Corbyn is getting better on defence, but he’s wrong if he thinks problems with Russia are caused by NATO & the West.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on defence and foreign policy today was good, and actually better than I expected. I was especially pleased to see him reaffirm that Britain under Labour would never start a nuclear war, and to see him condemn Theresa May’s disgraceful language on China and India, speaking in John Bullish-terms of them overtaking Britain, when in fact we should look at India as our most important future ally (not withstanding its current government).
But one area which continues to really worry me is his attitude towards Russia.
He is right to say that we should do everything we can to avoid a conflict with Russia, and that we should find ways to work with them, not against them. But in this speech and others, he continues to suggest that the current state of relations with the Kremlin all stems from some sort of misunderstanding, that if only we would engage more with Russia, and not push or provoke them, we would get along better.
I think this is a serious mistake.
In Vladimir Putin’s regime, we are dealing with a mafia-system of government, which lines the pockets of its friends, and makes its opponents disappear. His government has expelled human rights organisations, implemented homophobic legislation, and prosecuted political opponents.
He helped wage a war of atrocity against Chechnya, launched a war of aggression against Georgia, illegally annexed Crimea, and his paramilitary forces in Ukraine almost certainly shot down a civilian airliner. Given these adventures, I do not think it is outrageous for NATO to bolster the defences of our allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic, who have no doubt had quite enough of Russian incursion and occupation.
It is abundantly clear that his intelligence services did everything they could to ensure that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election, and they have meddled in other elections, including France’s recent presidential contest.
And his government has repeatedly shielded the Syrian fascist regime from censure and criticism at the UN, while murdering thousands of innocent Syrians with an air war that almost destroyed the ancient city of Aleppo. All of this in pursuit of protecting their own imperial ambitions in the region via their naval base at Tartus.
I do not want a war with Russia. I don’t think any serious person does (especially those inside the Kremlin). But Jeremy Corbyn risks making a serious mistake if he thinks that our differences arise from a lack of understanding.
Putin’s ambitions are clear, and he no longer even pretends to hide them as he proceeds with his full-scale revival of tsarism and the glory days of the Russian Empire.
It isn’t war-mongering or sabre-rattling to have the courage to say so.
Jeremy Corbyn should say that Labour looks forward to peaceful coexistence with all civilised nations, but that they are committed to the upholding of international law, and will oppose violations of it, anywhere in the world.