Reds in the bed

It is a week old now, but The Guardian has an interesting article about New Zealand’s attitude towards Russia. Remember, The Guardian is an unapologetic leftist rag in Britain, and if it is writing articles critical of the New Zealand government, we really are in trouble.

The Guardian writes:

New Zealand is an extra-regional Nato and EU associate, and like the majority of the members of the coalition it is a democracy. New Zealand fashions itself as a good international citizen and honest broker in international affairs, so it seems odd that it would not join its closest diplomatic interlocutors in what is largely a symbolic gesture of repudiation of Russian misbehaviour abroad. End of quote.

Yes, it does. We all thought that. We have never been Russian sympathisers, and have always acted together with our closest allies: Britain, Australia and the US. Quote: 

The decision was made all the more quixotic by prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s claim that there are “no undeclared Russian intelligence operatives” in New Zealand and hence there was no need to expel anyone. End of quote.

And made us an international laughing stock in the process. Quote: 

So why has New Zealand chosen to isolate itself? Pragmatic assessments usually inform foreign policy decisions, particularly those involving choosing sides in international disputes. That is particularly true for small states when confronted with the demands of quarreling powers to take a position in favour of one side or the other. Lilliputians such as New Zealand usually think long and hard before taking an unpopular stand – particularly amongst friends. End of quote.

Ouch. That hurt. Quote: 

New Zealand’s decision not to participate in the solidarity coalition was made in the face of a direct request from the May government and in spite of the fact that the collective action is largely symbolic. End of quote.

Perhaps, there lies the explanation. New Zealand’s foreign policy in recent years has been trade obsessed and speculation has it that members of the foreign policy establishment see the possibility of advancing a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) with Russia in the vacuum left by the trade sanctions levied on it in the wake of the Ukrainian invasion and annexation of Crimea.

It is also possible that Labour are attempting to stake out their “independent and autonomous” foreign policy credentials after nine years of the previous government’s rapprochement with the US and the other Five Eyes partners. Given the animosity felt towards Donald Trump (and to a lesser extent Theresa May) amongst Labour supporters, as well as those of its coalition partners (New Zealand First and the Green party), this could be a way of playing David versus Goliath(s) for domestic audiences.

I think this is the most likely reason. And, we all know what it was like playing David and Goliath with the US in the 1980s. Our very own David had us carrying the cold shoulder from the US for years. It was John Key’s relationship with Obama that finally thawed relations with the US, but now we are heading down the same path again. Quote: 

And yet, pragmatic assessment of the situation would advise the Labour-led government to address the short and long term costs and benefits of alienating its most important foreign partners by refusing to join in the symbolic repudiation of Russia. By any objective measure, to include the possibility of securing bilateral trade with Putin’s regime, the costs of doing so will clearly outweigh the benefits even if it does not interfere with the daily business of intelligence sharing and military cooperation with the Five Eyes and other security partners. End of quote.

That is because in the diplomatic world the shadow of the future hangs heavily over present decision-making. The consequences of being shortsightedly contrarian are determined not by the contrarian but by those refused support on a matter of international consequence and foreign policy alignment. Quote: 

With that in mind the question remains: what does the New Zealand Labour government expect to gain from its contrarian stance? End of quote.

I am no fan of The Guardian, but I think they have got this dead right. Trying to do a trade deal with Russia will be like trying to pin jelly to a wall. It will never work in our favour, and we may lose our good relations with our overseas allies. And all for what?

So that Jacinda can show the world what a comrade she is?


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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