Saturday, October 18, 2014

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The Russians Are Coming

Guest writer radical Unionist commentator Dr John Coulter  is a former Blanket columnist. In this exclusive article for The Pensive Quill, he develops a recent column from the Irish Daily Star arguing that Ireland could hold the key to solving the current crisis in Ukraine.

‘The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!’ This 1966 Cold War Hollywood blockbuster comedy about a Soviet sub which ran aground off New England, may be taking on a new meaning with the current deteriorating crisis in Ukraine, but ironically Ireland could hold the key to cooling the entire situation.
A proposed Celtic-Russian Alliance whereby President Vladimir Putin develops closer links with the West via the geographical back door of Ireland, Scotland and Wales could ease tensions on a number of volatile situations in the European continent and in the Middle East.
The long-term aim of any Celtic-Russian Alliance would be to bring President Putin ‘in from the European political cold’ by making the new rapid-emerging Russia an associate member of the increasingly influential Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

At first glance, this seems an impossibility – the ex-KGB officer Putin wanting to climb into bed politically with the CPA, an organisation which sceptics may try to write off as the old British Empire under another title. After all, when the CPA was formed in 1911, its original name was the Empire Parliamentary Association.

The crisis in Ukraine has placed Putin firmly in the spotlight over his alleged military backing of the pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatist movement. This has sparked severe criticism of Putin’s polices from the United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.

Given such fierce criticism, it would not be unreasonable to respond to the notion of a Celtic-Russian Alliance using the language of the once highly-influential Right-wing Conservative pressure group, the National Monday Club, when it warned that Ireland was in danger of becoming the UK’s Cuba.

Supporters of the value of a Celtic-Russian Alliance would point to the relationship between the UK under its legendary wartime leader Winston Churchill and his Allied pact with Soviet Russian dictator Stalin to defeat Hitler’s Nazis. Here’s proof – albeit an uneasy example – that the UK and Russia did co-operate for both empires’ mutual benefits.

However, perhaps those who remain highly suspicious of the ‘Russian Bear’ will be quick to point out that October 2014 represents the 160th anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854 during the Crimean War when Russians inflicted one of the biggest military disasters on British forces, surpassed only by the slaughter on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 during the Great War.

Militarily, the UK and United States must be aware of the rapidly increasing terrorist menace being unleashed by muslim jihadists under the banner of Islamic State. Russia, the UK and US have all had their ‘fingers burnt’ militarily in Afghanistan.

In spite of the ‘pussy footing’ sanctions against Russia by the EU over Ukraine, the West – including the US – is in no position to fight on two fronts. Costly campaigns against Islamic State and pro-Russian separatists are financial non-starters.

Instead, the UK should be amending the maxim ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ in its dealings with Putin, to ‘if we can’t beat them, get them to join us!’.
Next year’s expected Westminster General Election outcome will be decided by votes for the staunchly Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party of Nigel Farage. That result will certainly pave the way for a clear ‘in/out’ referendum on EU membership by 2017, a vote which even at this stage seems likely to be won by those wanting to ditch the UK’s EU membership completely.

If the UK abandons the EU, the Republic of Ireland will have to follow to survive financially, otherwise the latter will become nothing more than a politically irrelevant pimple on the backside of Europe. 

The UK and Ireland cannot survive economically outside the EU on their own. While the obvious choice is to bolster the role of the CPA, does the Association have sufficient financial and political ‘big hitters’ to make the CPA a seriously viable alternative and competitor to the EU?

The CPA’s strong point is that it represents more than 50 regional and national parliaments across the globe, with most – but not all – comprising former colonies of the old British Empire. But is this collection of ex-colonies enough to take on the EU?

Membership-wise, the CPA is around double the size of the EU. But off those 50 plus representatives, only the UK and Canada are members of the powerful G8 economic powers. A number of other G8 powers – France, the US, Germany, Japan and Italy – could not be fully relied on to financially ‘prop up’ the CPA in any future economic cold war with the EU.

Two of the other globally emerging powers, China and Brazil, are developing their respective economies at such a pace that membership of the EU, CPA or even the G8 would be a cosmetic exercise rather than a serious financial way forward.

The CPA desperately needs another global ‘big hitter’, and Putin’s Russia would be an ideal partner. The problem is, the rise of Ukip has demonstrated that the UK is nudging towards the Right-wing, so could a staunchly Right of Centre future Westminster Government pull off a ‘Churchill-Stalin’-style pact with an ex-KGB officer?

More significantly, if such a deal could be made, who could act as power broker? US President Barack Obama is highly unlikely to fulfil the role of one of his 1940s predecessors and act as the political cement to forge an alliance between Russia and the UK.

Although Putin has a background in the old Soviet intelligence community, his desire to see a rebirth of a Russian empire should not be misinterpreted as a return of old-style communism.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the collapse of ideological communism, the Christian Churches – especially those aligned to the Russian Orthodox – have witnessed a steady era of freedom of worship, particularly under Putin. There is even a strongly growing monarchist movement in Russia which would like to see the return of the Tsarist royal family.

Such moves could see Anglo-Russian relations return to the days before the 1917 revolution which deposed Tsar Nicholas II and his family. If the Christian faith was once again flourishing in Russia, what would be so wrong about allowing Putin’s nation to become an associate CPA member?

