Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Just war and the squandering of peace


We live in a world increasingly beset with wars and rumours of wars, proxy wars and proxy-proxy wars. However, all forest fires begin with a spark or sparks and everything has a context. An unwillingness or inability to understand context is one of the ills of modern life.

The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia early in 2022 has a context that does not excuse President Putin's despicable actions in the least but may explain how we got where we are.

First and foremost, if we are to take the moral high ground, we better make absolutely sure that is where we stand and we have looked at our own actions and policies leading up to the Ukraine war and our attitudes towards central and eastern Europe and MENA nations that are not part of the EU/NATO club.

The general inclination among Western journalists and social media 'Keiths and Karens' is uncompromising in relation to the new Cold War, demanding an aggressive, uncompromising response towards perceived enemies and citing the 1930s as somehow parallel to recent events and the perceived ambitions of Vladimir Putin as an Emanual Goldstein figure, but as usual confusing correlation with causation.

However, what made WWII a just war was initially the reluctance of the Allies to start or engage in one. The Allies may feel guilty as a result of their uncompromising implementation of the Versailles treaty and an unwillingness to properly support stable government in Germany through financial difficulties, but not of appeasement and diplomacy. Versailles and its aftermath did not prevent the rise of Hitler, but rather, the economic hardship and isolation of the German nation as a result of the Allied protectionism made that assumption of power possible.

When the Weimar Republic could not pay its reparations, French and Belgian troops entered the industrial Ruhr region and took over production, which led to a temporary passive resistance by German workers supported by their government. Prince Hubertus zu Löwenstein described the invasion of the Ruhr district in early 1923 as an international tragedy: "The permanent damage done thereby to the young German Republic was never quite repaired. Adolf Hitler had every reason to be grateful for it."

In 1923 Leon Trotsky ordered the German KPD to take advantage of the economic chaos in Germany to launch a full-blown revolution. Communist-inspired insurrection took place in Saxony and Thuringa.

The occupation of the Ruhr and its consequences worked a change in the minds of men. It was the first thing that made the nation think." Arthur Moeller van den Bruck Das Dritte Reich

It was also in 1923, with the Reich government in disarray over the occupation of the Ruhr and with Mussolini's 'March on Rome' as inspiration, that Hitler and Ludendorff launched their abortive putsch in Munich. So, the origins of WWII can be traced back to Allied action not inaction.

The point where Kieth/Karen 'history' starts and finishes is at the point where the allied powers began to wake up to Nazi expansionism and could blame their previous inaction on appeasement. However, their retrospection does not go any further back. to a man and woman almost, the general feeling among the UK electorate between the wars was pacific and supportive of disarmament and a leading role of the League of Nations. Even as the Spector of Nazism grew and rearmament began slowly, the first ever referendum in in the UK, the Peace Ballot (1935-5), AKA National Declaration on the League of Nations and Armaments, voted overwhelmingly for disarmament and a disengagement from military action overseas. The League was flawed from the start because its sponsor, Woodrow Wilson of the USA was no longer president, Russia was forbidden from joining and Germany and Japan walked out. There was great enthusiasm for disarmament conferences such as Locarno, but they did not lead to international stability nor in the s peace. Munich was a holding action not a policy. The UK was believed to be unready to fight a foreign war or even be able to defend its islands and certainly not be able to defend itself against an alliance of enemies. Time was required for it to be in a position to fight a war, which meant the early 1940s.

Reparations between the wars prevented Germany's recovery and worse, they destabilised the fledgling Weimer Republic, so enabling the growth of undemocratic elements of both Left and Right. The occupation of the Rhineland and Ruhr. further destabilised the country.Furthermore, the promise of the Locarno disarmament treaties of the 1920s evaporated with the Wall Street Crash and the departure of Japan and Germany from negotiations. he Wall Street crash led to the withdrawal of foreign investment and global inflation, especially in central Europe, so stimulating inward-looking nationalism and a demand for strong government resulting in a reduction of the number of democratic countries in Europe, Schism in socialism with more nationalism.

Post WWII, the cold war defined Western policy and how alliances and international cooperation were arranged. This also involved proxy wars and attempts to undermine the economies of potential enemies while securing security of supply in raw materials, goods and energy.

Glasnost and failure to support Gorbachev benefitted the USA and its allies, but not necessarily global stability or world peace. The enthusiasm for peace and the freedom of ex-Soviet states promised a new era of global cooperation, but left out Russia as Germany had been left out post WWI. Germany was treated as a defeated enemy and so fragmented and remained an enemy. Russia was treated much the same.

