieces being shown at the RA (which is of cultural benefit to the British, not the Russians, needless to say). The Russians will laugh at that joke, and fortunately the work is already here, otherwise this pathetic bear baiting might have provoked a reaction.

The British Council should only be in places where the host country is happy to have it. If any country, for whatever reason, good or bad, does not want it, the British Council should obviously leave. We do not have a British Empire any more, where the British can tell the rest of the world where to get off, although Miliband evidently thinks we still do and can.

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