For the British, the ‘Russian Threat’ Is Just too Sexy
Thursday, January 6, 2022
Peter Scholts is a political analyst based in the UK.
One would think that with all the threats Britain was facing at the moment, such as terrorism and climate change for starters, the UK government would have more than enough to deal with. But for those stuck in the Cold War games of the past, nothing makes the heart beat faster than ‘countering the Russian threat’. Clearly, when it comes to existential threats, climate change is just not as sexy as spy games with Russia.
The UK had already declared Russia as the greatest threat to its security in the Integrated Review published in March 2021, and it has kept no secret of its antagonism towards Russia through its provocations in the Black Sea, and virulently anti-Russian rhetoric expressed by politicians and the military. But leaked documents published last month demonstrate just how far Britain is prepared to go to destabilize the political situation in Russia.
On 20th December the investigative website Underside published the first of several batches of leaked documents from the UK Foreign Office which show a series of grants given out to support various NGO groups and their projects. The projects are all focused on effectively ‘westernizing’ Russian society, particularly the Russian youth and encouraging them to sign up to liberal values.
Take, for example, one project entitled: “LGBT people in Russian language media 90-2000s”. The objective states: “We want to save the history of the LGBT movement and story of LGBT rights using Russian speakers’ media”. But this is clearly an attempt to undermine Russian cultural values. Gay rights is a controversial issue, as although homosexuality is not illegal, Russia remains a conservative country maintaining the values of the Orthodox faith. Yet a sum of 30,000 euros has been allocated to this project alone by the UK Foreign Office.
Several projects are centered on spreading the feminist message. Another champions “Mainstreaming Masculinity and Gender Equality in Russia” and aims to “advance both the evidence based for, and understandings of, men’s attitudes to gender equality in Russia in order to mainstream gender studies in Russian society and the policy sphere”. Leading the project is Dr Charlie Walker, a sociologist from the University of Southampton. Personally I find it ironic that the British think they have something to teach Russia about gender equality: women had equal rights with men in the Soviet Union long before they appeared in the West. In fact, the USSR set the standard for gender equality back then, giving women the right to vote in 1918. The same year Alexandra Kollontai became the first female minister in the world, before being promoted to the position of the world’s first ambassador in 1928 – the year Britain finally caught up with the Soviets, giving women the franchise.
So who has something to teach whom? Yet the British pursue their imperialist ambitions, like the 19th century Christian missionaries, only this time it’s liberal ideology, not the Bible, on the agenda. And they’re not holding back when it comes to financing this agenda. One project entitled: “The Real Russian World” pledges “to deepen the understanding the nexus between Russia’s domestic dynamics and its aggressive international posture, as well as to usurp, redefine and redirect the Kremlin’s master narratives by building a network of Russia experts (from the West and Russia) focused on long-term research cooperation and counter-narrative building”. The total cost of this project alone is placed at £81366.
The sheer scale of the financial investment into Russia has invited a reaction from Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressing surprise at the sum allocated by the Foreign Office for these projects between 2020 and 2023. Zakharova commented on Telegram channel: “The budget is a mind-boggling 1.3 billion rubles [$17.3 million] set aside for 2020-2023 to finance influence programs for public organizations (that can be used to influence state bodies) and spur the transformation of Russia’s course in a way that benefits the UK”.
The UK taxpayer could quite rightly ask why this amount of money is not being invested into Britain instead. It’s been said that as many as 6 million British homes may suffer from fuel poverty this winter and be unable to pay their bills amid soaring energy prices – why is the government not assisting them? Or the 1 in 5 children in the UK who live below the poverty line? Instead the Johnson government is pursuing the agenda of a handful of Cold Warriors, intent on their ‘Russia games’.
While it may bring excitement and financial rewards for those establishment figures with links to private arms and security companies, it does no good whatsoever for the average Brit and instead does tremendous harm to our relations with Russia, and to global peace and stability. Not that the UK government seems at all bothered by that, as it mindlessly continues to provoke the Russian bear. The British behave like obsessed lovers, unable to get Russia out of their heads. Perhaps it’s time they got therapy.
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