Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Prince of Wales on Vladimir Putin

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall,
Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and
Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, occasional prophet.

Recently the press has been getting itself worked up about the alleged comments of our future King, Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Rothesay, among other things. In light of the Scottish monarchy theme of this blog- none other than King James IV of Scotland is my avatar and the blog's mascot- I will henceforth refer to him as Duke of Rothesay. His Royal Highness is reported to have likened the strongman ruler of the pseudo-democratic Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to a certain Adolf who governed Germany in the 1930s and 40s and is generally considered to have been a very bad person. The remarks were made by the Duke of Rothesay in a private conversation with Marienne Ferguson, a museum volunteer at the Canadian Museum of Immigration, Nova Scotia. Mrs Ferguson lost relatives during the Holocaust, and was telling Prince Charles about her experiences when he apparently noted that "now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler."

Should the heir to the throne be making such remarks in public? That's a moot point, because the conversation was private. He certainly didn't offend Mrs Ferguson, who told the press "I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do. I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they [members of the Royal Family] aren’t meant to say these things but it was very heartfelt and honest." I certainly agree with the Duke of Rothesay and Mrs Ferguson on this. Many Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans who feel threatened by Russia's aggression probably stand with us on this. Labour leader Edward Miliband is with us, too. Are you?

Of course, Russia says His Highness' remarks are outrageous. "We view the use of the western press by members of the British royal family to spread the propaganda campaign against Russia on a pressing issue – that is, the situation in Ukraine – as unacceptable, outrageous and low," says Alexander Lukashevich, who is apparently the voice of the Russian foreign ministry. UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who has expressed admiration for Putin in the past, is with the Russians. You can kiss goodbye to my vote, Nigel. Nick Clegg has proved he does sometimes have a rational thought, saying, "I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the Royal Family, somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence. I think he is entitled to his views. But I don't know whether those were his views because I just don't think providing a running commentary on what were private conversations is useful to anybody. I don't know exactly what he did or didn't say in that conversation because he thought it was a private conversation."

Very sensible, Mr Clegg. David Cameron is also being sensible; "I am not going to comment on someone's private conversation, least of all Prince Charles," he told Channel 4 News. Still, the Russians are determined to make this into a foreign relations crisis. They want a meeting with the Foreign Office, in order to "clarify" the Duke of Rothesay's remarks. The Foreign Office intends to use the opportunity to reiterate their disapproval of Russia's actions in Ukraine. Perhaps they could also give the Russians a wee history lesson. In 1938, shortly after the Anschluss was completed merging Austria into Germany, ethnic Germans in the fertile Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia began agitating for autonomy. Adolf Hitler responded by accusing the Czechoslovakian government of oppressing Sudeten Germans, and signed a secret directive for mobilisation to begin for war with Czechoslovakia. Under pressure from the British and French, the Czechoslovakian government agreed to the Sudeten Germans' four demands, only for Sudeten Germans intent on triggering war between Czechoslovakia and Germany to begin a wave of protests that destabilised talks; the Czechoslovakian army was eventually deployed to restore order.

Partition of Czechoslovakia in 1938, compliments of Wikipedia.
Under the pretext of protecting ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakian oppression, Hitler demanded the immediate annexation of the Sudetenland into the German Reich. The British and French governments, desperate to avoid war with Germany, agreed. Czechoslovakia resisted; however, despite the mobilisation of the Czechoslovakian Army and the promise of Soviet aid, the President of Czechoslovakia was unwilling to risk war with Germany without British and French support. On 29 September, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain, effectively ceding the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany without consulting the Czechoslovakian government. Soon after, the Nazis occupied the Sudetenland and forced Czechoslovakia to surrender large chunks of its territory to neighbouring Hungary and- irony of ironies- Poland. Nonetheless, Czechoslovakia would soon be invaded by Germany and all of Bohemia, the modern Czech Republic, annexed. Slovakia was set up as a nominally independent puppet state of the Third Reich.

Does all this sound familiar? It should- substitute Czechoslovakia for Ukraine, the Crimea for the Sudetenland and Russia for Germany, and the parallels become clear. Any student of history ought to be able to see how Putin, and ex-KGB agent who has mourned the fall of the Soviet Union in public, has taken actions reminiscent of Hitler in his early days. I can see it, Prince Charles can see it, Mrs Ferguson can see it, Ed Miliband can see it. Russia may not be on the road to ethnic cleansing, but its actions are clearly very sinister. Prince Charles has the right to say as he pleases in a private conversation, but let's say he had said it in a public address instead- perhaps that would have been a misstep, and perhaps he would have been criticised for it. But perhaps people would look back on his utterings fifty years from now, and see him as a latter-day Cassandra, the Winston Churchill of our time, his sound warnings ignored by the people around him. Perhaps we should listen to him now.

The views of Russia's true head of state, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the legitimate Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias, on the Ukrainian crisis can be found here at the Imperial House's website. As might be expected the tone is pro-Russian, but much more reconciliatory and measured than that of the Kremlin. I beg Her Imperial Highness' forgiveness if I appear overly critical of Russia's foreign policy here; I assure the Grand Duchess, and other proud Russian patriots, that my issue is entirely with Vladimir Putin and his neo-Soviet comrades, not with the people of Russia. Let us pray cooler heads prevail in east and west. Боже, Царя храни! God Save the Queen!

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