The British Museum is wrong to loan the Elgin marbles to Russia

Time passes and memories fade, but does anyone don’t forget Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the 1 shot down by Russian-backed separatists more than Ukraine in July? All 298 passengers were killed when a missile downed the airliner. I knew one of the victims a number of many years back: Glenn Thomas, a very affable British journalist who worked for the World Overall health Organisation and was on his way to a wellness conference in Australia.

We were fairly angry about that, and about what Vladimir Putin has been up to in Ukraine, and so for some time we have been attempting to impose some type of stress on the Russian president by applying sanctions to his regime. Today, in the midst of individuals efforts, we discover that the British Museum has made a decision to loan Russia portion of its hotly contested home, the Parthenon marbles, also recognized as the Elgin marbles.

The Greeks can not have them back – and we’re rather steadfast about that, even when substantial-profile attorney Amal Clooney is performing the asking. But Russia can borrow them for a whilst. The museum, weighing the priorities, has made a decision that the dominant 1 in this situation is “the Enlightenment ideal that the best things in the world should be seen and studied, shared and enjoyed by as numerous men and women in as a lot of countries as possible”. The trustees explained in a statement that they “have constantly believed that this kind of loans should continue between museums in spite of political disagreements between governments”.

But is that correct? Does artwork stand apart from the globally energy to deal with Putin? I really don’t want to buck the Enlightenment, but the arrangement helps make me uneasy.

Consider about the sanctions. What are they for? The notion is certainly to display Russia that it cannot behave as it has been doing and count on life to carry on as prior to. The logic is that bad behaviour need to impair the country’s romantic relationship with other critical nations close to the planet, and that when the repercussions of that begin to bite at house, the social and financial backlash may possibly force a leader such as Putin to modify his behaviour.

Russian president Vladimir Putin delivers his state of the nation speech
Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Metzel Mikhail/Itar-Tass Photograph/Corbis

This is what aggrieved nations have decided to do in lieu of any other show of force. One may argue that the sanctions have not been terribly successful: a handful of of the regime’s cronies are finding it a bit much more tough to entry money about the world, but the greater issue for Putin is the 40% drop in international oil costs that has meant a steep fall in the value of the Russian rouble. But sanctions are the weapon we have chosen. It signifies a degree of pressure on the Russian people. While the standing quo exists, factors cannot be typical – and that might mean that there are not so a lot of fascinating borrowed things to see in the nationwide galleries. We would have been far better off leaving the marbles exactly where they are and undertaking one thing about the by no means-ending standoff with Greece.

We have been right here before, of course. The debate about no matter whether sport stands apart from the ugliness and complexity of real life crops up each now and then. Was it right that the renegade band of cricketers took blood-soaked shillings from the apartheid regime during the time period of sanctions against white supremacist South Africa? No, it wasn’t. Sport does not stand apart from life’s joy, soreness and complexity. Sport is a single of the techniques people things manifest themselves. That’s why it touches us so deeply. It has a wider obligation. So does art.

There are limits. No a single would argue that if David Cameron falls out with Angela Merkel at a G8 dinner all standard speak to with Germany must cease, but this is various. We have a definite position on dealing with Putin, whose ambitions are more and more unnerving.

However flawed it may be, much of the planet has a strategy. I am sure the choice to loan the marbles to St Petersburg was taken in good faith, but I consider it was wrong and that the museum may possibly regret it.

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