The Salon Talk – Alan Philps Shares His Insight on Russia

Renowned journalist and author Alan Philps was the recent The Salon breakfast speaker at The Relais Henley.

Alan has worked as a journalist in Russia at various times since he was posted there as a Reuters trainee in 1979. In those days the USSR was living on oil and gas exports, so life was a bit easier and oil was $101 dollars a barrel.  In 1985 at the start of the Gorbachev era, he was expelled in retaliation for Margaret Thatcher’s clear-out of Soviet spies from London.

He spoke about his experiences as a correspondent in 1979 at a time when key headlines were all about the Kremlin’s invasion of Afghanistan. Fast forwarding 44 years, Alan pointed out the similarities with what Putin is trying to do in Ukraine. Today Russia controls 11% of the earth’s surface compared to the USSR controlling 16% in the past and yet it has always had a fear of invasion, looking to continually build up a buffer zone push to resist such a possibility.

Addressing the future, Alan touched on the fact that any successor to Putin would be unlikely to do anything differently. Any ceasefire would result in a ‘frozen conflict’ would allow the Kremlin after few years to resume the war when the US and Europe’s commitment to Ukraine has weakened. The Russian economy is unsophisticated – it sells raw materials, therefore sanctions will not deliver a body blow to the economy.

Alan has written two books on Russian themes:  The Boy from Baby House 10, about abandoned children and international adoption, and The Red Hotel, published this year which tells the story of Stalin’s wartime campaign though the experience of foreign journalists and their Soviet translators who lived and worked in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.

The next Salon breakfast will be on Thursday 19 September when Louisa Livingston will be exploring the world of generative AI and ChatGpt and the impact this new technology is going to have on our lives – business and personal.  The breakfast will be 08.00 for 08.30 and costs £45 for guests and non-Salon members. To book please email


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