Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

Corbyn’s position on Syria is the product of a lifetime in the hard left echo chamber

15/04/2018, 08:00:09 AM

by John Wall

It’ll soon be 35 years since Corbyn became an MP – more than half his life. During that time he’s never experienced a government he agreed with – as his record of voting against New Labour showed – and never had to make a decision.

Although I’m sure Corbynistas will disagree, I – and I’m not alone – see him, and his ilk, as primarily defined by what they’re against as evidenced by his involvement with the Campaign Group, CND, Stop The War, etc.

His position on the bombing of Syria is an inevitable product of a lifetime in this type of politics.

He spent decades in the hard left echo chamber, only associating with those who share his worldview which, as I recently outlined is that they ‘hate markets and competition and despise the private sector. To them America is the “Great Satan,” and Russia – whether Communist or under Putin – is an ally.’

Since he became leader he’s encountered, possibly for the first time, those who disagree, sometimes fundamentally, with his positions and undergone scrutiny from the media; at the risk of mixing metaphors he’s been found out and the chickens are coming home to roost.

His unwillingness, or maybe inability, to condemn the IRA was telling.

A lot can be learned by listening to him and others such as Diane Abbott. Under questioning they develop a slightly exasperated, weary tone as if they find it difficult to comprehend that anybody could possibly disagree with them.

This can also be seen by looking at his responses to the attempt to murder Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the response to Assad’s atrocities in Syria and the issues around anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

Pointing the finger at Russia on the Skripal affair easily passes the “beyond reasonable doubt” test and – although Trump is yet to tweet it – even the US expelled 60 spies, sorry, diplomats! However, when you backed the losers in the cold war and have appointed apologists for Stalin and Putin to your inner circle….

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2018: The year of still living dangerously

04/01/2018, 11:03:44 PM

by Rob Marchant

If you thought 2017 was a disturbing time for world geopolitics, hang on to your hats. Last January we wrote about the potential bear-traps of a Trump presidency. One year into it, they are all still there and mostly look worse.

Current situations in Iran, North Korea, Syria, Ukraine and the Baltic states all look like either remaining, or escalating into, serious conflicts during 2018. Worse than that, we live in genuinely unstable times where the historical precedents are not great.

Aggressive powers – mostly Russia and its client states – have been appeased over recent years in a manner eerily reminiscent of the way fascist powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) were appeased in the 1930s, also following a few years after a major financial crisis and world recession. And that decade didn’t end too well.

The problem that Jeremy Corbyn has is, of course, that he is on the wrong side of the debate regarding all these potential flashpoints. While he will equivocate and be plausibly deniable over his support or not in each case, let’s look at the facts.

  1. Iran: Corbyn was paid to present on the regime’s propaganda mouthpiece PressTV (note that this is not the same as appearing on it, although frankly even that is a questionable action, given its banning from the airwaves by OfCom for breaches of broadcasting standards). He appeared on it even six months after its licence was revoked. Further, he has yet to even comment on, let alone support the protesters in, the ongoing scuffles and their violent suppression of the last week, or criticise Iran’s despotic and repressive government.
  2. With North Korea, although he has superficially appealed to both the US and North Korea for calm and argued for them to disarm (a somewhat optimistic appeal in either case), Corbyn’s inner circle also contains known regime apologists such as Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray. Until becoming leader, he chaired Stop the War Coalition (now chaired by Murray), an organisation which superficially advocates for peace but, strangely, never seems to criticise any governments apart from those in the West. Maintaining this disingenuous, “will both sides please step back” approach, while simultaneously implying that only one side is to blame, is typical of Corbyn’s “cognitive dissonance” approach to foreign policy.
  3. Similarly, in all his comments on Syria, he has never once criticised Bashar Assad, a dictator known to have committed mass-murder against his own citizens. He also said there was “very strong evidence” supporting the Russia-propagated position that the use of sarin gas was by the rebels and not by the Assad regime, later proven to be a lie.
  4. Finally, in Ukraine, Milne propagated the Russia-pushed (and blatantly untrue) line that the Euromaidan protestors in Kyiv were having their strings pulled by fascists. If Russia were to attempt a full takeover of the country, or march into one of the Baltic states (something not at all beyond the realms of possibility in the potentially limited window while Trump remains POTUS), you could guarantee that at best he would appeal for calm on both sides, rather than supporting Britain’s treaty obligation to respond in kind via NATO.For those who do not consider a Baltic invasion possible, by the way, please consider (i) the deep nervousness of the states themselves and (ii) the relative ease with which Putin has already browbeaten and manipulated the world into relatively passive acceptance of his invasion of three Ukrainian provinces. The cost so far has been only selective sanctions on Russian individuals, sanctions which Trump has already (unsuccessfully) attempted to lift. The only difference here is NATO: again, something which Trump is dismissive of.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part III)

