Russia attacks the EU’s human rights record (no, really)

The Russian regime has attacked the human rights record of Europe while suppressing political choice and freedom of speech at home. This a window into Russian policy of the next six years

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Putin and Medvedev struggle to keep a straight face
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William Joce
On 17 May 2012 08:47

According to an old saying, the best form of defence is attack. It appears that the Russian government has taken on board this lesson and, preparing for a new wave of criticism of the Russian human rights record following post-election protests, has launched a bold counter-attack on human rights in the EU.

The Moscow Times reports that, at a round table discussion in Moscow on Monday 14th May, senior officials and academics joined together in roundly criticising the European record in the field of human rights and the hypocrisy of those who seek to use the concept of civil liberties as a ‘weapon’ with which to attack other countries around the world, including Russia.

The examples singled out for attention included attacks on Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic States, discrimination against immigrants in the UK and a general rise in xenophobia and nationalism in Europe as a result of the economic downturn.

The head of the EU delegation to Russia, Fernando Valenzuela, attended the meeting and is quoted as drily noting, “We do not claim that everything is perfect.” Of course, the suggestion that the only valid criticisms are those coming from a state of absolute perfection is absurd but the Russians have form for this kind of behaviour.

In September of 2011 when David Cameron raised the issue of endemic corruption that reaches into every corner of life Russia, Dmitry Medvedev countered by pointing out that links between News International and top politicians of both major parties show that ‘there is corruption in the UK too’.

The USSR made an even greater stretch by suggesting that the historical treatment of Native Americans in the US (which was appalling) meant that criticism of Soviet political repression, the gulag structure and persecution of the Jews was all invalid.

The problem is that the Russian State as currently configured, as opposed to individual Russians, has a total distrust of concepts greater than national interest, which can cross national boundaries and unite people instead of dividing them. After gambling everything on Communism in the last century and losing, this is perhaps understandable.

So the Russian regime attacks the human rights record of Europe while suppressing political choice and freedom of speech at home and uses the issue as a weapon while warning the West against doing the same thing themselves. This is a window into Russian foreign policy of the next six years.

There is good news here, thankfully, because these stratagems and gambits are so ludicrously transparent and blatantly cynical that one imagines the highly effective and professional foreign policy specialists, side-lined by the Kremlin sitting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, weeping with embarrassment.

Key figures in the current regime were brought up on the rough back streets of what was then Leningrad. They bring with them a mind-set based on zero-sum game power struggles that has served them well in taking over an entire country with the crucial component of having the backing of the KGB and successor agencies. Without that support, on the international stage their games are not guaranteed success or even credibility.

William Joce works for a Conservative MP in Westminster and has lived for extended periods in Russia, having previously worked for the Politico-Military division of the OSCE in the former USSR 

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