Jack Lesgrin’s week: Defender pokes the Russian bear with no consequence

by Jack Lesgrin

Defender pokes Russian bear with no consequence

Last Wednesday caused a bristle of excitement for active and retired armchair admirals and generals (aka most of the adult, male population) when one of our Type 45 destroyers sailed in the Black Sea near enough to Crimea to prompt the Russian military to send boats and planes to angrily usher her away. She held course, and there was much speculation about whether the presence of British journalists onboard meant that this was a deliberate, coordinated display of British and Western naval strength in refutation of Russia’s claims over Crimea. Some commentators believed that the strategy of sailing this warship through an internationally recognised shipping lane using the right of “innocent passage” was an important assertion of international maritime law and a show of strength. Others, such as former British ambassador to Moscow, Sir Tony Brenton, appeared on BBC Radio 4 and wrote in The Times that the British government “knew very well the intensity of the response the Royal Navy’s incursion would provoke and deliberately went ahead with it.” He described this as “dangerous” and also “counterproductive” because it will have “strengthened Russian intransigence and aggressiveness on Ukraine-related issues.”

It seems the kind of military escapade perfectly suited to “Global Britain” at this moment in time: an action that gives the outward impression of strength and confidence, the maximum PR fanfare baked in, almost zero risk of any actual fighting or there being any cost to us, and with dubious or limited strategic coherence. For all the justifiable pride in our sadly small number of new ships, for all the wish to bask in the afterglow of the G7 meeting and brandish the freshly printed Atlantic Charter Mk II, I fear that the Russians, while angered by recent events, know in their hearts that the West, and certainly the UK, does not have the stomach to challenge it in a meaningful way.

They only came to this conclusion relatively recently, back in August 2013, when then Labour leader Ed Miliband’s parliamentary manoeuvres stymied David Cameron’s intention to join international air strikes to punish the Assad regime for breaking international law so egregiously by dropping chemical weapons on civilians. It isn’t sailing shiny new ships along international shipping lanes that counts in geopolitics, it is the big calls. The Kremlin was watching in August 2013, and concluded, correctly that the Western democracies are not as strong as they pretend. They may have economic strength, and their military hardware may be more advanced, but unfortunately, they do not have strength of will to act, nor a strong strategic position that they hold to at all costs.

Had we been truly strong in this sense, we as the UK could and should have intervened unilaterally to declare a no-fly zone long before Assad used chemical weapons. We should have done it when it became clear he was dropping barrel bombs on civilians from helicopters in 2012 or earlier. Do not let people argue that intervention of this kind was impossible. It only became impossible after the Russians intervened in large numbers and by bringing in their sophisticated air defence system, which was done only after they concluded that the West was washing its collective hands of Syria.

To act as described above would have been difficult and risky, but it would have sent a message to the United States that we are a strong, capable, morally upright ally willing to defend international law not only when clutching at American coat strings. We would have strengthened our position internationally as a defender of the much-fabled “rules based international system” that our recent Integrated Review expended much ink over. And we would have sent a clear message to autocratic regimes, dictators, terrorists and warlords that we will not tolerate the mass-killing of civilians. Perhaps most importantly of all, we would have shown the civilians of Syria that we are on their side. We didn’t do this, and the rest, as they say, is (tragic) history with consequences that reverberated into the future, such as refugees flooding into Germany, or an emboldened Russia and China. Inaction has consequences just as much as action. And those who choose inaction have blood on their hands just as much as those who chose action.

To people who say: “Britain couldn’t have taken out the Syrian air defence system”, I simply refer them to what the late, great Senator John McCain said on BBC Radio 4 back in 2012, when naysayers claimed it would be impractical: “If we can’t defeat the air defences of a third rate power, then I have a great apology to extend to the taxpayers of my state.”

Indefensible to share Defender leak

The HMS Defender story reverberated throughout last week, and popped up during the newspaper review on the Marr Show on Sunday. One of the paper reviewers read out a story saying: “a member of the public, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the BBC when he realised the seriousness of what he had stumbled upon.” But why did he call the BBC and not the Ministry of Defence?

