Europe Under Siege

3 mins. to read
Europe Under Siege

The appalling attacks in Paris in the late evening of Friday, 13 November 2015 will linger in the annals of infamy for many years to come. About 130 innocent people lost their lives and many more were seriously injured. No doubt the number of fatalities will rise in the days to come.

On 31 October a Russian passenger airliner, Metrojet flight 9268, was blown up just after leaving Sinai, Egypt, on route for St. Petersburg. The Airbus A321 was carrying 224 Russian holidaymakers and crew, including children. All, of course, perished. While aviation experts suspected an explosion from the first, the British government only admitted to having “intelligence” relating to the terrorist attack on 04 November, and the Russian government only formally announced that it regarded this as an act of terrorism on 17 November. Russia is even offering a reward of US$50 million to anyone with information which nails the killer.

To put it in context, this was the deadliest aircraft bombing since the infamous Pan Am 103 crashed into Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 killing all 243 passengers, 16 crew and a further 11 Lockerbie residents.

Both the Paris and Sinai atrocities, according to its own sources, were the work of the bunch of fascistic theologically deranged narcissistic psychopathic scumbags that calls itself the Islamic State.

Now it is interesting that while there has been an outpouring of solidarity with and sympathy for our French friends, very few words of consolation have been offered to our Russian ones. On Facebook, many if not most of your friends will have updated their profile photos with the red, white and blue colours of the French tricolour. Candles burn in windows; and all Europe observes a minute’s silence. World leaders compete with one another for superlatives of outrage. For the French victims of these atrocities, that is, and yet not the Russian ones.

I wonder if this reflects something that I have feared happening for some time: that, over a period of years, we have allowed our suspicions and fears of Russia’s intentions to congeal into distaste for a country which, whatever, you think about it, occupies the Eastern half of our European continent. If that is true (I let the question hang), is it so surprising that the Russians themselves complain of being side-lined and ignored by an antagonistic Russo-phobe West?

In his historic address to both houses of the French parliament at Versailles on 16 November, President Hollande called on Russia, America and Europe to unite in coalition to exterminate IS. In fact, this is exactly what the Russians have been advocating for some time. Russia, many of whose own citizens – radicalised by the Chechen wars and other events – have gone to Syria, has been totally consistent in its aims in Syria since the civil war began in the early spring of 2011. Namely: to isolate and destroy extremists intent on exporting their loathsome brand of religious tyranny.

On 28 September President Putin, at his address to the UN General Assembly, called for a revival of the “Anti-Hitler Coalition” of WWII, but this time to fight ISIS. President Obama effectively turned him down.

The bone of contention, of course, has been the future role of the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad. Russia has consistently taken the view that Assad is the legitimate head of government of the country (legally correct, if morally questionable). America and its NATO allies have consistently maintained that Assad must go – though they have never identified who might be able to replace him. While this argument over Assad has raged, IS have entrenched themselves.

Russia, as we know, stepped up its military intervention in Syria with airstrikes in early October. The Russians now have a substantial airbase inside the country. The French and the Americans have bombed IS positions from external bases. The British have used drones in Syria but have not called out the RAF because Mr Cameron does not have explicit approval from the House of Commons (which, by the way, he doesn’t legally require anyway).

It would be extraordinary, hereon in, if some kind of compromise could not be struck with Russia over Assad to facilitate an all-out campaign against IS (which might involve limited deployment of boots on the ground). If that does happen then the sour mood that has pervaded Russia’s relations with the West might sweeten.

A change of mood could boost investment flows into Russia. Especially if the West concedes that Russia’s control of Crimea (which I have discussed elsewhere) is an accomplished fact. This could be a good moment to buy into those bombed-out Russia funds.

As I write, I note that the anarchist protest group Anonymous has declared war on IS. No doubt we’ll all be sleeping tighter in our beds tonight.

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