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Last laugh?

In July, just prior to the announcement of the Olympic Games venue for 2012, one of those occasional delightful, frothy stories broke. Three European leaders: Chirac of France, Putin of Russia and Schroeder of Germany were sitting outside, enjoying a drink at a small summit that Putin was hosting. Unbeknownst to M Chirac, his remarks were being recorded. Famously, he declared British cuisine to be so bad that no-one could trust them. Only Finnish cuisine, he said, was worse.

It was therefore with particular satisfaction that we saw, a few days after this story broke, the two Finnish votes making the crucial difference in a four vote victory of London over Paris for the 2012 Olympics. "Hubris", we smiled, "before Nemesis".

However, we can now see that the mini-summit was of greater and more sinister importance. As the scandal of Schroeder becoming chairman of the shareholder representatives of the controversial Baltic gas pipeline company unfolds, more and people are asking questions.

Just to make clear: Vladimir Putin and his wife are personally corrupt and are taking assets away from their legitimate owners on a scale never seen since the death of Nero. Jacques Chirac is only protected by the immunity of his office from being charged with serious allegations of theft, fraud and bribery. Chirac is alleged to have funneled corrupt payments to the previous German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Is it unthinkable that Schroeder too has been subborned to betray his country (and her NATO allies)?

Unfortunately not. The corrupt cabal, with the poisonous Putin at its heart, pose a direct threat to our democracy. Russia is a rogue state and should be treated as such. If we should "Judge a man by his friends" then anyone with Putin as a friend is now highly suspect.

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