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Though tensions may have eased recently, the Crimean Crisis – as it has been labelled by some – still exists as a fragile and contentious topic within the international community. Western rhetoric has been strong in the condemnation of possible insidious action from Russia but, as of yet, the discourse has been spelled out in terms of putative sanctions and stern reprobation.
In to this delicate situation blunders our own beloved Prince Charles, who recently compared the actions of Putin to those of Hitler prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The off-the-cuff remark was made to a Jewish museum volunteer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during Charles and Camilla’s tour of Canada, and can be included in a lengthy collection of royal gaffes – quips that Clarence House perennially refuse to comment on. Since then, just days after Charles’ comparison, Putin sent him a personal message saying: “This is not what monarchs do… but over the past few years we have seen so much, nothing surprises me any longer.”
Though Russia’s actions may be called inflammatory, a paralleling with those of Hitler’s Third Reich is a stretch too far. It would be perhaps more apposite to raise concern about the rusting curtain being jingled by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. I think, given a broad assessment of the situation, the spreading of anti-humanitarian sentiment (which one might equate with the recent rekindling of Russian nationalism) is a far more likely outcome than the prospect of Russian expansion into Europe.
There are some brittle similarities which might be drawn between Putin’s annexation and the Anschluss (unification) of Germany and Austria or Hitler’s occupation of the Sudetenland, but Charles’ comments appear to ignore the democratic basis for this current annexation. Whether or not the figure of 96% in support of being absorbed into a marginally extended Russia is accurate, it is entirely truthful to point out that there was and is widespread support for this action within the Crimean peninsula itself. The build-up and presence of Russian infantry on the Ukrainian border is worrying and, indeed, incredibly reproachable because of its catalytic relationship with the conflict within Ukraine. However, all this does not equate to Hitler’s colonial ambitions evinced by his actions in 1939.
All of us make regrettable statements now and again, and it is unfortunate that Britain has a representative who is so prone to slips of the tongue. Some might argue that Charles’ lack of accountability means he is wedded to a form of expression which is not restricted by political consideration. There could even be some in this country who see his comment as refreshing, given the tendency of the Westminsterites to couch messages in neutrality. I would agree that Charles is entitled to his opinion, however misguided it may be. The conditions on the continent have altered since 1939 (though the dangerous environment of financial instability and snail-like economic recovery has led to the resurgence of ethno-centric politics), and he clearly lacks the nous to recognise the unique social and cultural factors affecting the region in question.
What these comments bring to light, other than their inaccuracy (well-intentioned they may be, but accurate they are not), is the fact that the words of these unelected spongers still inexplicably have a great amount of influence. Charles, as a member of an archaic institution which observes wealth as a birthright, should not be viewed as a reputable exponent of British foreign policy. Of course, the royals should have as much right as any other ‘ordinary’ person to express their opinions. What should cease is the regarding of such opinions as especially significant. In a modernised world the monarchy is an oddity which continues to bemuse.