As AJP Taylor said of 1914: “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war. Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons. The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.” I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready Russia” tweet.
(Acknowledgements to Simon Jenkins / The Guardian 13/04/18)
Theresa May should be extremely cautious in committing Britain to any military adventure in the Middle East. Rising above the temptation to follow the US, where strategy regarding the American military presence in Syria seems to change daily, will be a test not just of her domestic political nous but a strong signal that Britain, in the prelude to Brexit, really is carving its own place as independent in all matters and capable of standing alone.
Critical to the safety of Britain and Europe is a de-escalation of the current tensions between our country and Russia. Horrific though the – possibly miscalculated – nerve-agent attack in Salisbury was and no matter how shocking some people regard the Syrian chlorine gas incident, we should measure whether either of these acts in isolation pose an existential threat to Britain justifying foreign intervention.
I posit that it does not.
The Skripals are not dead and forty dead Syrians are merely incidental and unfortunate casualties in a civil war that is nothing to do with Britain or its future security. I say that neither incident is worth ten years or more cold war with the second most powerful nation on Earth let alone a hot war.
Diplomatic and political convention demanded a retaliatory response regarding the Salisbury incident. Quietly and in due course, perhaps within a year, normal diplomatic relations could be resumed and the incident conveniently swept under the carpet.
It’s called realpolitik. Amicable relations between Russia and Britain are not only good for peace, they are good for the economies of both countries. Let’s start thinking for ourselves for a change and not hang on to America’s or Europe’s shirt-tails.
As for Syria, British military intervention is not only likely to be ineffectual – as we only have very limited assets in comparison to the major protagonists – it will force Russia to take not only a determined political stance against us but also a military one.
There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that Russia would retaliate and shoot down RAF aircraft and possibly strike naval forces daring to launch Tomahawk missiles.
Combine that with absolutely no governmental strategy regarding Britain’s long term stance with Syria and the certainty that Assad will remain in power under the aegis of Russia and the stark reality is that any British intervention is utterly ludicrous and recklessly dangerous.
So, to extract Britain from the current headlong rush into political and military conflict, and to put a stamp on Britain’s new independence, I implore Mrs May to take a step back, at least debate the situation in Parliament, and redouble diplomatic initiatives with Russia so that a de-escalation and the resumption of normal relations can take place sooner rather than later. Her actions now will mark her place in history.
Let’s hope she makes the right decision.