31/12/2017, 03:13:07 PM

Global winner of the year – Vladimir Putin

While it must be obvious to the world that, under latter-day Putin Russia is no longer a free-speech democracy – if, indeed, it ever truly was one – there is no denying his effectiveness as a manipulator of world affairs. After convincing Obama to strike an ineffectual nuclear deal with Iran and that Russia should be empowered to mediate a “peace” in Syria; or that no-one should lift a finger to help Ukraine when he invaded; last year it was apparently interfering in US and other Western elections.

This year he has been more audacious than ever: he has managed to nurture a tenant of the White House – the White House – who is actively blocking attempts to curb his informational power, such as propaganda, hacking and social media trolling; let alone any attempts to see Russia as the frighteningly real military threat it has increasingly become.

And if you doubt that last statement, you need only note that Russia spends double what most NATO nations do on defence as a proportion of GDP, while considering that it is hardly defending itself from other, belligerent nations. It can only be for aggressive actions: in old-fashioned terms, empire-building.

Yes, North Korea might be a more immediate threat to the West but, oh, guess who visited Kim Jong Il in May? Stirring up chaos is what Putin delights in.

When in 2012 Mitt Romney described Russia as “our no. 1 geopolitical foe”, Obama and many others laughed haughtily. “The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” They ain’t laughing now.

Straight talking, honest politics awardJeremy Corbyn

A few weeks ago, Jeremy Corbyn’s aides admitted a few weeks ago what we all knew: that he had, in fact, been consciously appealing to both sides of the Brexit debate. Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, knew that he could not get away with going for an all-out, hard-Brexit position, given the opposite view of most of the parliamentary party and party policy as set by conference. Straight talking, honest politics indeed.

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The “soft coup” might be on, but it surely ain’t from the right

24/03/2017, 06:41:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

For weeks now, the party’s left has been whispering about a “soft coup”. Ah, the old Soviet tactic, much beloved of today’s Vladimir Putin: confuse things by accusing your opponents of whatever you are up to yourself. Oh, and make them feel under attack, so they close ranks.

There is a coup going on, but it is clearly not the evil Blairites named by John McDonnell.

As revelations about Jon Lansman’s declared strategy for Momentum as an alternative power base to the party itself became public, it seems Monday night’s PLP meeting was converted into something of a showdown.

Corbyn jeered. Watson cheered. The PLP, depressed and muted for months since Corbyn’s re-election, suddenly found its voice.

And it was that same Tom Watson leading the charge – a loyalist clearly adept at unearthing the truth but in this case apparently with a couple of years’ time-lag.

(We should probably gloss over his part the plot to bring down Tony Blair; or the fact that, in the Falkirk selections debacle – in which his own parliamentary office was directly implicated, along with Unite, let us not forget – he helped lead to the change in the electoral system which let in Corbyn in the first place.)

And the revelation was that – hold the front page! – Momentum is actually organising for the takeover/destruction of the Labour Party (delete as applicable), just like Militant before it, in conjunction with that same Unite union. Where were you in 2015, Tom, when it was obvious to everyone? Or in 2013, when Unite were stitching up selections for the hard left?

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Smoke and mirrors are no panacea for populism

07/01/2017, 01:11:58 PM

by Julian Glassford

Breathtaking political plot-twists of recent months have left many onlookers decidedly discombobulated and key opinion formers remonstrating amongst themselves. So what do bellwether Brexit and US electoral outcomes indicate? Arguably, a repudiation of neoliberal globalism, elitism, and fear-based propaganda pitched at maintaining an awkward status quo. Hail, the temerarious new age of anti-expert ‘improvpolitik’!