Covid’s time stretch is nothing compared to the cosmos

Finally, on last Thursday’s Today programme on Radio 4, the science reporter noted the following: “This crucial moment, known as the cosmic dawn, is when the first stars and galaxies began to shine occurred between 250-350 million years after the Big Bang.” This “crucial moment” is apparently the “holy grail of cosmology”. Yet a lay person like me cannot help but wonder, as with the proverbial tree falling in the forest, whether stars beginning to shine some time during 100 million years, was a big a moment as it was described, considering it’s almost certain no-one was watching the stars light up.

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11 Responses to “Jack Lesgrin’s week: Defender pokes the Russian bear with no consequence”

  1. John P Reid says:

    I see bianca Williams partner stopped by police while speeding off in the wrong side of the road is getting police prosecuted for racially profiling her despite they wouldn’t have been able to see her from the car behind

    Take it next time a Labour Party canvasser knocks in a door of a black or Asian person automatically assume they vote labour
    That canvasser will be prosecuted for racially profiling?

  2. Tafia says:

    No celebrations for Labour really. It certainly isn’t an endorsement of Starmer – quite the opposite. It’s supposed to be a safe seat for them, and they are the opposition and are supposed to not only hold their own seats easily at this stage of a Parliament by a wide margin, but be taking them off the government. Not clinging on by their fingernails in their own backyard, especially while the government of the day is mired in a sex scandal.

    Two weeks since the last opinion poll there and three things in that time that swung enough voters away from the Tories and into the arms of Gorgeous George. Each only marginally, but combined they were just just enough to stop a Tory win:-

    1. Hancock
    2. The government giving carte blanche to 2,500 UEFA officials and their families to attend the semis and finals without quarantine, and even enter for the semis, leave again and re-enter for the finals. (UEFA basically blackmailed the government. We have aspirations of holding a World Cup here in 2038 – yes you do have to look that far ahead, we will be running against Ghana for hosting it, and UEFA told the government they could forget it unless they lifted the quarantine requirements for UEFA officials attending the semis and final)
    3. The delay to the lifting of lockdown.
    (I live just down the road from here and I can assure you, they were the things that swung just enough people)

    Labour were down 7.4% and the Tories down 1.6% of the vote share compared to the last election just 6 months ago and there was a 2.9% swing from Labour to the Tories on top of the 5% swing away from them just 6 months ago and which certainly should not be happening at this stage no matter how the strategists care to dress it up. Interesting that Galloway took 21% of the vote which was massively more than he was expected to get which means he must have taken Brexit Party & anti-EU Heavy Woollen Independent vote from last time out, which would have damaged the Tories expectations more than Labour, as well as a chunk of the muslim vote. Should the Tories drop 1.6% nationally at a future General Election, and Labour drop 7.4% from where they both were just in December 2019, Labour would be down to well under 100 seats. Labour have now dropped 20% of the vote share in this seat since GE2017.

    In Galloway’s case, what seems to have happened is the Labour Leavers, who had gone to Brexit Party and heavy Woollen Independents last time out, who were going to go Tory this time, changed their mind at the last minute and went to Galloway instead. That suggests that the Labour Leave vote still do not trust Labour’s intentions EU-wise & will vote Tory (wearing a clothes peg) if there is no other high profile anti-EU alternative, but if there is then they will vote for that instead. Bad position for Labour to be in, relying on other anti-EU candidates to off-set the fall in their own core vote. Brexit still figures heavily in the Red Wall. People say Labour is not a Remain party but to a Leaver it is very much a Remain party. Their open desire for closer alignment, dabbling with rejoining the Customs Union or even the full Single Market makes them a Remain party in the eyes of most Leave voters. All three options – alignment, Customs Union, Single Market are simply not acceptable to the overwheklming bulk of leavers, even Labour leavers.

    Everyone bar Tory, Lab & Gorgeous George lost their deposit.

    Angela Rayner et al must be gutted that Starmer manages to live on to fight another day. Starmer would be a fool to take this as an endorsement for him or his party. While his vote share continues to decline by more than the Tories, then in an election the Tory majority will increase.

    Galloway now intends to roll-out the Workers Party right across the north of England and the old industrial midlands seats which is going to create an on-going problem for Labour. Interesting that Lawrence Fox is toying with bringing his new party into the Galloway fold.

  3. Tafia says:

    And as for Syrian Air Defence, they possess Russian S-300 systems which are among the most sophistacted in the world and can even shoot down cruise missiles easily. They will shortly receive the latest Russian S-400 – which can track and take out stealth aircraft. They also posses Russian BUK 1 & 2 systems – which again are more than a match for most combat aircraft in the west.

