Gales View - 26th November 2014
How long will it be before the Russians, possibly in the guise of Eastern Ukrainian “rebels” drive through from the east via Mariupol and establish a land bridge between the neo—Soviet Union and Crimea?
I know that this is not the burning question on the lips of the man in the public bar of the Rat and Ferret and I understand that there is a body of opinion that believes that Members of Parliament ought to spend their time either in Westminster or, preferably, in their constituencies dealing with parochial issues. I happen to think, though, that it matters in terms of the future security of the United Kingdom in general and that it might very possibly have an impact on whether the lights in our schools and hospitals stay on. Until we are self-sufficient in renewable energy, and that will not be the case for many years to come, we will be dependent upon others to the east for our fuel supplies. There is also the small matter of freedom and democracy throughout the wider Europe and beyond that needs to be borne in mind
I have, at home, a small piece of masonry covered in fading blue paint. It is suspended in front of a photograph of a huge wall with a crack running through it. Beyond, through the aperture, is a gun-tower that once accommodated an East German border guard. The picture was taken just after the demolition ball first hit the fortification and the chip of masonry is a piece of the Berlin wall itself. The montage is a reminder of an era that we had hoped was behind us.
It is twenty-five years since the end of that chapter in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and since the process of the reunification of Germany and of liberation commenced. In the intervening years the wider Europe represented not by the European Union but by the Council of Europe has made great strides towards democracy and freedom of speech but recent events suggest that we have to remain mindful that the task is incomplete and that there is, to use an old American campaign slogan, “Still a Bear in the Woods”.
We have taken our eyes off the ball. While the developed world has been consumed with events in the Middle East, with ISIS and with the terrifying scourge of Ebola, Mr. Putin has been seizing the opportunity to reassert Russian influence and occupation over parts of the former Soviet empire. There are Russian troops in Georgia and Moldova. Russia has annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, displaced non-compliant residents and made part of a sovereign country a Kremlin-controlled dominion. To the east of Ukraine, in Donetsk and Luhansk, just to the south of the area where I was very recently observing the parliamentary elections, “rebels” backed by Russian weaponry and troops, some of whom are in reality Putin`s special forces, are in large part in control. On the Russia-Ukraine border battalions of Russian soldiers and heavy armoury are assembled waiting for the former KGB Colonel to fire the starting gun. With winter closing in and the sea inhospitable Russia needs a land route through which to “service” its Crimean asset. With a handful of NATO forces watching from the western border in Poland it is only a question of time, surely, before an invasion, that the much-vaunted European superstate led by Germany cannot and will not resist, takes place.
Does this matter to the people that I represent in Margate and Herne Bay? I think that it does. The prospect of a new cold war has exposed the impotence of the EU when it comes to serious strategy and it has revealed how willing many of the EU`s nation states are to roll over and offer homage to the strong man in the Kremlin. The United Kingdom, not alone but in a minority, has recognised both the danger and the need to take robust diplomatic action and to impose tough sanctions against a regime that, left unchecked, will drag society back to the dark ages of post-war Europe. The question now is will others follow our lead and the answer to that question, more than the immediate threats posed by religious extremism and disease, is likely to determine the nature of the world that our children and our grandchildren grow up in.