I saw a tweet last night from journalist and broadcaster Mike Yardley:
Just heard a BBC presenter slapping down the ex head of Estonian's army for noting that Putin's threats to the Ukraine had parallels to the Hitler pre WW2. Why? This situation could quite easily escalate. It's brinkmanship at the moment, but that's still a very dangerous game.
That intrigued me so I hunted for the interview he was talking about and found it on Radio 4's The World Tonight.
It was an extraordinary interview by the BBC's Razia Iqbal.
It's a long time since I've heard her [because I no longer listen to The World Tonight] and she interrupted so loudly I feared I might not be hearing anyone of anything ever again as she almost burst my ear drums.
Plus, she was remarkably rude to a man whose grasp of English was magnificent but not perfect.
And as most of her interruptions were to stick up for Joe Biden it's as if she was channelling Jen Psaki and acting as Joe's spokeswoman, protecting 'her man'.
A transcript can't quite do justice to the impact of her hectoring here, but it's worth a try anyhow:
Razia Iqbal: Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked the US president Joe Biden for his strong support in the face of Russian threats as the West accuses Moscow of preparing to invade, based on the serious military build-up on the border. While for Moscow any prospect of Ukraine joining NATO is a red line, Washington refuses to countenance any red lines being drawn by President Putin. And now Mr. Biden's announcement that a small group of larger NATO countries will hold talks with Moscow is causing concern on the alliance's eastern flank where members close to Russia are particularly worried that issues of security must not be negotiated over their heads. Let's speak to Riho Terras who is a member of the European Parliament and the former commander of the Estonian defence forces. Good evening.
Riho Terras: Good evening.
Razia Iqbal: What's your main concern about this planned meeting between President Biden, some of the big NATO members and Moscow?
Riho Terras: Well, I think that President Biden has given in to the blackmail of Russian president Putin who increased the pressure, military pressure, on the border with Ukraine. He was on the warpath, and now he's invited to talk to the important people, other heads of state of the big countries in Europe and the American president and...
Razia Iqbal: [interrupting] That's a pretty serious word. It's a pretty serious word 'blackmail'.
Riho Terras: Yeah, Well, how can we label it differently if President Putin is gathering his troops along the Ukrainian border and is on the warpath, and once you draw a new line in Europe, once you create a new security architecture which fits to his taste and doesn't care about NATO or an independent country, like Ukraine is?
Razia Iqbal: Are you concerned and that the smaller countries such as Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania have not been invited? Is that the issue, that you feel you should be at the centre of these discussions?
Riho Terras: No, I think the problem here, definitely the problem is, that the aim of Putin is to break the unity of our two alliances, the European Union and NATO, and if President Biden tries to invite only certain countries to the discussion and not the alliances as a whole and is not discussing the topic with his allies, that is exactly what Putin wants - to break the unity of NATO, which is our strength, which is our centre of gravity.
Razia Iqbal: [in a tone of increasing incredulity] Well, I mean, what evidence do you have that President Biden is doing any such thing? Even if he has this meeting, he has also been taking part in the meeting at in Riga recently, which, of course, suggested that he was deeply concerned and for him the red line over Ukraine, as it's being drawn by Moscow, is unacceptable.
Riho Terras: Why are all the other countries then excluded from the meeting? Why does he want to meet only with the big boys? If he...
Razia Iqbal: [interrupting, incredulously] What do you think is going to happen?
Riho Terras: It smells very much like Munich 1938, and the Munich agreement when Chamberlain came out to say...
Razia Iqbal: [interrupting, even more incredulously] Surely, surely you're not comparing this to the Second World War? That's, that's, that's...just absurd!
Riho Terras: To what extent is it absurd? This is exactly a country who is threatening another sovereign country with a military invasion and Ukraine is not at all on the discussion right now. [Mr Terras clearly meant 'in on the discussion' but Razia failed to pick up on that.]
Razia Iqbal: [incredulously] Well, but that's, that's clearly not true. Ukraine was obviously the top of the list in the summit, the video call summit between the two presidents. What is it that you think...
Riho Terras: [interrupting] Well the discussion was about Ukraine but the Ukrainian president was not involved in the discussion. That is exactly what is not acceptable...
Razia Iqbal: [interrupting] What, what...
Riho Terras: ...that the heads of state of the big countries are trying to divide the world.
Razia Iqbal: But, but... [incredulously] Do you not think that President Biden is going to do everything he can to make sure that the NATO alliance is one that is held together?
Riho Terras: Yeah, that means that the first thing is to discuss with the allies how to solve the problem...
Razia Iqbal: OK.
Riho Terras: ...and then, then NATO should be at the table of this discussion.
Razia Iqbal: Riho Terras, member of the European Parliament and a former commander of the Estonian defence forces, thanks for being with us.
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