March 9, 2014 11:45 pm

Latest round in the west’s great game with Russia

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From Mr Alan Capps.

Sir, Sergey Karaganov’s forthright assertion, that “Russia needs to defend its interests with an iron fist” (Comment, March 6), should finally confirm, if indeed confirmation were required, that the great game between Russia and the west remains as vibrant and competitive as it has been since the 19th century. Many in the US and Europe wrongly assumed that with the tearing down of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union it was game, set and match to the west. Russia’s current actions in Crimea surely must demonstrate, once again, the naivety of that assumption and of many of the west’s actions post-1989 with regards to Russia.

Mr Karaganov’s own words should sound the tocsin for Europe and the US: “We should belatedly begin work towards the common goal of an Alliance of Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, in which people and trade would flow freely.” Surely, that would constitute a Russian oxymoron.

It has always been the goal of Russia to dominate the Eurasian land mass, likewise for the Soviet Union but with a key proviso post-world war II, to detach the US from Europe. Today, these goals remain. In her latest excellent book, The War that Ended Peace, Margaret MacMillan, in an almost prescient chapter on Russia and its goals and territorial objectives before the first world war, cites Lord Curzon who understood that Russia “was bound to keep expanding as long as it could get away with it”. Whether the west believes in or understands the great game, the Russians do, and they are playing to their plan and their timetable.

After being knocked down and being on the end of a standing 10 count, the Russians stood back up and were ready to keep fighting and playing the game. Mr Karaganov has put it in writing for us. To do so they will continue to employ all the tricks, smoke and mirrors, and disinformation tactics at their disposal. From this point on no one can argue that the message is not loud and clear and for everybody to see. Now it is the turn of the west to pick itself up after the Crimea sucker punch and get back into the game. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, ladies and gentlemen the game remains very much afoot and it is time to begin actively and methodically competing once again; the Russians would expect nothing else.

Alan Capps, Alexandria, VA, US

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