UKIP MEP Diane James expressed sympathy with some of the actions of Russian president Vladimir Putin on LBC radio yesterday, while also noting the predicament of Russia as it faces-off with the EU. Not that you’d know it from some of the reportage that followed.
The comments have been widely reported as her “praising” and “supporting” the controversial president yet she was specific as to why she sympathized with Putin, saying “I admire him from the point of view that he’s standing up for his country. He’s very nationalist.” The interview continued:
“By invading others?” asked LBC host Iain Dale.
“No, no.” replied James. “He’s standing up for his country.”
“He is a very strong leader. He is putting Russia first, and he has issues with the way the EU encouraged a change of government in the Ukraine which he felt put at risk a Russian population in that country,” she continued.
James’ comments chime with those made by UKIP leader Nigel Farage in March last year to GQ magazine, where he said he admired Putin as “an operator, but not as a human being. The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant.”
Farage’s remarks came after the annexation of Crimea but before the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine and the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Like James, Farage qualified his point of view by adding: “Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?”
James and Farage both made comments that at first blush appeared to be on the wrong side of history but taken in context appear perfectly reasonable. They also reinforce the reality of crumbling nation-states in eastern Europe struggling to come to grips with life in a post-Communist world.
Since the end of the old Soviet Union, “expansionist” Russia has relinquished 700,000 square miles of territory. The EU has gained control over 400,000 of those square miles through the admission of new member states.
George Friedman, the noted US intelligence and security expert (and critic of Putin), described the ousting of Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych following the “Euromaidan” protests in Kiev as “the most blatant coup in history.”