To St Petersburg with love

To St Petersburg with love

By Jonathan Power

June 4, 2019

on the 250 km/hour train hurtling from Moscow to St Petersburg when it suddenly
clicks in my mind. My apologies for being so stupid, but despite regular trips
to Russia over many years I have only suddenly got it – I too have been
brainwashed about Russia by Western politicians, media and authors, like nearly
everyone else.

I noticed in Moscow and what I’ve seen in St Petersburg on previous trips is
that, yes, I am, indeed I am, in a normal Western big city environment. Both
cities are grand in different ways.

Petersburg, with its museums, palaces, great churches, canals and river, its
rich store of art (probably second only to the Louvre) and its musical life
(the Marriinsky theatre is the epicenter of world ballet) is arguably the most
beautiful and imposing of all the world’s cities.

has the Kremlin, the most majestic seat of government in the world. Although
beset by too much traffic despite a dense metro system built by the orders of
Stalin using near-slave labour, which made mini palaces of major stations, it’s
full of little parks, good old architecture and interesting streets.

both cities the people are well dressed, the shops stacked with goods, the
multitude of cafés and restaurants full, the galleries packed and the trains
above ground and below running all the time.

is the Western embargo hitting, I asked my companion on the trip, a senior
current affairs producer in Ren Television, a nation-wide broadcaster? “Out in
the countryside, in the poorer parts, people are suffering from inflation and
find it increasingly difficult to buy the essentials of life”, she replied.

this point I realised, sort of belatedly, there are two very distinct Russias –
the Western European part and the rest, which crosses six times zones.

told that Russia’s national income is way down the world’s league table. It is
if you take the average income of this country of 140 million. But this gives a
false impression of the modern powerhouse that is the heart of Russia. (Yes,
the heart beats on the left.)

average income of 45 million people in the West when added to the 100 million
elsewhere, then divided by two, makes the 45 million look much poorer than they
are, and measures like the nation-wide infant mortality rate and longevity
lopsided and misleading.

told that incomes are down, unemployment is up, pensioners suffer, health
services are bereft of sufficient drugs. This is true, but it’s mainly true
among the 100 million, not among the 45 million.

get Russia wrong.

drumbeat of negative news over decades has got into nearly all our brains. Only
in rocketry and weapons, are we told, are the Russians on a level with us. For
the rest they are an impenetrable bunch – “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery,
inside an enigma”, said Churchill.

Russia isn’t if you look.

we get the politics of Russia wrong. President Vladimir Putin, and the vast
majority of Russians, aren’t interested in territorial aggrandisement but
they are interested in Russia not being threatened.

into Crimea and then conducting an over hasty referendum did break
international law, as the students I interviewed at the Moscow State Institute
of International Relations agreed, but it was understandable.

had been part of Russia for centuries and is the home of Russia’s important
Black Sea fleet. But a Scotland-type settlement would have been better.

has no interest in seizing another time zone. The Baltic states and Swedes who
are bothered by such an eventuality are hyping a zero possibility.

does not want to expand, but it does believe it has a legitimate reason for
insisting on being the primary influence in the former Soviet states.

the West that, by means of NATO, has been hell bent on expansion.

Soviet Union’s last president, Mikhail Gorbachev, joint author of the end of
the Cold War along with President Ronald Reagan, believed he had an
understanding with President George H.W. Bush along with the German foreign
minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher, that in return for allowing Germany to be
re-united and for a united Germany to be a NATO member there would never be an
expansion of NATO eastward.

at one point there was serious talk about Russia becoming a member of Nato and
Russia joining the “European House”, as Gorbachev expressed it, as did Putin.

President Bill Clinton busted this understanding wide open and against the
advice of such foreign policy intellectuals as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry
Kissinger and George Kennan, started the expansion of NATO.

W. Bush continued it. And so did Barack Obama and now Donald Trump.

trouble with Western politicians is that they’re unaware of the facts.

don’t know the truth and having rarely, if at all, read history or roamed the
streets of Russia, they don’t know what they are talking about.

Copyright: Jonathan Power

To promote dialogue, write your appreciation, disagreement, questions or add stuff/references that will help others learn more...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.