Posts Tagged ‘tories’

December 2012

Ballets Russes: A scandal exposes the delicacy of Britain’s relationship with Russia

The Economist

IN JOHN LE CARRÉ’S 1990 thriller, “The Secret Pilgrim”, a retired British spy looks back, melancholy and uncertain, on his exotic career. The novel rightly consigns the “nonsense” of cold war espionage to a bygone age, says Russia’s embassy in London. It offered this literary insight in response to recent reports alleging links between shady Russian diplomats and Britain’s Conservative Party. The embassy accused the source of the offending reports, the Guardian, of “blatant disregard for common decency” and advised it to “exercise its freedom responsibly”. That the statement read like a Politburo screed did little to help its argument.

For the Tories, who are strenuously defending that same press freedom from proposed statutory regulations, the affair is deeply embarrassing. The subject of the Guardian’s investigation, the Conservative Friends of Russia (CFOR) group, was “too close to the Russian embassy”, admits a senior Tory. Its establishment and later ignominy illustrates the delicacy of politicians’ dealings with Russia.

The relationship between the two countries has long been choppy. The previous Labour government fell out with the Kremlin over Britain’s harbouring of Russian dissidents and renegade businessmen, and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. So Moscow turned its attention to the Conservatives. In 2010 the state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported a wave of “Toryphilia” sweeping the Russian foreign ministry.

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