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July 31, 2014

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I know you have done a lot for the peace movement Paul. But you have to admit there are some worrying parralels with WW1 and therefore none of us want you to rest on those laurels.

Is Putin a fool? I certainly don't think so. Why support NATO in picking a fight when there are two sides to a story? I guess a lot of your constituents are highly sceptical judging by the comments made here on your blog.

Sanctions are an act of war if they actually work. Diplomacy has been shed. It doesn't do any good and is not in any way in our interests.

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Foreign leader painted as belligerent. Arms race on that paranoid basis. Tangled alliances trying to encircle eachother. Yes we have certainly learned alot since 1914.

"What could have been a conference reflecting the balance of views in the peace movements is shrinking into a self-indulgent inward looking talk-in for the unelectable with views far removed from public opinion."

I'd rather go against public opinion and be unelectable than to deny that which is in the depths of my core beliefs. One shouldn't take up a certain position because it is deemed the most politically expedient.

HuwOS

Excellent piece Phil. It's the kind of considered and sensible piece one would have thought the better of our elected representatives should have been writing themselves.

Paul Flynn

Thanks Phil. There are no absolute rights or wrongs in world crises.
But to protest against NATO as defence alliance is folly. A small fortune is being spent defending the site of the conference against the threat of 'the biggest protest ever'. Cannot see it as political anger is directed elsewhere at the moment.
The immediate threat to small nations is from Putin. Nato's posture depends greatly on the character of the US President. Obama is the best in my lifetime and protesting against him seems futile when it bring comfort to the current threat of Putin.
What could have been a conference reflecting the balance of views in the peace movements is shrinking into a self-indulgent inward looking talk-in for the unelectable with views far removed from public opinion.


Phil Anderson

I'm sorry, Paul but for all your good work on Afghanistan, I am surprised by your geo-political analysis, which to my mind makes you seem a bit of a Cold War relic yourself, along with NATO and the Warsaw Pact. I am a Cold War child too albeit from the Post Vietnam era. By then the GI Joes weren't so jolly anymore and the chewing gum came with a slight taste of Napalm.

Frankly I don't want to see a new 'Cold War' with Russia just because of a knee jerk, if historically understandable paranoia in some East European States over the Ukraine Crisis.The Ukraine was an economic and political basket case even before Putin's foolish meddling, and its current fragmentation was accelerated because of the EU - because its people have been led astray by false and dangerous hints from the West that they can soon join the EU or even NATO.

NATO it is a military alliance with one huge, domineering first among equals member, the U.S. of course. This country, as is its right, follows its own national agenda, paying lip service to the wishes of its allies and effectively hindering any independent foreign policy or common security development in the EU. Perhaps having U.S fire power at their disposal makes our generals happy - so our politicos can hide from us the fact we can no longer afford the military role we insist on playing in the world.


A 100 years after a series of military alliances led Britain into a Great War, we should be sceptical of the pro NATO claims that military alliances - such as NATO is - actually prevent wars. Instead mutual defence treaties are signed by politicians in foreign policy games - but the same politicians may never have to cash these particular and rather scary blank cheques.

NATO should stop 'enlarging' and adding new mutual defence obligations toward ex Soviet Union polities that we don't necessarily love and certainly don't understand. We shouldn't, say, promise to fight against Russia because of the latest episode in a Tanscaucasian neighbour dispute that goes back to the days of Muscovy and Ivan the Terrible. Until recently even the Ukraine barely registered on our public consciousness. Certainly it is not Belgium in August 1914. So please don't use similar alarmist rhetoric that evisages Putin as the new Kaiser, if not Hitler.

I for one shudder at the notion of us entering into mutual defence pacts with small, bitter, post communist countries who like to follow reckless foreign policies and in practice, if not in theory, discriminate against ethnic Russians. They are encouraged to do this just because of the promised protection of bigger nations like us. Shades of Serbia in 1914 anyone? We forget so soon.

Of course it is easy to trot out the old Russian bogeyman to give NATO something to do and to justify all that military spending, all those nukes. After all NATO has been thrashing around, violently, looking for a job to do since the mid 1990s. Each recent summit has been another attempt to find that illusive post cold war role when in fact the NATO staff should have been made redundant years ago. But in fact they have been busy directly or indirectly. Afterall, so far we have had under Blair and Co create a state of perpetual war, from the 1990s until now all for the sake of human rights and 'democracy'.It takes little analysis to see the intervention in Afghanistan as repeat of the same neo-liberal, new Labour notion of 'nice wars' most recently backed by NATO power. These are the wars where we claims we can bomb people into behaving more like the civillised people we imagine we are.

