"On the Middle East, on fighting terrorism, yes, we will have to ally with Russia, but that's not to say we aren't prepared to have powerful and strong disagreements with them when they're doing things we don't agree with and can't agree with," Blair said.
Blair's words, despite the obligatory caveats, are in stark contrast from the kind of bellicose anti-Russian statements that have been coming out of the British government these past few months. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson infamously told Russia to "go away and shut up". It's also been reported that Theresa May will seek to gain support from EU leaders to maintain a tough stance towards the Kremlin.
No one in UK government circles is talking about Russia being an 'ally'. Quite the opposite. Russia is regarded as an ‘enemy'. It is in this climate of unrelenting Establishment-induced Russophobia, that Blair's words are so welcome.
The shocking truth, however, is that he is not the biggest warmonger out there. Iraq will be engraved on his tombstone. We must not forget the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia either, nor the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. But before he went into 'regime change' mode, Blair had played a key role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, with the historic Good Friday Agreement ending decades of bloodshed. Had he left office in the summer of 1998 he would have been remembered for posterity as a peacemaker. It's not as if Conservative foreign policy has been any better than Blair's. David Cameron's intervention in Libya precipitated a massive refugee crisis- and his government also played a very negative role in the conflict in Syria. Yet "Call Me Dave" has never received the attacks that Blair has.
On Russia, it's fair to point out that Blair has never been a hawk. He's long sought closer co-operation with the Kremlin on matters of mutual interest.
In December 2001 he welcomed President Putin to Chequers. "Tony Blair demonstrated his growing confidence in the government of Vladimir Putin yesterday by signing an agreement to establish a joint working group to pool intelligence data on terrorism," the Guardian‘s Michael White reported. He likened the terrorist bombings in Moscow to the 9/11 attacks in New York.
"People sometimes forget there were hundreds killed in Moscow before September 11," he said. Blair hailed the fact that Anglo-Russian relations were the warmest they had been for 'many years'. Michael White, in his report also commented that "Mr. Blair also gave enthusiastic support to growing ties between Russia and the EU and Nato".
People tend to forget this rapprochement with Russia in the early Noughties. They also forget that President Putin was the first international leader to call US President George W.Bush after 9-11.
If anti-terrorism co-operation between the UK and Russia made sense in December 2001, it makes even more sense today. The great irony is that the invasion of secular, Baathist Iraq- which Russia opposed and Tony Blair strongly supported, greatly increased the terrorism threat. It led to the rise of the Islamic State* and boosted al-Qaeda. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a secular leader who Tony Blair didn't want to be toppled, warned that the Iraq War would produce "one hundred new bin Ladens".
If he had wanted to counter-terrorism Blair should have listened to him- and President Putin, and not to US Neocons.
Perhaps Blair is learning his lesson.
In 2014, the FT reported that the former PM- while supporting the imposition of "no-fly zones", had "dismayed" Downing Street by suggesting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have to stay as interim President as part of a deal to end the conflict. At that time the UK government was in full "Assad must go" mode. David Cameron, in contrast to Blair, said in 2013 that it was 'unthinkable' that Assad would play any part in Syria's future.
In the same speech, Blair reiterated his calls for east and west to work together against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. "China and Russia have exactly the same desire to defeat this ideology as do the USA and Europe. Here is a subject all the principal nations of the G20 could come together, could agree to act, and could find common ground to the common threat".
Since then we've had terror attacks on tourists on a beach in Tunisia, attacks in Manchester, London, St Petersburg, Nice, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, and in cities across the world.
You could say it's a pretty depressing state of affairs when Tony Blair is the moderate and sensible voice on co-operation with Russia against a common enemy. But that's where we've got to.
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The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.