EU expansionism on the coat-tails of NATO. Encouragement of anti-Russian feeling and EU acquisitiveness. Promises made, or believed to have been made, relating to NATO expansion were either not kept or believed by the Russians to have been so. Either way it was a failure of transparent diplomacy.

The Black Sea was a Soviet lake, but now it is an EU one. Every littoral state around the Black Sea is a member or applicant to both NATO and the EU with the exception of Russia from before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2021. Furthermore, EU involvement in the Caspian region has been growing for some time, which has isolated Russia even more.

So, here we are, Russia feeling boxed in and NATO countries unable to understand how diplomacy works and military posturing doesn't. Back to proxy wars and shifting alliances while gas-poor China looks on. The Donbas gas fields remain unexploited, which means they are not being pumped West to isolate Russia or other reserves crossing the Black Sea along the 'middle corridor'.

The West, as China realised years ago, is an addict longing for its next fix of tech on which it has become over reliant. Climate change politics led to an end of coal use in Europe, but the addiction demanded power and that gap was filled with gas. Gas prices and security are behind the new cold war, not mere ideology or territorial ambition. The point at which Europe has closed enough coal-fired power stations and replaced coal with gas making itself vulnerable was Putin's sweet spot.

This is not to let Putin off the hook, far from it. Whatever provocation there was, his willingness to violate international borders using both troops and KGB assassins, was unforgivable.

The war drags on, internecine and unwinnable by either side irrespective of foreign assistance or interference, spilling into and far beyond its immediate neighbourhood raising the Spector of the unthinkable, certainly unthinkable after the wall came down.

Before we go forward it may be a good idea to revisit those heady days of the late 1980s and early 1990s to reassess what went wrong and what we can do now to put it right.

What our forebears feared about another war after WWI did come to pass, devastated much of the world and ruined Britain and its Empire, which sacrificed itself to save Europe from itself. We have been primed to accept anthropogenic global warming, self-harming lockdowns and perpetual war (as per 1984) on behalf, it seems, of the European Union and the USA.

However, there is another way. If Donetsk and luhansk were given a vote on their political status as self-governing autonomous (and neutral) states within a federalised Ukraine and Crimea was given the opportunity to revert to a self-governing autonomous Ukrainian state, become fully independent or remaining part of Russia, all votes overseen by the UN, offered as a proposal to both sides, then tens of thousands or millions or even billions of lives might be saved.

So, what were the key takeouts from the Tucker Carlson interview with Putin and how did it get us any closer to that first victim of war, the truth?

We did learn that contrary to countless click-bait headlines and memes, Putin appears to be in good health and not about to keel over. Insane or not, he is evidently in command of his faculties and in possession of a prodigious memory for facts and figures upon which he seems able to draw quickly and easily. He and his advisors evidently planned his statements and answers in advance to cause as much mischief in the Washington establishment as possible while appealing to the Global South wherein lies the geopolitical battleground over which East and West are fighting a long way from the physical battlefields in Ukraine.

In politics, context is everything and history is context. If it is biased, it indicates fundamental beliefs and aspirations, so is no less valuable than more objective versions. A history of the subject written in Kiev or Washington would be no less valuable as a snapshot of personal and national bias and no more objective.

In attempting to isolate Russia politically and economically the West just made it more independent. It inadvertently liberated it from dependence on the old new world order – (that is orders from the New World and its military-industrial core).

China will never be a threat to the West while it supports and keeps afloat the Chinese economy, but if it was ever pushed into a corner or the Global South became a viable alternative, that would be a different story. Best to tie one's rivals in a partnership of equals than attempt domination. China will remain Russia's ally but not the West's enemy for as long as the existing relationship endures.

Russia has become more firmly BRICS Politically. It is dependent on the good opinion of the Global South and that is from where pressure should have come. With that in mind, at least some of the current BRICS countries should be included as guarantors in any future agreement.

The West and the USA in particular are good at throwing their weight around in good and not so good causes but useless at playing chess, of which both Russia and China excel. It is one thing for Britain to stand and stand alone, if necessary, in the face of foreign aggression against independent neutral nation states, but quite another to stand against foreign expansionism as a de facto colonial possession of the USA in defence of EU expansionism.

We must be less Hillary Clinton and more Edward Grey in our attitude towards Russia and tie it in knots diplomatically. We cannot trust Putin, because he is no friend of the West, but Russia is essentially no enemy. Putin can have Eastern Ukraine as a buffer, but not his buffer, not the West's, but its own.

To defend any sovereign state Britain must assert itself as one first, else what might be proposed a just war might turn out to be just war and nothing else. Britain should be itself and never fall for a 'my supranational right or wrong' attitude.

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