The course runs deeper than our small pool of politically incorrect reductionists and the wave of discontent they ride, however. It flows beyond the poignant picture of inequality emblematised by the castaways “left behind” by USS Globalisation and HMS London: those financially “just about managing” to stay afloat (JAMs). Against a cold, unremitting tide of pervading progressivism and juxtaposed conspicuous consumption, folks feel all at sea. Communitarianism, constancy, and confidence in the system and its captains of change, have plunged to new depths. Old certainties languish on the seabed – hollowed out hulks, shrouded in the deep blue.

Bastions of the established order would love to wish away ‘shy’ (or sensibly silent) voters and the not so shy (if somewhat shadowy) ‘alt-right’. But what was a fanatical fringe has morphed into a formidable counter-cultural force clearly capable of swinging political events, bigly; hence the hasty repositioning of our Conservative incumbents.

If commentators are to remain politically literate they must engage with the unpalatable reality that contemporary social, gender, and intercultural dynamics do not universally translate as sources of profound strength and stability. Contentions ranging from mass immigration exacerbating economic disparity, through work-life imbalance representing a major social ill, to The Clash of Civilisations thesis, cannot be effortlessly extinguished. Contrary to historian Simon Schama’s prescription, the simple introduction of a broadsheet diet will hardly suffice!

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We need to talk about Russia

26/10/2016, 10:14:23 PM

by Rob Marchant

When even the Guardian, which has sustained some fairly alternative views on world geopolitics in recent years – including running a propaganda op-ed by the Russian foreign minister – starts acknowledging that modern-day Russia has slid into a new Cold War with the West, well, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Like a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome, the West – led by an American president who scornfully told his opponent in the 2012 election that “the Cold War has been over for twenty years” – has spent the last decade trying to convince itself that Russia was friendly and no longer a threat, in the face of stark evidence to the contrary. Obama is now choking on his unwise words, but it’s a bit late for that. Eight years of “engagement” with the US has only encouraged Vladimir Putin.

The charge sheet against Russia’s authoritarian leader is lengthy: the 2008 conflict with Georgia; the 2014 invasions of Crimea and the Donbass; sabre-rattling over the Baltics; the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko; encouragement of homophobia by Putin allies; gradual curtailment of most independent media and increasingly dubious elections (including a referendum in Donetsk whose result was apparently known before its taking place); encouraging the rehabilitation of Stalin; and finally, interfering in US presidential elections, dammit, through Russian hacks to the Democrats’ email system and its clear allying with Julian Assange and Wikileaks in favour of the Trump campaign. Not to mention the recent, utterly reprehensible bombing of civilians in Syria, which surely constitutes a war crime in any meaningful interpretation of international law.

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The geopolitical case against Brexit matters

22/06/2016, 03:08:43 PM

by Rob Marchant

The decision Britain will make tomorrow is clearly a big one. Perhaps truly the most significant of our lifetimes, in terms of its strategic direction of travel as a country and the way the 21st century will shape up for us.

A decision in favour of Brexit will inevitably have short-term impacts. Some of them, such as a potential drop in sterling for exporters, may even be positive. But some vital, long-term effects are likely to be about Britain’s place in the world; its geopolitical power, if you like.

These are difficult-to-gauge, but nevertheless important, effects which are largely drowned out in the current debate by the bread-and-butter arguments about trade or immigration. Or “sovereignty”, that largely meaningless word currently being flogged to death.

Which would be fine, if we lived in a world full of stability, free of threats. Or even such a Europe.

We do not.

It is a good time to remember, for example, that only a few hundred miles of Mediterranean separate Daesh forces from the southern shores of the EU. Or that its eastern fringe – the Baltic states – is currently subject to a very real threat of clandestine invasion by Russia, as has already happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Or even that the Americans and Russians are currently engaged in an increasingly threatening war of words over US presence in the Black Sea. And this is all in the context of a savage war in Syria, exacerbated by the meddling of Russia and its proxy, Iran, which has triggered the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

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Gove, Boris and Vote Leave have aped Farage’s extremism. No-one can be surprised at the consequences

19/06/2016, 10:53:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There is a transmission belt in political debate that transfers poison from the extremist fringes to the heart of the mainstream.

It operates when emotions are running high but, most of all, relies on mainstream politicians taking on the messages and rhetoric of the fringe.

This is what has happened in the EU referendum campaign as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Vote Leave have followed Nigel Farage’s lead in whipping up a frenzy about EU immigration and Britain.

