Politics

Kevin McKenna: Thatcher saw this coming years ago – NATO should have paid attention

FOLLOWING Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine it took less than a week for the burning crosses to appear in the civilised, peace-loving West. As is commonplace in periods of geo-political distress they were being brandished by assorted siren voices of the UK right. Or, as in the case of President Joe Biden, the Walt Disney left.

The concept of ‘no-fly-zones’ over Ukraine was the first incontinent strategy to be mooted, as though this was simply a polite request for Russia to please keep their aircraft out of our territory lest we become very cross. That it might lead to British forces engaging with the Russian military and putting us officially at war with Europe’s largest and most powerful nation seemed not to have figured in this plan.

Then came the depressingly predictable calls for the “strongest possible” sanctions against Russia and its people who had to be “punished” for their president’s war-mongering. This travelled on the naïve belief that ordinary Russians, driven to the edge of economic despair, would rise up against the dictator. It ignored the other distinct possibility: that it might increase support for President Putin.

Amidst all this performative, boy-scout belligerence have been the first seeds of outright anti-Russian prejudice accelerated in the hot-house of social media. Let’s change the Russian spelling on Chicken Kiev and (I kid you not) ban Russian pussies from international cat contests. There have been calls to bring down a statue of the socialist philosopher, Friederich Engels in Eastern Ukraine. The Scottish trade union activist Jonathon Shafi pointed out: “That’s right, removing a statue from Ukraine of a German who would have despised the war. A historical, anti-intellectual, ineffective virtue-signalling.”

READ MORE: NATO and the SNP

Mr Shafi is one of many on the Scottish left who have been accused of the new crime of pacifism now operational on social media. It’s not acceptable to advise nuance and caution in the current global climate: doing so must mean that you are a Putin apologist. If you point out the West’s ruinous and bloodthirsty campaigns in the Middle East and Africa and make even a passing reference to three centuries of British savagery in Ireland then you are giving succour to the enemy.

There’s a reason why the political aristocracy and the private school trumpets who support them are all much more bellicose at these times than the rest of us: they can afford to be. It’s overwhelmingly working-class and poor people who die in wars. Thus, it’s no great mischief when they fall. It’s easy for President Biden to yell “go get him” at the end of his congressional speech. Neither he nor his Washington lickspittles will ever be going to get anyone.

It’s also the political elites who are first in line to appease the world’s despots. British royals and several of their aristocratic retainers were cosying up to Hitler throughout the 1930s as they sought to create safe spaces for themselves. It was from among this class that the traitors emerged to sell Britain’s security to the Soviets during the Cold War; not the socialists or the trade unionists.

In the 1960s and 1970s they indulged the corrupt Shah of Iran as he looted his country and repressed his people and then wondered why the Ayatollahs were able to expedite their revolution so quickly. In America the mafia, backed by the political classes used Cuba as a 24/7 casino and then brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon because they didn’t like the look of the people who put an end to the corruption

How did the West’s power-brokers and diplomats think 33 years of NATO expansion in Europe was going to end? Perhaps the present-day Tory militarists ought to have paid heed to the instincts of their spiritual leader, Margaret Thatcher when the break-up of the old Soviet Union was being greeted gleefully in the West.

Read more: Hypocrisy of the West

According to official British and US accounts, Mrs Thatcher expressed grave misgivings about the speed with which the old Soviet Union was being dismantled. She told President George Bush that she wanted to keep the Warsaw Pact, which she saw as an essential “fig leaf” for the Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, then trying to convince a suspicious nation that warmer relations with the West was a good thing.

During this time it’s also emerged that Mrs Thatcher had a meeting with the Irish President Charles Haughey at which she expressed her intense opposition to the re-unification of Germany in 1989. For Mrs Thatcher, it was about maintaining a delicate balance of power between east and west and removing any pretext for a future populist strongman who might emerge and seek to regain some of the old family silver.

We can only guess what she would have felt about NATO more than doubling in size since then, hoovering up the former Soviet territories and sticking its tanks on the front lawn of a sullen Russia. Vladmir Putin gave the West notice of his intentions eight years ago when he annexed Crimea and pointed to the “deployment of military infrastructure at our borders”.

Since then, NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance, has been flashing its foundation garments at gullible Ukraine and filling its jejeune leader with ideas about the land of milk and honey in the West. They ought rather to have been telling him to get real about the fact that a massive, resentful nation possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal lives next door to him.

And that angling to join a military alliance specifically formed to exclude Russia might not be a good idea if he really values the lives of his citizens. He’s now playing hide-and-seek with a nuclear power as his poor country burns and British Twitter is naming its children after him. From a safe distance, of course.

The great German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

The NATO leadership should have seen this coming from a long way off and told Ukraine that the attainable – the “next best thing” – was a quiet life just being Ukrainian outside NATO and the EU.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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