Too oily to tell

[Thursday]

The Russian government is to expel four British diplomats, mirroring the actions of the British government on Monday, when fresh-faced Foreign Secretary David Miliband made his controversial decision to eject four Russian diplomats from the UK. In addition to this tit-for-tat measure, the Russian authorities will no longer co-operate with the British government on anti-terrorism – though since there is not thought to be much of this, it is more a symbolic measure. So what is really behind the recent conflict between the UK and the Russian Federation?

The UK government would have us believe that their only interest is in extradicting Andrei Lugovoi, who is supposedly the prime suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder case. You might recall that Litvinenko was killed by radiation poisoning – the most ostentatious hit ever carried out, and a little bit suspicious. If, as it is alleged, Lugovoi murdered Litvinenko, why poison him with polonium-210?

Meanwhile, Boris Berezovsky – a billionaire and ‘exile’ who has sought refuge and a modest lifestyle in Mayfair – has reluctantly held a press conference to announce that he was almost killed on the orders of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. The foresight of the British intelligence services averted this alleged assassination.

How courageous of this brave ‘dissident’ to speak out – and how strange that the police did not charge the suspected assassin, but rather deported him to Russia. And was that Lord Bell, Thatcher’s PR man, at his side during the press conference?

It’s a case of the warring band of brothers falling out – Boris got rich during the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and is wanted by the Russian authorities, where is has been charged for corruption and fraud. Despite being sought by Brazil over claims of money laundering and his involvement in the illegal funding of political campaigns in the Ukraine, he remains in the UK.

Why is he guarded so closely by the British state? Well, he’s a capitalist opposed the Putin: the Russian government is no longer performing the wishes Anglo-American imperialism. Europe is dependent on Russia for oil and gas and the oligarchy is ousting Big Oil, taking a bigger share of the revenues for itself, and using the energy monopoly to bribe neighboring countries (such as Belarus and the Ukraine).

The UK and US are irked by Russia’s position over Kosovo, the opposition to the presence of NATO in Eastern Europe, and a host of other matters, including Iran’s nuclear programme.

Berezovsky has told reporters that he is plotting a Russian Revolution, though this probably does not involve workers’ councils or the expropriation of the oligarchy. Ironically, he makes it easier for the oligarchy to tar all political opposition with the same brush. Would it be heretical to compare him to the capitalist version of Trotsky? He puts me in mind of a younger Mohammad Al-Fayed: both men are driven attention-seekers.

This “mini-crisis” should rumble on for a good while yet. But don’t expect open warfare, British capital is still the biggest investor in Russia, and the delay in responding to Miliband’s provocation suggests Putin doesn’t want the row to get out of hand.

This whole affair is surely timed to prelude whatever interference Western imperialism is planning for next year’s presidential elections in Russia, in which Putin will not participate. By the way, I am heartened by news that there are deepening cultural and political ties between Venezuela and Russia – we all need a bit of the Bolivarian spirit, after all.

I’ve run out of steam, so I’ll end here.

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