Two stages have characterised the descent into madness in this campaign: the validation of Ukip’s lies followed by a normalisation of these ideas within the debate.

Vote Leave’s fixation with Turkey has been the catalyst.

There’s no prospect of Turkey joining the EU. Every member state has a veto and France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria would all exercise it if Turkish accession ever became likely.

Even the proposed deal to give Turkish citizens visa-free access to the Schengen area amounts to visa-free tourism for countries in the Schengen area – which does not include Britain- and conveys no rights to residency or employment.

Ukip have been scaremongering about Turkey for years but only when Michael Gove and Boris Johnson started repeating Ukip’s attack lines did the poison start to flow.

They are after all, senior members of the ruling party and in Gove’s case one of the most prominent members of the government. Their validation of Farage and repudiation of the reality of government policy on Turkey, suddenly legitimised Ukip’s fantasies about Turkish immigration.

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Corbyn’s pacifism won’t really affect Britain from opposition, right? Wrong

02/09/2015, 09:50:36 PM

by Rob Marchant

Another week, another revelation about what a Corbyn-led foreign policy would look like. It is enough that Labour would, as it did in the days of George Lansbury, be directed into a position of “peace at any price”, even if that were saving lives from genocide in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, as a previous Labour government did.

This is not an exaggeration: it is hardly a surprise that the chair of Stop the War Coalition, by definition, supports the idea that any military action by the West under any circumstances is a bad thing (although, strangely, that organisation has shown itself not so against war when it is conducted by a non-Western power, such as Russia).

And so we have been treated in recent days to a reminder that Corbyn regards the death of Osama Bin Laden as “a tragedy”. While, in times of peace, it is right to uphold the right of anyone to a fair trial, Bin Laden was killed in war zone. And it is difficult to imagine many British citizens agreeing with that particular stance, let alone those of New York, where he contrived the death of three thousand.

Leaving on one side the fact that this statement was made on PressTV, the propaganda channel of a deeply unpleasant regime, it is extraordinary that we even have to make these arguments.

And then there was the concern articulated by Halya Coynash, one of Ukraine’s most respected human rights activists, that Corbyn had essentially adopted the Russian position on her country:

“His assessment of Russia’s annexation of Crimea coincides nicely with that presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Russian television and he has simply ignored grave human rights concerns under Russian occupation.”

However, for some it is convenient to think that, should Labour elect Jeremy Corbyn as its leader in a few days’ time, his wacky foreign policy ideas would not do Britain any harm. After all, in opposition, what can a party leader do? And in the hearts of many of his most fervent supporters is the realisation that their man can never be Prime Minister.

This is a dangerously fallacious reading of the role of the leader of the opposition.

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Blair switches on Syria: We need to do a deal with Assad and accept he’ll remain president

23/04/2014, 10:47:36 AM

by Atul Hatwal

In a wide-ranging speech on the middle east, Tony Blair today made a significant intervention to recast the British debate on Syria.

Until now, the assumption has been that President Assad would have to go as part of any peace deal. The dividing lines of the conflict seemed to be clear: Assad was the oppressor, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his own people, while the opposition represented Syria’s best hope for a more democratic and enlightened future.

The idea of President Assad remaining in power was unthinkable.

But as the tide of the conflict has turned in Assad’s favour, and Islamist factions in the opposition have gained prominence, Blair’s speech signals a fundamental reappraisal of the negotiating position.

At the time of the parliamentary vote on military action in Syria, within Labour it was the Blairite wing of the party which was most in favour of punitive measures against President Assad. There remains an abiding sense of grievance among many in the party at the manner in which Ed Miliband first backed intervention, and then opposed it.

Now, however as the facts on the ground have changed, so has the solution – at least in Tony Blair’s view. In the Bloomberg speech he states,

“But the truth is that there are so many fissures and problems around elements within the Opposition that people are rightly wary now of any solution that is an outright victory for either side. Repugnant though it may seem, the only way forward is to conclude the best agreement possible even if it means in the interim President Assad stays for a period. Should even this not be acceptable to him, we should consider active measures to help the Opposition and force him to the negotiating table, including no fly zones whilst making it clear that the extremist groups should receive no support from any of the surrounding nations.”

Contrast this with his view in June last year,

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