The initial moves could be made by the Dail government in Dublin and the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland using their increasingly influential cross-border bodies in Ireland. With the Irish peace process holding fast as the island recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of the major Provisional IRA ceasefire of 1994, the days of Cold War stories of the Kremlin trying to use the IRA to de-stabilise the UK are condemned to the pages of historical thrillers.

There is one major attribute which a Celtic-Russian Alliance could convince the UK to admit Russia into the CPA – Russia has direct experience of dealing with Islamic radicals on its own sovereign land. While the UK is toying with tougher laws to combat British jihadists from returning to the UK, either to live, or carry out attacks within the UK, Russia has fought hard-hitting battles with Islamic separatist militants in the Chechen Republic.

The jihadist Islamic State based in Syria has made no secret of its desire to bring this Russian republic into the radical sphere of its self-proclaimed caliphate; a move which Putin vehemently opposes.

Given the brutality which Islamic State has demonstrated towards anyone it considers an ‘enemy’, Putin and David Cameron now find themselves facing a common jihadist foe. While the UK is still a reluctant EU member, as a whole, the EU has been very weak in its condemnation of Putin’s policy in Ukraine.

However, it should also be noted that after the fall of communism, an increasing number of former Soviet satellite states were allowed to join the ever-expanding EU, placing a huge burden on the EU’s finances.

Post-communist Russian leaders seemed quite happy to ‘off load’ their former republics onto the EU. In 2014, 11 of the 28 EU member nations fall into this category – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

While the Western EU poured billions of funding into attempting to bring these former Soviet satellite states up to an economic level of original European Economic Community (EEC) standards, the Russians were quite happy to let the West foot the bill while it concentrated on rebuilding its empire from within.

Likewise, Southern Ireland is not in any financial position to get any further financial aid from the EU with the Eurozone under considerable pressure. A Celtic-Russian Alliance could see billions of Russian aid pumped into the ailing Dublin-based economy.

There can be no doubt that Putin is re-arming his forces to face down the threat from Islamic State. And one of the military needs which is greatest is a base for his Atlantic fleet. Ireland would make the perfect base – by agreement with the Dail and Stormont, of course.

And in return, Putin would promise to send thousands of Russian tourists to the Emerald Isle as well as take thousands of Irish students on exchange visits to Russian colleges and universities.

Ireland has always been seen politically as the land of the impossible. In Northern Ireland, the once staunchly Protestant fundamentalist and Unionist DUP sits in a power-sharing Executive with Sinn Fein, the one-time political apologist of the IRA terror cells.

In the Republic of Ireland, Sinn Fein is poised to form a potential coalition government at the next Dail General Election as a minority partner with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Less than a century ago, Sinn Fein was one of the chief protagonists which sparked the bloody Irish Civil War which saw republican butcher republican in some of the worst atrocities in the island’s history.

So if Sinn Fein can potentially be in a position where it could be in government on both sides of the Irish border, the British Government could be persuaded – through a Celtic-Russian Alliance – to allow Putin membership of the CPA in the war against Islamic State jihadists.

The Cold War debate of the last century between Christendom and communism is over. The present conflict in the Middle East should also not be misinterpreted as a re-run of the Christianity versus Islam of the bloody Crusades of the Middle Ages.

This latest war is jihadist Islam versus everyone else and it is forcing former enemies to become political and military allies to survive. Indeed, this modern strain of jihadist Islam is as big a threat to the future of moderate muslims as it is to any other faiths, or even those nations which view themselves as non-religious secular and pluralist societies.

However, time is not on the side of those trying to combat the Islamic State. The ISIS leadership knows that the Achilles’ Heel of its opponents is that age-old hatreds and feuds will have to be either set aside or completely forgotten if a Pan Anti-Islamic State Front is to be created.

It has taken most of eight centuries to bring a lasting peace to Ireland. Southern Ireland knows its future lies with a new link with the UK through the Commonwealth. Westminster knows it may end this current decade withdrawing from the EU. Putin knows he cannot defeat the Islamic State threat within Russian borders on his own.

The forces opposed to Islamic State cannot afford to wait generations, decades, years – even months – to marshal their armies. Some very bitter medicine will have to be swallowed by certain nations in the coming weeks.

If the Irish peace process is to have a lasting legacy, it must not be limited to the six geographical counties of Northern Ireland. The time has come to export the Irish peace process to where it is most needed – and that is in bringing Russia in from the cold.

The time has surely come for the creation of a new James Bond film – rather than From Russia With Love, it should be To Russia With Love. But time is not on the side of those wanting the Celtic-Russian Alliance. ISIS’s clock is ticking.


ozzy said...

a few points to make here.
First of all the most humiliating British military Defeat has to be Singapore in my opinion 1942.
The British "defenders" of their colony outnumbered the Japanese attackers ,on bicycles by 4 to 1 .
And the Brits still surrendered.
The Brits led by Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival CB DSO OBE MC OStJ DL a man who burnt down Michael Collins' house
As Kenneth Griffith said in his movie
"hang up your Brightest colours.
Well he shouldn't have burnt down that house should he?

As to point of Ireland becoming irrevelant in Europe post UK Brexit.
This is already true for Ireland.
I am not a lover of the Free State but after it joined the UN in 1955, it did make waves speaking up for small Nations.
Now it says nothing. Heck even the UK parliament have voted to recognise Palestine. Can't see Ireland do that. So Ireland has made itself irrelevant. It keeps it's mouth shut in order to attract American companies into Ireland.
There is no future for the commonwealth. It's a defunct organisation.It has no role to play in world events.