** FILE ** Russian President Vladimir Putin walks holding a rifle in the Tuva region of Siberia in this Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007, file photo. He rides horses. He fishes half-naked in icy rivers. He's a 54-year-old, with abs. Who is this Siberian Schwarzenegger? The president of Russia. (AP Photo/ RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service, File)
Updated: October 8, 2013 6:09AM
Britain is “just a small island no one pays any attention to.”
So said an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg on Thursday, according to a BBC reporter, though the Russians deny the comment on Friday.
And what did the Brits have to say about that?
A great deal, much of it with British cool.
British Prime Minister David Cameron:
Britain may be a small island, but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience.
Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism — and was resolute in doing that throughout World War II.
Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.
We are very proud of everything we do as a small island — a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilization.
For the people who live in Northern Ireland, I should say we are not just an island, we are a collection of islands. I don’t want anyone in Shetland or Orkney to feel left out by this.
I’m thinking of setting this to music.
Small island status gave Britain the benefits of a climate moderated by the ocean and drove it to be outward-looking, open and inventive. As an idea, it’s underwritten a political story of disproportionate influence. As an economic reality, it facilitated the trade that paid for poets and playwrights and spread the English language in its wake.
Britain will always carry weight and influence in much more constructive ways. The country’s enduring strength lies in its place as the home of one of the major world languages and the cultural affinities that it brings. It lies in the communities created by novels and poems and ideas, as well as history. They thread through Asia and Africa, through shared education and knowledge, through diplomacy and trade. Technological advance can rip up history for good as well as evil.
Conservative Member of Parliament Henry Smith:
On Twitter, in a slight fit of pique, I might refer to Putin as a tosser. But in other forums, such as the House of Commons, I would accuse him of being an absurd character.
There is his abuse of human rights against the gay community in his own country, there is the abuse of human rights in Syria where the way he is helping and prolonging that civil war there is appalling.
I may not use that colloquial language in other forums, but frankly it is still how I feel.
Tim Stanley, a British historian who penned a top ten list of ways “little Britain is vastly superior to big fat Russia”:
† The British haven’t felt the need to kill their royal family for a good 500 years.
† When a British prime minister takes his top off in public, no one pretends it’s sexy. In fact, we all try to pretend that we haven’t seen it at all.
† The British would never put a dog in space. When the Russians sent little Laika up into space in 1957, where she eventually died for lack of oxygen, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should’ve considered dropping the big one on Moscow. Very poor behavior.”
The Telegraph, taking the insult in stride by offering other classics:
“England has 42 religions and only two sauces.” — Voltaire
“Continental people have a sex life; the English have hot-water bottles.” — George Mikes, Hungarian writer
“A very cold, uninhabitable country with small houses.” — Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe
“A demon took a monkey to wife — the result by the Grace of God was the English.” — Indian saying
“If one could only teach the English how to talk and the Irish how to listen, society would be quite civilized.” — Oscar Wilde, Irish author
Baxter38, a reader of the Daily Express:
This is quite funny coming from Russia. Which “little island” helped them in World War II before the United States came in? How many British merchant navy men died shipping supplies to them? Russia is the country that held the world ransom from 1949 to 1989 during the Cold War. This is the country that nearly caused a war in 1962 in Cuba. This is the country that subjected Eastern Europe to a horrible period of hunger and dictatorship. No wonder David Cameron replied the way he did — good for him.