Former PM accused of 'simple-minded analysis' over comments that annexation of Crimea should not prevent cooperation on issue
By James Chapman
Mail Online – 24 April 2014
Tony Blair was accused of an ‘embarrassingly simple-minded analysis’ yesterday after urging Britain to set aside its differences with Russia to fight radical Islam. The former Prime Minister insisted tensions with President Vladimir Putin over his annexation of Crimea should not prevent cooperation to address religious extremism in the Middle East. Mr Blair said the West’s failure to send troops to Syria – a move violently opposed by his successor Ed Miliband – was a historic mistake for which Britain and its allies would pay a ‘heavy price’
... Mr Blair, now the West’s ‘envoy’ to the Middle East, used a speech in London to argue that the rise of political Islam is a common thread running throughout the region, from Libya to Iran ... Mr Blair described a global crisis with its roots in ‘a radicalised and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message’. He conceded that partly as a result of controversy over his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, governments in Europe and America had become ‘curiously reluctant to acknowledge’ the threat from Islamic extremism.
'On this issue, whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and cooperate with the East, and in particular, Russia and China,'
'On this issue also, there is a complete identity of interest between East and West. China and Russia have exactly the same desire to defeat this ideology as do the USA and Europe.'
Mr Blair said the UK should take a 'very strong position' over Russia’s annexation of part of Ukraine but insisted it was a 'separate issue'.
Conservative MP Julian Lewis, a former Shadow Defence Minister, said Mr Blair’s analysis was 'two-dimensional' and ignored the potential threats from Russia.
'One can agree greatly with his analysis of the threat of totalitarian Islamism, but he is very light touch indeed, in fact there’s hardly a mention of the more conventional threat from Russian ambitions to try and reconstitute at least part of the former Soviet empire.
'I agree that it’s a generational struggle, but in dealing with generational struggles, you’ve got to decide which is better: interventionism or containment. Containment proved itself in a 50-year confrontation with communism, and containment is the best way to deal with a generational struggle against Islamism too.
'It does take more than us to decide to avoid east-west confrontation with Russia, it takes the Russians to do it as well. And if they’re going to try and take over countries by force and subversion - which is what they’re trying to do, and if God forbid they then have their eyes on the Baltic states or Poland that are member states of NATO – then frankly, important as this topic is about Islamism, that will become even more important.' ...