Defence

Boris Johnson’s gift to Moscow

The Foreign Secretary's jibe at Stop The War for their persistent hypocrisy may have led him to go too far

BY Tim Marshall   /  12 October 2016

What was he thinking?  Was he thinking? Or was it another off the cuff Borisism?

Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary of the UK, one of NATO’s most powerful members, says he wants to see “demonstrations outside the Russian embassy” because of Russia’s murderous actions against the people of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

He is right to condemn Russia’s support and role in the mass killing of civilians. He also makes a strong point when he asks about Britain’s Stop The War Coalition–“where are they?”

Stop the War’s leadership tend to be self-hating Westerners, and self-righteous holier than thou types. Whatever the west does is to them bad, whatever the West’s enemies do is to be applauded or ignored. They are Putin’s useful idiots who would no more find themselves calling out Moscow for supporting the barrel bombers of the Assad regime in Aleppo than they would be found praising Washington for Obama’s massively increased drone strikes in Pakistan.


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Normally they can be ignored as they are mostly irrelevant except to the Socialist Worker Party types on the hard left of Britain’s Labour Party such as its leader Jeremy Corbyn. However, on this occasion, they seem to have played a role in getting Mr. Johnson to see a top and blunder over it.

I’m minded to think the Foreign Secretary’s remarks in Parliament were unscripted. It appears that there is now a marked change in rhetoric from the USA, UK, and France towards Russia, and all three have hardened their tone this week. Mr. Johnson’s outburst comes into that context. However, his jibe at Stop The War for their persistent hypocrisy may have led him to go too far.

After all, as the Russian Embassy in London tweeted – Boris Johnson’s words are ‘very unusual’.

He didn’t say anything about Her Majesty’s government organizing demonstrations outside the embassy, but that is how it will be viewed by the Russians. In the event that a few hardy souls do appear outside the building, they will not have been mobilized by the state. However, if there is to be a demonstration, albeit small, that will give Moscow the green light.

Mr. Putin knows all about organizing demonstrations. The Kremlin can easily put thousands of his supporters onto the street while simultaneously saying ‘nothing to do with us guv’. The extreme right nationalist movements, which are sometimes in cahoots with Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, can also be easily exhorted to ‘spontaneously’ appear outside the British embassy in Moscow.

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That does not mean a situation would degenerate into an attack on the building such as we have seen in Tehran, but the possibility would be there, and the Foreign Secretary’s remarks will have helped lead to that possibility.

To put it into context imagine the outrage if, before Mr. Johnson had spoken, the Kremlin had suddenly urged Russians to mass outside the British Embassy in Moscow. Strongly worded statements would have been issued from the Foreign Office using phrases including the words ‘condemn’, volatile’, provocative’.

The Foreign Secretary’s French counterpart, Jean-Marc Aryault, has asked ‘Is it the job of a foreign minister to organise demonstrations?’


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If Mr. Johnson wasn’t thinking, then he should have been. If he was – he should think again.

This article was originally published on The What And The Why and can be read here.

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