The problem is that Jacques Chirac in France, like Mr Berlusconi in Italy, understands Mr Putin all too well. Russia's grubby political milieu, where politicians, tycoons, bureaucrats, gangsters and spooks rub shoulders (and blur roles) is only a more exaggerated version of the sleaziest side of the old democracies. Compared to Silvio Berlusconi's monopoly of Italian television, for example, the Russian state's policy on broadcast media looks positively pluralistic.
Russia`s G-8 presidency will be a long waffle about "energy security" while the Kremlin uses its gas transit monopoly to wreak revenge on countries (not just Ukraine, but Moldova and Georgia too) that dare to challenge its post-imperial hegemony. Does anyone remember that nice feeling that the cold war in Europe was a struggle between good and evil? As at the end of George Orwell's Animal Farm, pigs and humans now look pretty much the same. At the photo of this July's G8 summit in St Petersburg, look at the smug faces of Berlusconi, Putin and Chirac, and ask yourself: is this the free world that the captive nations of the evil empire longed to join, and for which we in the west struggled to liberate them?
Like a political Chernobyl, the Kremlin is contaminating the neighbourhood with its unquenchable mischief-making and meddling. Meanwhile the West is financing a restored Soviet-style empire, albeit one based on money and pipelines, rather than tanks and the Gulag. Happy New Year.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Pigs and Humans
Again, Edward Lucas on Putin and pipeline politics: