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Demonising Russia Won't Give Us Security

Prominent Russia scholars try to get The Guardian to undersand a basic truth - we don't doubt it will be in vain

We note with alarm that public discourse about Russia is coloured by militaristic and dangerous terms which may talk us into war (We’r*e back to great-power conflict, says US defence secretary, 3 February). The country’s portrayal as an aggressive power increases its perception of threat, accelerating a military and ideological escalation.

Irresponsible talk of conflict is risky and mistaken. Warnings of “Russian aggression” fail to take into account its defensive posture. We need a precautionary but critical assessment of present realities.

By driving Russia into a corner we provoke it into escalatory responses and undermine our own security. Unlike Saddam Hussein, Russia has weapons of mass destruction, so the consequences of getting it wrong are worse.

In the last 25 years we failed to solve fundamental problems of European security, for which we are all responsible. The Ukraine crisis was a symptom rather than a cause of a developing confrontation. Moscow being an awkward partner is not an excuse.

Russia has many problems but they are for Russians to solve, which they will do with time and there is no need to aggravate them. Britain needs to play its part in developing a sober strategy that can endure the contingencies to which international politics is prey.

We need to understand more and condemn less. Few wanted war in 1914, but Europe stumbled over the abyss. Today we need to wake up before it is too late.

Dr Anna Matveeva
King’s College London
Professor Richard Sakwa
Kent University

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