Tuesday, January 27, 2004

# Posted 5:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

MEETING AN AMBASSADOR: And a Russian one, at that. Grigory Karasin, the Russian ambassador to the Court of St James and a former deputy foreign minister, stopped up at Oxford this afternoon. I typed up a transcript of the discussion, but haven't had a chance to proofread it, so it contains some typos. (Sorry!)

Some of the more interesting selections are quoted below. You can read this text in one of two ways - as presented and without definite and indefinite articles, in which case you'd have to read it aloud and ideally with a marked Russian accent; or with them, as I've optionally supplied. I hadn't meant to only extract unusual (or risible) comments, as his general presentation was articulate, intelligent, and often quite candid. However, there were a few bits - call them, "Karasinisms" - that I just couldn't let slip by without comment....

on the Holocaust
When we think of anti-Semitism, we shouldn’t overemphasize that part of [the] Holocaust. At [the] same time, some people tried to put anti-Semitism into [the] Middle East to discuss [a/the] Middle East settlement. That is [a] different thing, entirely.

on Iraq, and impersonating Madonna
We think that what happened was not optimal, but we recognize that we are living in a material world, and we think the best thing that can be done is to bring back the U.N.

on imaginative construals of what it means to have free and fair elections
Russia is a multiparty democracy with elections, plus and minuses with them, for examples – but take [the] last Duma election, roughly 23 parties took part in that, generally well organized, honest and fair. I can argue with those who think it was not like that.

on having your next presidential election be a foregone conclusion, in a multiparty democracy with elections
also, on the virtues of going to work each day
On march 15, there will be the election of the President, not many people hesitate to predict the result, and it is not because we live in a society where everything is predictable, it is because the personal record of President Putin is absolutely obvious. People trust him, they see that he is really a working President, that every day he tries to handle in a really constructive way some questions with the government.

on optimism
Because Britain is traditionally the land of very good and positive inventions, so let us hope it will invent something to allow us to prosper as an economic power.

on Chechnya (or, having your eggs and breaking them too)
But to try to take an upper hand in political discussions, that can be done later, but establishing that people can go to work and take their children to school, that is priority, and later we can discuss what was optimal.

on Russia, as a new cuddly neighbor
Even if you take the recent Americans’ announcements, not only in Georgia but certainly, Secretary of State says that he thinks, the intonation of the statement was that Russia should be friendly with neighbours, etc., we don’t have to be reminded about that. We’re not pretending to be the patrons of everybody who is neighbouring to Russia. And that is example of Cold War mentality – when Russia is still seen as former Soviet Union. But we should keep in mind that our security, and our national interests, are observed. And we should keep in mind that Russia is either a partner, a full partner, or no partner at all.

on what free speech means to him
It is not yet the end of the road, but people feel themselves living in free market conditions, where they have no limitation to express their views, and where the media represents different views and, fortunately for the state, and fortunately for Russia, it is no longer in the hands of the oligarchs, who like very much to defend, so-called, their own rights, among them, the freedom of speech. It was not freedom of speech, it was the freedom of speech of those who own the news channels.

on those good old days
We can’t say that the former experience of Soviet power was totally negative for my country, there were a number of positive experiences in education, science, and other fields.
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