How much of the UK are we willing to sell to the ‘dear friends’ of Putin?

There aren’t many countries in the world willing to roll out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin, but the Emiratis did so with gusto when he visited Abu Dhabi last month. They laid on a 21-gun salute as jets painted the colours of the Russian flag on the sky. The previous evening, 48 Iranian-made drones had been sent by Russia to bomb targets in five Ukrainian cities: a typical day in his war. But Putin was treated as a conquering hero by the Emirati royal family, who greeted him as their “dear friend” when he arrived in their palace. It was televised, but hard to watch. All the harder for me because, soon, I could be working for this family. They have agreed to buy The Spectator and The Telegraph through a US-based vehicle, RedBird IMI. There may be more layers, but if you follow the money the trail leads to Abu Dhabi. The White House suspects they’re also developing military links with China and that this tiny dictatorship is not neutral but playing all sides. Buying Putin’s oil and berthing Xi’s ships. Now they want to be British media proprietors as well. Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, has put the Emirati bid on hold as she considers whether to let it go ahead. She has spoken about referring it to the competition regulator, but the issue here isn’t about competition. It’s a more important question: how close should we get to the Emiratis? They’re our longstanding allies, friends of Israel (still) and have been robust against the Houthis in Yemen. But they are also the proud, flag-waving “dear friends” of Putin. Should this give us pause? Diplomacy means accepting countries as they are, not as you’d like them to be. Saudi Arabia remains one of the most repressive […]

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By Donato