Putin may be seen as a political monster, but Russia today is a bit more than a semblance of quasi-democracy unlike our military allies 'Saudi Arabia' and various other gulf states, not to mention Israel ( arguably the latter nuclear armed apartheid State is in many respects no better, and arguably much worse than Putin's polity)

So there are many similar political monsters out there in the world and plenty of other targets that can be accused of virulent homophobia. Just take a look at Continental Africa....

Putin's heady mix of nationalism and popular conservativism with its sadly populist homophobia simply reflects a society similar to ours, but as we were 30 years ago. Lets not forget that Russia has been culturally in the freezer for 70 years under state oppression. It seems a bit rich that we suddenly expect them to be chomping at the bit to introduce gay marriage and get the seal of approval from Stonewall, when our parliament only passed clause 28 in the UK thirty or so years ago. Putin is no more homophobic than Thatcher was in the 1980s. I don't think Putin gives two monkeys about gay rights either way, but he is an expert at manipulating conservative and reactionary forces in his own country, as was Thatcher once and Farage in our day.

I have great respect for you as my MP but the call for NATO to declare yet more heavily against Russia is simply misguided and to my mind dangerous. Such Anti-Russian Rhetoric backed by having 'Battle Groups' sent to Poland will only convince most Russians that adopting our liberal, equal rights laws and similar values equates with accepting Western aggression, dominance and a new encirclement.
The new (post Aghanistan!) equation of our liberal values with NATO military power is as bad for the cause of equality and human rights abroad, as British gunboats were for the cause of 19th Century Christian Mission. When will we ever learn?

Jeff Jones

In my opinion the former UK ambassador to Russia has written a very good article in today's Independent which should be read by every UK politician. Why isn't Labour pointing out that Cameron's sabre rattling which includes his recent letter to NATO Leaders is probably making matters worse not better. Just look at the mess of Libya to see where the foreign policy of the UK Coalition can end up making matters worse not better. To defuse the situation in Eastern Europe you need to understand Russian concerns not dismiss them.

HuwOS

Netanyahu is fully aware that violence begets violence Paul. Israel relies on it. It knows that when you are choking the life out of someone they struggle. Israel's great tactic has been to point to that struggle and claim it justifies everything they do and the western world's great shame is they go along with that and when at their most supportive of the plight of the Palestinians pretend there is some equality of misdeeds and at their least supportive place all the blame for violence on those being oppressed.

You must remember that the US and Britain pulled the same trick in Iraq and Afghanistan, insisting that they would only withdraw when their victims stopped resisting.

The difference between those two examples is that the US and Britain didn't want to completely depopulate those countries, whereas with Israel, their preference would be to have both the Gaza strip and West Bank available for their use.

They are of course not Nazis they don't have ovens and gas chambers they are in fact completely happy for Palestinians to live long and free lives, as long as they live them elsewhere.

On the face of it Israel has two choices and has done since its inception, a one state solution which wouldn't be a Jewish state and therefore isn't acceptable to them or a two state solution which wasn't acceptable to the Palestinians initially but which Israel has no intention now of ever allowing to happen because they would be unwilling to give up the majority of the settlements which would have to be a requirement, but also because they have found that the international community will do nothing to stop them eventually taking over the West Bank completely and eventually the Gaza strip will follow as at that point, there would be nothing left at all in Pandora's box for the Palestinians.

Paul Flynn

There is a push in parliament for the WAR-NIKS on all side to spend more on Defence.. Argument is that as economy picks up 5 will be less than 2% to 1.9%.
Our best hope for restricting warmongering is to recognise full depth of the calamities on Iraq and Afghanistan. Violence begets violence. If only Netanyahu had learnt this lesson as goodwill for Israel is collapsing worldwide.

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Huw not Hugh. Apologies.

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So building up an arms race on the eastern border? There SHOULD be respect for borders but (as Hugh just intimated) that cuts both ways.

Like it or not you just can't put any faith in our political leaders. They are two faced at best. They are barely even men as evidenced by their contributions.

