Ukraine, war & Britain

Ukraine, war & Britain

I wrote a piece two days ago, focusing on what UK  citizens and residents of good will should do about the war in Ukraine but feel I need to clarify.

I congratulate the Ukrainian people and their armed forces for the defence they have put up. It proves to me that the UK, because that is what I know , was fooled by the hybrid war conducted by Russia who weakened the UK’s will to resist its imperial adventures and defend its own democracy. Russia funded the Brexit campaign and much of the Tory Party; Brexit is a massive weakening of the European self defence capability as we can see by the EU’s speed in responding to the Russian invasion compared with the UK’s pedestrian pace. Russia’s propaganda presented us with a view as to the invincibility and overwhelming numeric superiority of the Russian Army.  This imbued in some British people, including me, a moral cowardice. This cowardice, equivalent to appeasement in the 30’s will have been reinforced by the moral subversion of NATO due to its US led adventurism in the Middle East.

NATO is the only alliance that can act but to call it a great achievement is hubristic and sectarian overstatement. Today’s NATO is not the same organisation as it was thirty years ago. The need for NATO will be proven if Sweden and Finland seek to join but all its fans need to recognise that the US is not the reliable and generous ally it once was. Trump explicitly questioned the US commitment to Article 5 and Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was not agreed by NATO.

The Ukrainian state is not pretty, it has the 3rd worst record in front of the European Court of Human Rights, and is judged by the EIU democracy index as a Hybrid State. In terms of both metrics the Russian record is worse. NATO member Turkey is the second most frequent breacher of the ECHR. But the Russian invasion is a war crime which it seems will now be investigated by the ICC. Good!

Throughout this we must not forget the brave Russians who are expressing their opposition to the war.

At home, a government that speaks for me must

  • Implement effective sanctions
  • Set up effective and generous refugee acceptance programmes
  • Purge itself of Russian funded corruption
  • Develop a defence policy that defends us against real threats not fake ones.

I would add that we should rejoin the EU but that will not happen until it ceases to be a partisan issue, however this will take much less than 50 years. …

NATO & democracy

The Economist Intelligence Unit has produced its 2021 Democracy Index, which I have not yet read in detail as it would seem there are some interesting things to pick up and comment on, such as how the UK is not considered a ‘flawed democracy’ while Spain is? Is there a link between the Democracy score and GDP? But what this article looks at is the democratic credentials of NATO’s membership vs. those of the Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This is ordered west to east.

Nato members and democracy from the EIU 2021

In other work I am doing I note that over 50% of the European Court of Human Rights cases involves Russia, Turkey and the Ukraine, who are the top three defenders.

Flawed democracies are described as follows,

These countries also have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation

The EIU Democracy Index 2021

I last looked at the EIU index in my article, How democratic is the UK? …

Don’t start from here

Don’t start from here

Paul Mason comments on the crisis in the Ukraine and outlines Russia’s goals and some counter strategies. He argues that one of Putin’s Russia’s goals is to diminish the EU as a world class power. This will be why he is demanding that NATO withdraw troops from the ex-Warsaw pact countries and that the EU non-member states are prohibited from joining NATO. This would include Sweden , Finland together with the Baltic states and Romania & Bulgaria.

It’s a strange serendipity that the Queen Elizabeth has returned from the far east today as it symbolises everything wrong with the UK’s defence strategy (Medium | my blog) where we have an ill equipped and tiny Army. It’s unlikely that aircraft carrier could survive in the Baltic or Black Sea. It’s a weapon of prestige and can do little to help during an escalating crisis on the EU/Russian border. Our defence strategy is based on a flawed threat analysis. A post Brexit global Britain is weak and has little influence; before Brexit the UK military could only operate in alliance and now it’s just turned away from the EU and  both Trump and even Biden are undermining NATO as an effective defensive alliance for Europe.

Furthermore, the UK is a victim of Russia’s “Hybrid Warfare”. Its funding and cyber support of the Brexit Campaign and latterly the Tories not to mention Boris Johnson’s receipt of oligarch’s bunga bunga hospitality.  The closest the Govt has come to considering this threat is the delayed and unfinished Russia report from Parliament’s Intelligence Services Committee. The Tory Govt has refused to follow up.

We shouldn’t have stepped away from Europe because NATO maybe past its sell-by date; the obvious desire to avoid sanctions against Russian UK based assets leads the Govt. to unbelievable sabre rattling. It will make us look very stupid.


The featured images is, Nekhoteevka customs on Russia-Ukraine border. by Дар Ветер from wikimedia, CC 2020 BY-SA v3. …

Tanks

I went to the Tank Museum yesterday and took some pictures.

Challanger

It was interesting to visit the the week following the fall of Kabul; it makes at least one of the exhibits look a bit vainglorious. It also reminds me that I didn’t finish my story of the future of the Royal Armoured Corps from Boris’ defence review. It all makes me wonder about whether NATO can survive, and yet again, whether in areas of defence policy we see another dimension of the stupidity of Brexit.

