Dear Mr. Hammond,
I hope you will agree that those who make foreign policy or defence policy are in the business of strategy. I hope you will also agree that the very essence of strategy is to be able to ‘put yourself in the shoes’ of an opponent to consider how they see things and how they might react to your own actions.
What worries me today is that our leaders, absorbing the current cultural fashion which rejects all attempts at objective or systemic thinking, no longer analyse situations in this strategic way, preferring the lazy option of viewing everything from a totally subjective, self-centred and self-serving perspective. The consequences of this are potentially disastrous.
Please consider for just one moment the possibility that the actions of Russia in Ukraine are defensive, and not as the media would universally have it, part of a grand plan to expand aggressively. Whether you favour this view or not you must consider it. If Russia is acting in this way because it feels threatened by Nato, then the unthinking, stereotyped response of ‘deterring further expansion’ by ‘standing up to an aggressive expansionist Russia’ will actually backfire, escalate the conflict and eventually pave the road to full scale war. The dangerously unfortunate ‘coincidence’ of collapsing oil prices also increases Russia’s sense of threat and risks accelerating the process of military escalation.
What Russia wants in Ukraine becomes transparent if we consider this view. Russia wants the ‘neutralisation’ of Ukraine, meaning an undertaking from the Nato powers that Ukraine will not become a base for Western military operations. You will ask why should the West want the neutralisation of Ukraine? I will answer to prevent a full scale war with Russia, the costs of which are unconscionable. You need to consider realistically that the Russians may now view Nato as a threat to their existence.
The practical details of neutralising Ukraine may be difficult and subject to complex negotiations, the aim must be for Ukraine to have as much freedom from internal interference by Russia in return for security guarantees to Russia. The principle however, is not problematic as membership of any alliance or union requires the agreement of those admitting the new member, not just the wishes of that ‘would be’ member. Part of this problem is membership of the EU which becomes problematic because of the ‘common defence and security policy’, for example Article V of the Lisbon treaty which is modelled on Article V of the Nato treaty. (For those who don’t know, it commits all members of the EU to come to the military defence of an EU member attacked by an outside state. Most EU members are also Nato members, so it is effectively an extension of Nato.) Future EU membership of a neutral Ukraine could be achieved by selective signing of treaties so as not to compromise the country’s neutrality.
Today our leaders seek to posture that our policy in Ukraine must be based solely on Ukraine’s sovereign rights and that issues such as Russia’s national security interests are not even admissible for consideration. Apart from the fact that this is disingenuous, because it is applied selectively in a politically motivated way, this is not the way things have been done for centuries. Realpolitik has generally been a feature of international relations. There has been a good reason for this, because in the past people thought peace was important. You can adopt this ‘holier than thou’ posture but the outcome is a major European war. The ugly truth is that in the post Cold War world there are those in high places for who peace is not important, only winning.
For twenty years now I have been trying to warn anyone who would listen that the US and Nato policies followed since the end of the Cold War are leading inevitably to war in Europe. Needless to say no one was interested and nobody cared. It started for me with watching film of military exercises between Nato and Poland in the early nineteen nineties under the Orwellian title ‘Partnership for Peace’. I immediately dubbed it ‘Partnership for War’. There was clearly only one country such exercises could be aimed at. It was clear we were putting in place piece by piece everything needed to go to war with Russia. The US National Security Revitalisation Act of 1995 was nothing less than a transparent declaration of intent to go to war with Russia should it ever recover from its desperate state of collapse at that time.
The massive eastward expansion of Nato finally reaching Russia’s borders could only have one realistic interpretation. It was the determination of Nato to improve its ability to exert military threats against Russia, or even to effect regime change. Simultaneously the US was trying its best to develop new technologies which would deprive Russia of its nuclear deterrent and give the USA a nuclear monopoly. “Prompt Global Strike” might one day enable Nato to destroy most of Russia’s nuclear weapons on the ground in a surprise first strike within one hour. Meanwhile a missile defence shield would pick off those remaining weapons missed by PGS. Denuded of a nuclear deterrent Russia becomes a target for conventional warfare.
Far and away the issue which has made the world infinitely more dangerous since the end of the Cold War, and which is contributing most to tension with Russia and China, has been the West’s enthusiasm for using war as a tool of foreign policy. War making has been rehabilitated from the status of ‘ghastly last resort’ to a routine tool, just another little tool in the tool box. We get to destroy your country because we’re the ‘goodies’. Whether the West likes it or not Russia and China just see themselves as another future victim on the list and that an attack on their national security is just a matter of time. This is the extremely dangerous world your aggressive war addicted foreign policy has made, a self-fulfilling prophecy of ever more war.
At the same time while Russia has been recovering internally, the West has deliberately sought to drive a wedge between Russia and its neighbours by supporting any political elements, it doesn’t matter who, hostile to Russians. In some states ‘Colour Revolutions’ have removed those who are happy to coexist peacefully with Russia and replaced them with those who wish to start conflict and hostility with Russia. I first became aware of this when listening to BBC coverage of elections in Georgia. Eduard Shevednadze being attacked because he won an internationally monitored election which was criticised as flawed, was then over thrown by a clearly Western backed Shakashvilli who seized power in a mob coup, no democratic process. The real eye opener was when the BBC journalist commented on his winning 98 percent in a subsequent unmonitored election, gushing with enthusiasm saying “This shows how much the Georgian people love him!”. The next day he was warmly congratulated on the phone by President George W. Bush. Objective reporting? I’ve never seen it in this country.