Steerpike

British Council’s Russian détente

British Council's Russian détente
President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Credit: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
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It's all gone a bit Pete Tong down in the Crimea. Russia and Ukraine are tooling up on both sides, with the Western powers claiming there will be 'unprecedented' sanctions against Russia if it were to invade. Ben Wallace is set to meet with his Russian counterpart for crisis talks; the UK is among those nations shipping hundreds of anti-tank weapons out to Ukraine. The mood music is grim: the rhetoric sombre. 

Yet there are those in London who are adopting a breezier approach to the current quandary. For the British Council, considered by many to be a key soft power extension of UK foreign policy, appears to have taken the prospect of imminent European war in its stride. Its chief executive, Scott McDonald, has been merrily proclaiming how he intends to be in Russia this week, even as the country is accused of preparing to invade its neighbour. 

With commendable understatement, he told his Twitter followers that: 'when government relations are difficult or impossible the British Council continues our long-term work,' puffing the work of his colleagues to 'strengthen UK-Russia collaboration' and 'build a better and more stable future.' McDonald tweeted out an article being promoted by the Council from the beginning of this month, quoting his colleague Richard Everitt who claims that 'Beneath the short-term politics, there’s a much longer-term, strong and mutually respectful relationship between Russian and UK academics.' 

Such internationalism may be admirable in normal times but with more than 127,000 of Putin's finest on the border, is now the moment for these sentiments? Crisis? What crisis?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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