At a glittering function a number of years ago, to celebrate Glentree’s 35 years of successful trading, President Gorbachev was invited, and attended, as Guest of Honour. At this function notable luminaries included Alexander and Eugene Lebedev (owners of the Evening Standard and Independent) as well as some of the richest Russians in London. In fact, we needed an army of 30 security guards to ensure there were no incidents.
The event was also to celebrate the sale of Toprak Mansion in the Bishops Avenue (where the party was held) and if you can ignore the pomp and ceremony for the moment President Gorbachev’s speech was somewhat prophetic. He talked about how America has such a narrow interpretation of democracy and how this should be broadened to help their understanding of the rest of the world. This was long before the events of the Arab Spring that brought this all to light.
In addition he spoke about his disappointment that during Perestroika there was the unruly dissemination of the States of the Soviet Union presided over by the somewhat intoxicated President Yeltsin (who he did not speak to again during Yeltsin’s lifetime) and had he continued to have been in power he would have created a Federation of Democratic States along the lines that Mr Putin is somewhat belated trying to perform with his annexation of Crimea. I’m not sure how much Mr Putin will be concerned by the limp reaction of the West to his imperious aspirations but we all know that left to his own devices he would ‘swallow up’ a number of former Soviet Union States since, instinctively, Russia on its own is not enough to feed his insatiable desire for power and authority.
In a quiet moment I asked Mr Gorbachev to explain the merits of the view from the West that President Regan outspent the Russians using his Star Wars technology that would be the catalyst for ending the Cold War. He corrected me by saying that this, in itself, was not enough to precipitate the outcome but it was the combined effect of the Americans together with the Saudi Arabians conspiring to suppress the oil price thereby starving the Soviet Union Treasury of valuable foreign earnings since energy was the main export of the time.
The parallels with the present day are inescapable whereby meaningful and effective sanctions are the only way to bring Mr Putin to heel.
Confiscating the ‘piggy banks’ of notable Russian oligarchs is laughable and energises Mr Putin to carry on his autocratic adventures.
Europe has no meaningful leader, Germany won’t change their gas supplier and President Obama is seen as weak and inept. Anyone who doesn’t think History repeats itself is delusional since it is happening before our very eyes.
I am happy to discuss this further at any time.