You would think that politicians would have more sense than to express any sort of admiration for Vladimir Putin. Alex Salmond has followed in the footsteps of Nigel Farage. He told Alistair Campbell for GQ:
Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.
He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing. There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the intermesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally; they are lovely people.
The Telegraph’s report has Salmond adding that you can see Putin carries support in Russia. Someone who goes out of their way to suppress opposition like Putin does is bound to come out well in the polls. And how anyone can show any sort of admiration for a man whose regime sets out to persecute members of the LGBT community and who locked up members of the band Pussy Riot for years is beyond me.
This is not the first time Alex Salmond has put his foot in it when it comes to foreign affairs. Way back in 1999, he referred to military action in Kosovo at “unpardonable folly.”
Menzies Campbell has called his comments a “disturbing lack of judgement.”
I am afraid to say that Mr Salmond’s admiration for “certain aspects” of Vladimir Putin’s leadership reflects a disturbing lack of judgement. The explanation that this was before recent events in Ukraine is wholly unconvincing. Mr Putin’s disregard for human rights, his tolerance of homophobia and his territorial ambitions have been well known for a long time. They are clear illustrations of the kind of leadership he offers. President Assad has benefitted from Mr Putin’s unequivocal support and ordinary Syrians, particularly women and children, have paid a terrible price.
“The sad truth is that Russia’s unacceptable behaviour over the Crimea and now eastern Ukraine has come as no surprise. The First Minister should avoid judgements for which he is clearly unqualified.
But it’s not just Putin Salmond admires. He’s got a wee soft spot for Nigel Farage, too. Without a trace of irony, he said:
He is having influence beyond his significance so you have to admire that. There is a constituency for saloon bar politics and he has played it out. I have a sneaking regard for anyone who takes on powerful establishments.
Salmond’s SNP government is now the establishment in Scotland. It thinks it’s above the law, ignoring and defying freedom of information requests.I suspect he doesn’t want to be too nasty about Farage because he’s chasing the same kind of voters as UKIP does. UKIP are nowhere in Scotland and won’t be even in this European election. However, as Stephen Tall showed this morning from his review of Revolt on the Right, UKIP’s voters tend to be older white working class males who are somehow disaffected from politics. Salmond needs these voters in Scotland to vote for independence on September 18th so he’ll be wary of upsetting them.
It is a bit disconcerting to find my First Minister expressing admiration for these sorts of people.
Update: For those of you who think I’m being too hard on Salmond, you might want to take a look at what someone who has no position in the independence referendum has to say. Siobhan Reardon, the Director of Amnesty Scotland suggested that Salmond had got it very wrong:
Whilst the First Minister may admire certain aspects of Vladimir Putin, as he stated in his interview with Alistair Campbell, we certainly do not admire the way Putin continues to violate the human rights of the Russian people. He has effectively criminalised homosexuality, and is in the process of shutting down democratic dissent through harassment, arbitrary arrests and a judicial process which makes a mockery of the concept of justice. Not to mention the many journalists who have been killed or have ‘disappeared’ for daring to criticise the Kremlin.
And it is with unfortunate irony that Mr Salmond talks of the pride of the Russian people, as Pride marches – a celebration of LGBTI rights – were banned for the next 100 years in 2012, despite the European Court of Human Rights declaring Pride bans in Moscow illegal just two years earlier. Following that, Putin enacted the draconian Anti-Homosexual Propaganda Bill.
In January this year, journalist Elena Klimova was charged under the Anti-Homosexual Propaganda Bill for running Children 404, a website offering support to LGBT teenagers – a literal lifeline to some young people in Russia. Elena’s case is just one Amnesty has been campaigning on and happily a court has ruled she is allowed to continue operating her website – for now.
Putin’s repression is not limited to the LGBT community: Since 2012, nearly 5,000 people have been detained in ‘authorised protests’ in and around Moscow and more than 1,000 NGOs (Amnesty included) have received “inspection” visits and the humble placard looks set to disappear from protests – a few weeks ago a small group of protestors holding invisible placards were arrested and taken to a Moscow police station for posing a dire threat to public order.
Mr Salmond should reserve his admiration for those worthy of it, not those who trample over human rights and flout international law.
This post first appeared on Liberal Democrat Voice.