Earlier today the Russian service of RT published an article on the latest developments in restoring Russia’s air links with the world.
The headline sounds exuberant. “One flight a week: Russia renews air communications with four more countries.” As you scroll down, the news looks somewhat peculiar. The new cities served as from 21 September will be Nur Sultan (Kazakhstan), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Minsk (Belarus); and as from 27 September, Seoul (South Korea). The last named is of world importance; the first three will only elicit bemusement from Western readers.
This comes on top of previous reopening of service on 24 July to the U.K. (London) and on 1 August to Turkey (Ankara and Istanbul). As from 10 August the Turkish resorts of Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman were added, as well as Zanzibar.
The Prime Minister’s office has announced that from 3 September flights will be resumed to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and to the Maldives.
The article further informs us that flights to Switzerland will be increased to four a week: two flights by Aeroflot, Moscow-Geneva, and two flights by Swissair, Moscow-Zurich.
Taking all of this news together gives us a comprehensive overview of the peculiar new global reach of Aeroflot and its partner airlines.
The fact that Switzerland is the only destination on the Continent being served is not cause for surprise given the residual “neutral” status of Switzerland in our bitterly partisan world. Note that not a single EU Member State has air links today with Russia.
Restoration of air links with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Minsk is really an internal matter of the former Soviet Empire, having little relevance to the rest of the world.
That leaves us with all the other announced destinations which are, with one notable exception, London, playground destinations for Russia’s middle and upper classes who, after lockdown, really want to go out and party. From a purely sanitary standpoint, reopening these air links is madness. From a political standpoint, it is regrettably understandable as a way to allow folks who may not be terribly loyal to the Kremlin to let off steam. I would call this pattern of growing the air network to be “Money Talks.”
Curiously, and against all outward expectations given the degraded state of relations between Boris Johnson’s government and Russia, the Money Talks explanation surely accounts for the fact that the most extensive restoration of air links is precisely with London. This is what I discovered when I was looking for a way to travel to Russia a week ago. Aeroflot has two flights a day between Moscow and London.
Shouldn’t be! Just think how much Novichok must be headed to Britain in the hands of still undiscovered agents of the Kremlin! But the fact remains that Britain is today Russia’s biggest friend in logistics, and the Oligarchs who are constantly decried in Parliament for subverting democracy can go and come between their principal residences here and there without impediment. Has anyone noticed?
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020 [If you found value in this article, you should be interested to read my latest collection of essays entitled A Belgian Perspective on International Affairs, published in November 2019 and available in e-book, paperback and hardbound formats from amazon, barnes & noble, bol.com, fnac,