12 Days Remaining

Wednesday 4th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

WHAT a vainglorious figure Defence Secretary Michael Fallon cut at the Tory conference, railing against “Russian aggression” and boasting about Britain’s military potential.

He curdled his audience’s milk by berating Moscow’s brinkmanship in carrying out military exercises “on Nato’s borders.”

That sounds very threatening until you reflect that, since the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union, Nato has recruited Russia’s erstwhile allies and even former Soviet republics, taking Nato up to Russia’s territorial limits.

So “on Nato’s borders” actually translates as “in its own country.” Not quite so intimidating, really.

But, having established that everyone should quake in their boots about the aggressive Russian bear’s intentions, Fallon puffs out his chest, boasting that, while living standards, health, education and other vital services can be slashed, military spending is rising and will continue to do so.

“We have got the fifth biggest defence budget in the world, the biggest navy in Europe, two enormous flagships — the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales,” he blustered.

Fallon didn’t mention that the two flagship aircraft carriers, the second of which will not be complete for another three years, have one major shortcoming — a lack of combat aircraft.

The Ministry of Defence hopes to have a couple of dozen F35B fighter jets by 2023 and to double that total two years later.

The £3 billion state-of-the-art Queen Elizabeth also has a less than up-to-the-minute operating system running its computers — Windows XP, 16 years old, no longer serviced by Microsoft and unlikely to be replaced before 2020.

Tory efforts to project Britain as a major military power in its own right were exposed pipe-dreams as far back as 1956 when the US refused to back Anthony Eden’s Suez invasion, assisted by France and Israel.

Since that fiasco, Britain’s armed forces have been deployed only alongside or with the approval of Washington.

It is impossible to imagine Britain sending the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales into conflict — with or without fighter jets — except as junior partners of the US armed forces.

And where would they be sent? Does Fallon envisage sending them halfway round the world to confront China over its development of disputed islands in the South China Sea?

Will they be deployed in the South Atlantic to relive Margaret Thatcher’s unnecessary war with Argentina?

No, they’ll be sent wherever Washington requires them just as the warplanes that populate its huge hangar will be built in the US, providing profits for Lockheed Martin and subsidising the US military development programme.

That’s the point of Nato and particularly the recent demand from the Pentagon, echoed by Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, that member states should increase military spending to 2 per cent of national income.

Yes, member states have their own arms industries, but the US has the biggest and it insists successfully that its high-end — and most profitable — products such as warplanes be purchased in great numbers.

Nato doesn’t defend Europe against invasion because no such threat exists.

Most people know that deep down, but Jeremy Corbyn has been one of the few to combine that understanding with an awareness that funds wasted on military posturing or overseas aggression are denied to investment in economic development.

Boris Johnson can deride him as a “Nato-bashing, Trident-scrapping, would-be abolisher of the British army,” but Corbyn has been proved right about foreign wars and the Tory warmongers wrong.