    The problem isn’t the Syrians – it’s that the Russians are giving them state-of the-art world-beating equipment, in the hope the west foolishly does do something so that they (Russia)can see how it performs in a proper combat environment. Russia is basically using Syria as a ‘real time’ weapons testing and proving ground.

  4. Anne says:

    Thanks for the article Jack. Heading is about right. Couldn’t really see the point of the destroyers antics.
    Congratulations to Kim Ledbetter.

  5. Tafia says:

    Further to my above, it was the third largest swing FROM the Opposition TO the Government of the day in a by-election since 1945.

    This is not a good result for Labour – far from it.

  6. Tafia says:

    Following a ruling in the High Courts yesterday, women’s prisons can house inmates who were born male but identify as female, regardless of whether they have gone through any physical transformation or have obtained a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

    This means some of the most dangerous and depraved male sex offenders can self-identify as women, be placed in a womans prison, alongside real female inmates many of who are extremly vulnerable. And given that most prisoners live in shared cells, the possibilities for a professional predator beggar belief.

    How long before a serious sexual attack takes place do you reckon? (Minor ones already have). Shall we have an office sweepstake?

    And what will the LGBTA2Z fraternity say WHEN (not if) it does?

    The case was actually brought by a female prisoner who had been already been the victim of a sexual assaulted by a self-identifying trans-prisoner. Between 2016 and 2019, 7 sexual assaults were recorded in women’s prisons, committed by male transgender prisoners self-identifying as women, without a GRC.

  7. Tafia says:

    And now the monthly polling round-up.

    There were a total of 22 opinion polls conducted during June, by all the major polling companies.

    During the month, the Tories were between 41 & 46%, and Labour were between 30% & 36%. At no stage did Labour come any closer than 6% behind the Tories.

    Monthly average for June were as follows:-

    Con: 43.0%
    Lab: 33.1%
    LDem: 8.0%
    Grn: 6.0%
    Oth: 9.7%

    In comparison to last month (May), there is very littly change. Tories are down 0.2%, Labour are up 0.2%, and the rest likewise only show a marginal fraction of a change +/-

    Since the December 2019 General Election there have now been 125 polls. Averages since then are:-

    Con: 42.1%
    Lab: 35.2%
    LDem: 7.4%
    Grn: 5.3%
    Oth: 9.9%

    In comparison to the mainland GB (as opposed to the whole UK) General Election figures for GE2019, the Tories are down 2.6%, Labour are up 2.2%, LDem are down 4.4% and Grn are up 2.5% on their figures for GE 2019.

    This is the largest gap between the government and the opposition since deatiled records have been kept (basically since 1945)


    The SNP figures are included in ‘Oth’ along with Plaid etc but the figures do not include NI parties – they are purely mainland GB. The SNP remain consistently around 4.5% of the GB vote as a whole – in other words their grip on Scotland remains as total and complete as ever and even though a marginally small decline has been picked up in support for independence, the decline is less than half of the margin of error.

  8. John P Reid says:

    Great Trevor Philips is back in the Labour Party
    has said twice the Labour Party is institutionally racist once in The mid 90’s as it automatically assumes black people vote labour
    And once in 2009 when he said labour couldn’t have a black leader( prime minister)

  9. John p Reid says:

    Our problem
    Tho libdems greens Northern Ireland Scottish / welsh nationalists is 22%

    Excluding if the reform party on 3% doesn’t stand everywhere
    At the most
    Labour can get 34% to the Tories on 41% thats a majority without the boundary changed of 35
    Of course it could be 46% to 29%

  10. Tafia says:

    The media have a go at Starmer after PMQs.

    HAPLESS Keir Starmer gets ever more desperate. He was all bluster yesterday over Boris’s “reckless” Freedom Day.

    Except he is too cowardly to publicly support the endless curbs Labour would prefer.

    So his only difference with the PM’s plan is to demand masks remain compulsory on public transport. Plus some flim-flam about “improving ventilation” — as though a Government can air- condition Britain in two weeks or force windows to be opened.

    This, he claimed, is opening up “in a controlled way”.

    The sheer dishonesty of that.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Brilliant comments from Tafia
    Baring unforeseen circumstances I’d bet july’s average polls will also Shoe
    conservative 43%
    Labour 33%
    Same as june

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