When two Russians no one has heard of were named as the main suspects in the Salisbury spy poisoning this week, it was clear this was going to be a great opportunity for Russophobia. And it was!
Here’s a look at the last seven days or so of Russophobia.
The MP for Russophobia West
However Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, the one thing that is certain is that events have allowed British MPs to unleash their hidden Russophobia with gay abandon, free of consequences. Especially after Theresa May named two apparent Russian suspects.
In parliament, there was the usual warlike rhetoric from MPs who find it very useful to hint at a conflict with Russia they know will never actually happen, but can still be a good vote winner.
However, special mention goes to Dominic Grieve MP, who saw a real opportunity to strike a blow in the name of Russophobia, and suggested a way should be found to ensure Russians in general find it much harder to get visas to come to Britain at all. He’s clearly never had to get a UK visa before if he thinks it’s easy already!
What, not all cyber spies are Russian!
GCHQ is home to Britain’s cyber spies. There may be some of you out there surprised that countries other than Russia have cyber spies, but guess what … everyone’s at it.
The head of GCHQ is Jeremy Fleming, and being a Russophobe is basically in his job description. For that reason during a big speech in Washington he described the threat from Russia as being “real” and “active”.
The top cyber spy then said he would “deploy the full range of tools” against Russia in retaliation for what may or may not have happened to the Skripals, in the process demonstrating that Britain is pretty ‘real’ and ‘active’ too. But remember, it’s only bad if it’s Russia.
Freedom of (some) speech
The Institute for Strategic Research of the French Defense Ministry (IRSEM) and The Centre for Analysis, Planning and Strategy (CAPS), published a joint paper on the spread of disinformation and how to combat it this week. Apart from their links to the French Foreign Ministry, both are completely impartial observers.
Referring to Russian outlets RT and Sputnik (you saw that coming didn’t you) the Russophobic think-tanks concluded that “It is necessary not to grant [these organizations] accreditation and not to invite them to press conferences for journalists.” The unsaid part of that reads something like: it’s not necessary because they’re only Russian, and sometimes they say things we don’t like.
No claim too outrageous
Politico.eu refused to lose perspective this week with the understated headline ‘Putin’s attack on the US is the new Pearl Harbour’. Co-writer is the Russophobe’s Russophobe Molly McKew, who also compares allegations of Russian election hacking to the September 11 attacks, but she probably couldn’t fit all that in the headline.
This is the kind of article which is paying the bills for many self-nominated Russia experts, because when Russophobia rules, no claim is too outrageous.
“This is our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11. In the past, we have risen to the defense of our values, our ideologies and our institutions. It’s time for another fight” the writers cried like Bill Pullman in Independence Day.
Erm, but wasn’t it just allegations that someone had sent some tweets?
War games worries
Nothing gets the knees of a Russophobe knocking more than Russian military exercises. Cue Vostok 2018, which will not only involve a few hundred thousand troops, but China will take part too.
Vice news says it’s aimed at “sending a message to the U.S. and Europe,” which is what most war games are about if we’re honest, but then again the war games are taking place in nine time zones from Europe and on Russian territory. If the message is, don’t attack us, then that’s fair enough surely.
Vice quotes Ambassador Daniel Fried, a retired State Department official and Russia expert (which is what a lot of Russophobes call their day job) as saying: “The Russians love saber-rattling.” Hard to say if he said it with a straight face.