[FOUNTAIN]Oil in their veinsRussian President Vladimir Putin visited the United Kingdom as a guest of the state last Wednesday; he was making a four-day trip to the country. The Russian leader’s visit to England means much to the history of diplomacy between the two countries.
This was the first visit of a Russian head of state to the United Kingdom since 1874, when Czar Alexander II made the first such state visit to London. The czar took along his daughter, who was married to Queen Victoria’s son in the United Kingdom. After the marriage between the two royal houses, an “English fad” swept Russia. Nobles and wealthy merchants sent their children to England to study. They bought manors in the outskirts of London or built new mansions. They deposited large sums of money in British banks.
When Czar Nicholas II and his family were murdered during the Bolshevik revolution, the House of Windsor reacted with horror, and England severed all diplomatic relations with Russia.
Though England was the first in Europe to restore diplomatic relations with Russia when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was established, the country had not allowed visits by Russian leaders, remembering the murdered relatives of its kings and queens.
But with the demise of the Soviet Union, a new atmosphere emerged. The descendants of the House of Romanov visited Russia, and the corpse of Czar Nicholas II was exhumed. In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II visited Russia.
After the queen’s visit, the two countries tried to plan the visit of the Russian leader to England as a final symbol of the friendship that had been completely restored. English oil magnates especially played active roles, seeing a new opportunity in Russia and its enormous energy resources.
The Putins’ visit to England last week suggests a fusion between energy resources in Russia and capital in the British energy industry. In fact, Mr. Putin and Prime Minister Tony Blair signed an agreement to cooperate in the energy industry. British Petroleum PLC of Great Britain and Tumen Oil Co. of Russia signed a $6 billion contract for supplying oil and gas. Another $6 billion contract was signed during Mr. Putin’s visit to build a pipeline for oil and gas. While we can call the Russian leader’s visit to Great Britain 129 years ago “the fusion of royal red blood,” this year we can name it “the fusion of black-gold blood.”
By Kim Seok-whan
The writer is an editorial writer for the Joongang Ilbo.