Monday, August 22, 2016

NATO Nostalgia Is No Strategy
Saturday 20TH posted by Morning Star in Editorial

BLAIRITE backbencher Wes Streeting tells us that Jeremy Corbyn’s reluctance to pledge that he would declare war on Russia if it invaded a Nato country amounts to a “gross betrayal of Labour’s internationalist values.”

It might seem that way to the humanitarian bomber wing of the Labour Party whose concept of internationalism stretches little further than ordering air strikes.

But it must surely seem a little foolhardy, even in the midst of an election contest during which many anti-Corbyn MPs have lost their grip on what is acceptable comment, to suggest that conflict with Russia is advisable.

But, of course, they will say, that’s not what we mean. We just want to see a united front of Nato members telling Russia to withdraw its forces.

How, in that case, does this stance differ from Corbyn’s response that he “would obviously try to avoid that happening in the first place, you would build up a good dialogue with Russia to ask them and support them in respecting borders?”

The Labour leader stressed the need for an inclusive approach involving the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which includes all European states.

He spoke out against a military build-up leading to a “calamitous, incredibly dangerous situation,” which will not endear himself to arms-traffickers, but it makes sense.

Even his challenger Owen Smith was forced, having postured over the need “to come to the aid of a fellow member of Nato,” to admit that this “would be calamitous and we must never see that happen.”

Smith stressed the importance of improving diplomatic links with Russia, which is the only sensible way forward for Europe.

Many British politicians remain beset by imperial nostalgia, believing that Westminster has a right and responsibility to read the Riot Act to the world — at least those bits outside Nato. This translates easily from “we must do something” hand-wringing to the least costly and least effective option of bombing, but this would not work with Moscow.

Russia’s reduction to the status of an international joke in the 1990s, when bumbling drunk Boris Yeltsin allowed transnational corporations and domestic oligarchs to loot the country, engendered a great deal of national resentment.

His successor Vladimir Putin presides over an authoritarian regime, with severe limitations in democracy and human rights.

But he has restored the strength of Russia’s armed forces and his national standing owes much to people’s memory of their country’s humiliation under Yeltsin and their reluctance to return to such a state.

Nato ought not to exist any more since the Warsaw Treaty dissolved itself in 1991.

Corbyn was right to say last year that this “cold war organisation” ought to have been wound up at the same time as its rival, while accepting that there is little appetite in Britain for that to happen.

Whether it continues to exist is possibly of less importance than what it does while it’s here.

None of the European members of Nato has the capacity to challenge Russia militarily, so all tough talking by Britain or relatively new Nato members in eastern Europe previously linked to the Soviet bloc has resonance only because of the US connection.

In contrast, Washington is currently examining an alternative scenario of working together with Russia to improve matters in hot spots such as Syria.

That’s the position favoured openly by Corbyn and, even, when you scratch the surface, by Smith, so who, apart from arms traffickers, has any interest in promoting tension on Russia’s borders in Europe?

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