In Politik’s 7 September issue we are told that Western diplomats in Wellington are surprised that Winston Peters has not accused Russia of the Skripal poisoning or joined some other countries in taking reprisals. Editor Richard Harman quotes a source to tell us that the British in particular were “pissed” at Peters’ response. Well dearie me! I’m with Winston, a wise old owl in a precarious global environment.
Another senior journalist, Brian Rudman, commented rather differently on Britain’s attempts to “blackguard” Russia in New Zealand media when this issue first broke in March this year.
Yet 30 years on, Opposition politicians and parts of the media were now trying to put us back into colonial diapers, criticising the Government for not blindly going wherever Britain decides to go in its “punishing” of Russia for allegedly poisoning Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on UK soil.
Behind the scenes, senior diplomats from the British High Commission in Wellington even lobbied selected journalists, pushing their case for Russian guilt and the need for a united stand against such evil-doing.
It very much looks as though Richard Harman would have been one of the selected journalists. I know Richard well, like and respect him, but I think he is barking up the wrong tree on this issue.
The language in the press release from Winston Peters is careful, as is he in matters diplomatic. He refers to the police investigation which has resulted in the naming of two suspects, although the police call for further information from the public indicates that the case against them is by no means open and shut.
It is notable that the attribution to the Russian state or its organs does not come from the police, as their press release indicates. It comes entirely from Prime Minister Theresa May, made under parliamentary privilege. In the absence of concrete information, speculation as to what actually happened and why is rampant, as this article in the Independent attests.
I’m living in London at the moment, and would have to say that it is charitable in the extreme to describe the state of UK government politics at the moment as merely chaotic. Theresa May’s net favourability stands at -37. Nobody believes her on anything. The Conservative-led government is now as divided as the Liberal-led government in Australia, with the Tories in open revolt over Brexit. As for their diplomacy post Bojo, the best example would be Jeremy Hunt’s expedition to China to offer a new glorious age of trade, which would only have served to remind the Chinese of the Opium Wars. He also got himself publicly confused about his wife’s ethnic origin!
We may well be entering a new multi-polar world where it will be important for New Zealand to play its traditional role of honest broker, independent, nimble and fundamentally principled. The last place we should be looking for global leadership from is Britain in its current state, as former diplomat Mark Malloch-Brown makes clear in this article. Self-delusion is rampant here.
Winston Peters is and deserves to be treated as a substantial politician and diplomat. One doesn’t have to agree with everything he says, but he is no fool. On this issue, for our country’s sake, I am very glad he is not knee-jerk following the “western” group.