UNITED KINGDOM AND RUSSIA: THE “ODD COUPLE”? - 23 November, 2000

Certain Russian newspapers have called the relationship between President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair “the odd couple”. Such sentences smack of the tabloid press at its worst, are totally devoid of real content and to be perfectly honest, show a complete lack of respect for the position and status of the politicians involved. What follows is a “Diana syndrome” if one can borrow from a foreign experience, which is as undignified as a drunken priest at a funeral. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Tony Blair are trying very hard to bring some sense to the international community of today. Pragmatists, reformers, modernists and both extremely hard-working, intelligent professionals, neither deserves the label “odd”. If either of these charismatic leaders were to show the tendencies of those who had led their countries before them, evidently “odd” would be a good turn of phrase. The point is that these two men love their countries, love their people, know what is good for them and are not going to allow a bunch of misfits, reactionaries, irresponsible would-be opinion makers and press organs with severe attacks of verbal diarrhoea to affect the honest, hard work they are putting in to improve the lives of their people and the people of Europe. It is the fifth time these two men have men because they like each other and both see very positive ideas in each other’s vocabulary. After all, Russia and Britain were allies in two major wars in the last century. Indeed, apart from the more paranoid years of the Cold War (in which all sides were victims of foreign aggression from the other side of the Atlantic), Britain and Russia never had any reason whatsoever to enter into conflict. Quite the contrary, both countries on either side of Europe can contribute greatly to the continent of which they are both peripheral, yet integral, members. Tony Blair flew back to London to find an ex-leader of the Conservative Party, Baroness Thatcher, formerly the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, having attacked him for his support of the European Union Rapid Reaction Force. No doubt this attack was launched after lunch or after dinner, as usual with the more venomous speeches of this lady, now Lady. It is a pity she and Boris Yeltsin never had the opportunity to get together more often…they have a lot in common. Media coverage (or secrecy) makes or breaks many a reputation. Sometimes the Press speaks too much, or too little. Shaking off the more violent accusations of her speech, which rings with the echoes of the 1980s, Tony Blair said that the times of the iron Lady had gone and that President Putin is “very intelligent and determined to proceed with his reforms in Russia”. Britain is determined to open a new chapter in bilateral relations and the New Labour Government intends to see Eastern Europe treated fairly and in a spirit of real and genuine friendship, respect and cooperation.

Pravda.Ru correspondent, London