Post-Brexit Britain should make Russia a priority for trade once our extrication from the EU is formally completed in the next two years. Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union. The USSR was openly committed to world conquest, and was prepared to openly back any rebellion to achieve that end. It made sense for Cold War Britain to stand up to Moscow during this period. But those days are well and truly over. Putin has no desire to sweep his tanks in to central London and lift a flag over Buckingham Palace. Far from the Red Army war gaming parachute invasions of the Yorkshire Dales, post-Soviet Russia only has one security concern. That concern is NATO. It regards NATO as an anti-Russian alliance, and is curious as to why an alliance set up to stop communism spreading by force is still pointing its guns and missiles at a country which no longer practises or promotes it. Several times a year, NATO feels the urge to conduct war games which are clearly training exercises for war with Russia. Its latest was codenamed Operation Anaconda, a snake which surrounds then strangles its prey. Quite why such a sinister and threatening name was chosen is anyone’s guess.
The EU has become increasingly aggressive towards Russia. The pro-EU think tank the Wilfred Martens Centre made clear that even the thought of militarily fighting Russia is a step they would not rule out. Speaking of tension with Russia, they stated the EU should not rule out military action against Russia; “We have to make clear that yes, we are willing to go to war, for what we consider existential principles of Europe’s future” (emphasis mine).EU has pushed for highly restrictive and vindictive sanctions against Russia’s economy. Eastern European countries were especially fervent in sticking as many knives in to Russia as they could. It is understandable why large numbers of countries in Eastern Europe want the EU/NATO to take a harsh line against Russia, even if it makes no sense for Britain. Polish MEPs suggested placing sanctions on Russia; but then the EU should provide compensation to Polish businesses that could no longer deal with Russia. Sadly as EU members, Britain was forced to go along with this.
In the European institutions, Putin is a new bogey man, regularly invoked as some kind of villain. Pro-EU leaders regularly boom about his alleged threat to Europe. When French banks were bullied by the French left in to not doing business with the Front National, Russian state banks provided them with facilities. Similarly, Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) were denied banking services by German banks due to leftist bullying, and again, Russian banks stepped in to offer services. This was seized upon as evidence by the EU of Putin orchestrating a plot to bring down the EU by backing ‘anti-European forces’. Far from condemning masked anarchist thugs who threaten European banks that do business with legally constituted political parties, the EU yet again had to make this something to do with Putin. If a tree falls in the forest, no one hears it, but the EU will tell everyone Putin pushed it over.
Post-Brexit Britain should unapologetically seek trade and friendship with all countries. There is no reason why post-Brexit Britain should not seek out trade with Russia. Firstly, Russia has the largest deposits of natural gas in the world. This energy could provide energy to power our economy, from running factories to keeping old and poor people warm in the winter. Energy security should be a major priority of a post-Brexit government, and freed from the requirement go along with Russia-bashing sanctions, Britain should seek out an energy agreement with Russia. If the remaining 27 EU countries want to shiver in the cold to spite Russia let them make that mistake.
Furthermore, many highly wealthy Russian businessmen and investors would view the light regulatory and tax climate of post-Brexit Britain as an attractive place to create wealth and jobs. Attracting foreign direct investment should also be something a post-Brexit Britain should ruthlessly seek out, and Russia, a country with more billionaires than any other country, would be a great place to start. The city of Moscow alone has over 50 billionaires resident there. At the moment EU sanctions make business hard for them, once we are out, then this is no longer an obstacle. Russian businessmen often do not trust their own legal system. By contrast English law is respected throughout the world, and legal services are a major earner for the British economy. There is no reason why a post-Brexit Britain could not be a thriving centre for Russian businessmen to do business with each other, signing contracts enforceable under English law in English courts. The prospect of making money from wealthy Russian clients post-Brexit will no doubt make casually pro-EU lawyers have second thoughts about Brexit being so bad after all.
In addition, Russia has experience fighting radical Islam. Unlike Russia, which is not a threat to Britain, radical Islam is a vivid threat. The EU and NATO had exactly the wrong view on Syria. ISIS set up sex slave markets, threw gay men to their deaths from buildings and crucified sectarian opponents before cheering crowds. Yet the EU/NATO told us that the problem was not ISIS, but the secular army of Bashar Assad who was trying to stop them. Instead of calling for attacks on ISIS, NATO/EU told us that we had to bomb Assad, clearly unaware of the strategic winning edge that would give ISIS. The only world leader with any sense over Syria was Putin. The Roman Ampitheatre at Palmyra was once a thriving cultural centre. ISIS took over and began using it for televised executions, such as the ghoulish spectacle of child fighters being made to shoot captured Syrian soldiers in the skull. Russian troops went in with a full force and drove out ISIS. One Russian special forces soldier who realised he was surrounded by ISIS troops with no prospect of escape, he called in an airstrike on himself to destroy ISIS. As the Wehrmacht discovered in the winter on 1941, ISIS soon realised the Russian soldier is a fearsome opponent. After driving ISIS from Palmyra, the Russians held a classical music concert on the site of the Roman Ampitheatre, re-consummating the site as a place of culture and decency.
After the Nice Attacks, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France would just have to ‘learn to live’ with terrorism. By contrast Putin suggested fighting and destroying ISIS. I will confess I am more a fan of Putin’s option, and a post-Brexit Britain would no doubt be able on a case by case basis to do our part in crushing radical Islamic terrorism.
In short, freed from the shackles of Russia baiting EU fanatics, a post-Brexit Britain could make Russia a valued trade partner. We should do it as soon as possible.