There’s more to learn; on one slide they observe how the Army is always preparing for the last war. Reinforcing that I note that Tanks were invented during WWI in a Navy project, that like so many stories, the adoption in this case of the Tank was adopted by odd balls and that their was significant opposition bypowerul conservative (not Tory) factions in the Army, to the extent that during WW2 the Army fired Major General Hobart, and had to bring him back. Hobart, was not born into a military family and was assigned to the Royal Engineers; he became the Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Armoured Fighting Vehicles), he later became Director of Military Training and was the founder of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats. There are many more examples of the slow adoption by the Army of the necessary tactics and technology, perhaps I’ll look them up and write something, if its not been done (I am sure it has).

As one walks in, the first exhibit talks about the design trilemma, of armour, firepower and mobility, a theme they revisit in commenting on a number of exhibits but if one recognises that the best tanks of the WWII were the US designed Sherman and Soviet T34, it becomes clear that cost, and manufacturing simplicity were also key. While tank on tank the allied tanks were inferior to their opponents, the allied forces had more than enough because they were simpler to make by design and the allied manufacturing capability was so much greater.  …

Johnson’s defence splurge

Johnson’s defence splurge

Boris Johnson as accelerated the financial conclusions of his government’s defence review, which may have been originally over influenced by Dominic Cumming’s cyberpunk fantasies about the future of war. Everything Johnson says in this announcement is of little value, what Starmer says is important and his questions need to be answered, particularly “Where’s the strategy?” It’s a shame he makes it sound like a failure in management theory. Without answering that question, we are in danger of creeping back east of Suez, or am I already too late to worry about this, and being dragged into wars against Iran or China. Interestingly, Johnson by alleging that the decline in expense and capability has been going on for decades unskilfully avoids the immense damage that Cameron/Osborne’s 2010 review did to the capability of the armed forces. The rest of this article looks at the need for a threat analysis, the wisdom of strategic alliances, defence spending as an incubator, the military's fixations on shiny things, and concludes with an appeal to oppose new war's East of Suez.

Not enough to go round

Not enough to go round

What’s happening in the Gulf is both exceeding dangerous, and in terms of a Brexit government’s request for European Union’s military help quite amusing. Britain was set up by Trump’s Govt and then let down when asked for military help, but the military reason we need to ask for help is that the UK only has 19 surface ships and one of the reasons for this dramatic reduction is the decision to build the two aircraft carriers and four ICBM carrying submarines. I have written about the Aircraft Carriers and the Missile subs before. The former are the results of New Labour’s pork barrel politics and the subs are also useless and will be more so in the future. … …

War & Schools

In this article in the Guardian, Richard Norton Taylor looks at the UK defence budget, quotes its critical parliamentary scrutiny, the NAO and defence select committee through the prism of an examination of value for money; It costs too much, the nuclear subs and aircraft carriers are of questionable value and as suggested by Conan’s “Riddle of Steel”, weapons need to be wielded by people, we don’t have enough and they are not well enough educated.

It’s almost as if the ruling class and their educational policy makers have forgotten that the greatest educational reform acts were passed in response to the challenge to the nation of then recent wars. …

Vulnerable

This popped up in one of my news feeds, it’s at the Daily Mail online site, but interesting and informed. Hastings argues that the two new ‘Fleet’ carriers planned for the Royal Navy, although unfinished are already obsolete.

He argues that they are very expensive and their strike power could be replaced with cruise missiles and drones which require considerably cheaper launch platforms. It is proposed that we buy US F35 warplanes to fly off them which are so expensive, that the numbers to be purchased have been reduced twice. The F35 is multi-role which means that it has an air defence capability but missiles (if you have enough) are good for fleet defence. Hastings also states, that the Navy now only has 17 surface warships all of which would all be needed to defend the carriers at sea which would be very vulnerable to the modern surface to surface anti-ship missiles.

He argues for their cancellation or mothballing, but while the decisions were taken under a Labour Government, the Tories have had seven years to do something about it and inherited responsibility with the publication of the 2010 Strategic Defence Review. …

On Trident Renewal

On Trident Renewal

I have today, submitted this article, on reasons not to renew Trident to Labour’s “Your Britain” site, I am now looking to see how to submit it to the Labour Party’s trident review. My submission focuses on the defence arguments, its ineffectiveness as a defence weapon, its questionable independence, its cost and its opportunity cost. If you agree, please visit the Your Britain site and vote for it. …

Labour’s next leader, economics, defence and the mandate

Labour’s next leader, economics, defence and the mandate

In the dying days of Labour’s Leadership selection, the key issues remain those of economics & strategy, but also unfortunately now one of mandate.

The debate on economics has come to be between Cooper and Corbyn. Demanding credibility is not an economic policy and so we can ignore Kendall & Burnham. I summarise the other’s two positions below and conclude that Corbyn’s economic manifesto is not just a shopping list of desirable reforms, they are a single set of reinforcing measures to fix and rebuild the economy so it works in the interests of the majority of people.

This was meant to be a short blog, emphasising the economy and virtuously circular, self reinforcing nature of Corbyn’s programme, but I also take the opportunity to look at the defence and foreign policy debate and conclude with some comments on the election process itself and Labour’s future.

I am glad I voted for Jeremy Corbyn, but I am not a Corbynista, I am Real Labour. …