The broadcast news bulletins are all leading with the claim of some old General that Britain could not resist an attack by Russia. One remarkable thing about this claim, is that all those excitably supporting it are precisely the same people who claim that the countless billions spent on Trident make an attack on the UK impossible. Plainly they have never believed their own propaganda about Trident.
But there is something still more problematic in the General’s argument. The truth is that there is zero chance of Russia attacking the UK. Nothing Putin has ever said or done has evinced the slightest desire to attack the UK. Now I am, as you know, no fan of Putin and I believe he does hanker after annexing to Russia those parts of the former Soviet Union outside Russia which are Russian speaking. But he probably does not see even that limited aim as completely achievable, and indeed in ten years he has reintegrated just Crimea and Ossetia. The UK, being neither Russian speaking nor part of the former Soviet Union, is in no danger of being attacked by Russia at all.
Nor has the UK ever been in danger of attack by Russia. Yet extraordinarily, as discussed in my new book Sikunder Burnes, Russophobia and an explicit fear of Russian attack has been an important part of British politics, actually driving policy, for 200 years. In that period Britain has invaded Russia during the Crimean War, and as early as 1834 David Urquhart, First Secretary at the British Embassy in Constantinople, was organising a committee of “mujahideen” – as he called them – and running guns to Chechnya and Dagestan for the jihadists to fight Russia. In 1917 British troops again invaded Russia, landing at Archangel and Murmansk.
Yet, although by contrast Russia has never attacked Britain, and has never had any serious plan, intention or decision to attack Britain, for centuries British foreign and defence policy has been predicated on a non-existent “Russian threat”. Of course, the arms manufacturers and the political and military classes have made incalculable sums out of this long term waste of a significant proportion of Britain’s resources. A Russian invasion of Britain is, and has always been, as likely as an attack by Martian death-ray.
General Barrons does however have one important point. Britain’s forces are not configured for defence. They are configured for attack. Aircraft carriers are of no defensive use whatsoever, and indeed are hopelessly vulnerable against any sophisticated enemy. Their sole purpose today is the projection of power against poor countries. Their use lies only in the neo-con policy of attacking smaller states like Iraq, Libya and Syria. They are Blair force carriers.
Britain is a country where thousands of children go to bed hungry. Yet is spends billion upon billion on Trident missiles whose sole purpose is to increase politicians’ sense of importance, and aircraft carriers designed to facilitate the maiming of other nations’ children. A rational, defence oriented military would have neither. Again, I return to the conviction that Scottish Independence is not just good for Scotland, but the psychological shock that rUK needs to end these imperial cravings for physical power projection.