That is where Russia lives, on the border that NATO has claimed most aggressivly. The eastern border of western values beyond which lies savages and barbarians. You are on about throwing up a bulwark against Russia. You are someone who argues for peace are you not?

They are not honest Paul. They WANT war. Cameron is another Blair. The ends are not what they pretend them to be.

Why IS Britain one of the biggest 'defence' spenders? Because it is deemed acceptable to sacrifice working class heroes for a disingenuous corrupt government?

WAR is the logical outcome. Russia beat NAZI Germany not the USA. WE are the ones threatening THEIR border. That is true and gives lie to the idea that the Russians are the ones being "belligerent".

Our leaders have no heart or integrity. They have committed and supported terrible crimes.

I have been commenting on this blog for years now and I know you are one of the few MPs worth their salt. I think the behaviour of many of your colleagues is inexcusable and abhorrent.

Undermine them Paul. I know you have humanity rather than ambition and selfishness.

That said I mean my comments constructively and think you are doing a good job in spite of your colleagues.

All the best and with respect.

HuwOS

American foreign policy varies very little whether their president is republican or democrat, some would say, not at all.
The style of it certainly does change, but the criminality, murder and mayhem is usually about the same, the democrats just present a more pleasant face and give some intellectual cover.
NATO is tainted by it's past and the fact that it is the toy of the US and can only act if the US chooses, Europe does need a military alliance, but it needs it clear of the cancer that the US represents.
It's the overly close relationship between the EU and the US that is at the root of this problem as Russia not unjustly feels encroached upon by what it not entirely incorrectly views as the european agents of US policy.
That doesn't justify Russia's actions, but to pretend that such perceived encroachment didn't play a crucial part in causing this mess is to enter into Blair level denialism.
To pretend that NATO is a potential solution is just dangerous. That's practically Tory in it's "if we destroy and/or ignore all other options then it's the only game in town" it works for them for privatisation and it will work for us in making the 21st century a century of unending war.

Is that what we want?


Paul Flynn

Thanks Jeff.
Finland has had a very rough relationship with Russia. The Finno-Russian wars were amazing events. Stability has ruled for a long time. The three Baltic states short lived taste of Freedom is fragile - especially in Latvia where 50% of the population is Russian mother tongue. A Crimean style takeover of half the country could be swiftly achieved by the wounded bear. NATO has made huge mistakes but we need it now.

Paul Flynn

Agree with some of that Ad. There are no Goodies and Baddies in this, but the smaller nations in Europe need NATO's protection now. Nothing else can protect their recent freedoms after years of oppression. NATO's conduct depends very much on whether there is a Republican or Democratic American President.

Jeff Jones

Paul
The real question that needs to be answered is why did NATO allow the three Baltic States to ever become members in the first place when neither Finland nor Sweden see the need for membership. The three Baltic States add nothing to the alliance and are virtually indefensible in the event of a conventional war. If Russia wanted to attack Estonia which incidentally there is no evidence that it does , Tallin would be occupied in hours. Deterrence as the UK guarantee to Poland in 1939 shows has to be credible in the eyes of any potential aggressor. A couple of fighter planes over the Baltic ( in September it is the turn of Portugal and Germany) and joint exercises in Poland are just gesture politics which worry no one. What has already probably been agreed in the pre conference discussions which really matter not the two day bun fest for the Leaders is that all NATO members will try to move to 2% spending of GDP on defence. In reality given today's story in the Independent it is doubtful whether the country that should do much more of the heavy lifting Germany will move towards that target. As for the French they are already selling the Russians two Mistral warships and Russian marines are training in St Nazaire. NATO 's reaction to Putin shows the problem of trying to produce a united front from 28 countries with different national priorities in a far more complex world that now exists compared to the Cold war period. As for the UK the Defence Select Committee report again shows that some politicians still have an exaggerated sense of our potential role in the world.

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Putin is simply playing the same game as the American government has been doing in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. That is using their 'great power' status to bully others when it suits them. Putin saw an opportunity in Crimea to pounce and took it. And he didn't kill thousands of people to accomplish it. How can the USA and Britain really point the finger?

Secondly, we must be wary of fueling the militaristic crazies whose agendas will benefit from painting Putin as an unreasonable menace. Labelling him as "belligerent" is a step in the wrong direction in this regard I think.

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