We have often discussed the psychology of national aggression, based on where each party is on their empire cycle. In the case of Britain and Russia, both parties have been going through post regionalisation which represents expansive energy. Britain’s energy has been focussed on a peaceful economic and political expression, but in the process it has neglected its self-defence. Russia in contrast has founded its expansion on pure aggression and force projection. Putin has sought to take advantage of the weakness of the Obama administration and that of the EU states, who have to date responded with passivity. The arrival of Trump has changed Putin’s calculus as we shall discuss later.
In nature even the strongest predators choose the weakest prey, to minimise the risk of injury. It is thus so with aggressive nations who will only attack when they feel the odds are in their favour. Britain is now facing a whirl wind that was created due to an injuring policy of national weakness. This trend ran through the Blair, Brown, Cameron, and now May’s Governments and had a common theme. It consisted of policies that ran down defence and believed that aggressive national behaviour which threatened Britain’s security was a thing of the past. They failed to grasp that self-defence begins with the intention to defend oneself with overwhelming force when attacked. However that intention then needs to be matched by the capability to follow the intention through with deadly force if necessary. Not only have British politicians collectively neglected our defence (with the exception of the current defence minister Williamson), thinking that the NHS was more important, but they have failed to understand the vital concept of peace through strength.
Britain’s hollowed-out defence policy has sent a clear signal to Mr Putin (and the rest of the world) that Britain is weak. The warning signs have been there for years but all have been swept under the carpet: Russian planes testing our air-defences with frightening regularity and Russian warships sailing through the channel escorted with just one ageing Royal Navy (RN) frigate. Most important is the threat to and viability of, our nuclear deterrent in a world where nuclear weapons guarantee national security at the highest level of conflict. Due to the most severe defence cuts the RN now lacks critical anti-submarine capability, dedicated ASW frigates, plane and most importantly nuclear hunter killer submarines that are all vital in de-lousing the waters through which our Ballistic submarines transit into the open waters. We must now recognise that our ballistic boats are in all probability being followed by Russian hunter Killers and thus have been neutralised by the Russian navy. Something the RN and USN did often in the cold war but which was never achieved by the USSR in reverse. Meanwhile we allowed the integration of crooked Russian oligarchs (most directly linked to Putin) into our society which has brought all kinds of consequences that are in contravention to British values. The Conservative party takes money from Russian sources, and Putin has been killing with impunity on British soil, people who have actually helped strengthen Britain’s national security. All of these things are a national disgrace.
Putin’s assessment of Britain’s leadership would have included one of weakness of the PM, and paralysis within the cabinet over Brexit. Although NATO and the EU are separate, there would be an overlap of interest that might prove advantageous to him. Furthermore he knows that Trump is focussed on the North Korean issue, and that never since 1939 have the USA, UK and EU has such disparate agendas. Lastly, about one month ago Putin’s middle- Eastern mercenaries suffered a massacre at America’s hand and in Putin’s eyes that personally humiliated him. Thus he no doubt looked around and sought somewhere to reassert himself, and that was a nerve gas attack in Britain. As he 100% controls the press in Russia and thus he knew that he could use the UK’s response to polarise his people into the mind-set that they were under attack during his upcoming election, an age old tactic of dictatorial regimes.
However there is another perspective that the West needs to be aware of, and that is that Russia is a commodity based economy. Over the next year commodity prices will fall and this will increase pressure on the Russian economy. Thus Putin seeks to blame the West and its sanctions, to deflect attention from his leadership. Such wars are known as “trough wars” and are motivated from a position of economic weakness not strength. In that context the Salisbury attack should be viewed as an ongoing risk because Putin is incentivised to escalate the situation. Considering Britain’s position over the next few years we should also brace ourselves for the next rally in commodity process from 2019-2027 which will make Russia very wealthy again and allow it to increase its defence spending by multiples.
During the cold war chemical, biological and nuclear weapons were all classed as weapons of mass destruction. The use of any one of which would open the door to reprisals which included nuclear weapons. Today thanks to Obama, the “red line” was rubbed out in Syria. Russia and its proxy Syria have used chemical weapons where they see fit, without fear of reprisal. Furthermore the Russian strategy has pioneered the concept of taking land and dropping a small nuclear weapon on those trying to recapture it. The assumption being that the other side will not escalate the conflict to mutually assured destruction. The attack in Salisbury has all the same hall marks: to kill with a Russian linked nerve agent sending key messages, and limit any reprisals with threats of escalation. Thus it is vital that the UK calls Russia’s bluff and responds most severely. Today we have America’s full support, but there might soon come a time when our priorities diverge and we have to stand alone. The Salisbury attack is Britain’s national wake up and a call to arms. It is a clear message to May that national security is now the most important issue we face. We must enhance both our intelligence services and our armed forces. The intelligence service simultaneously face threats from Islamic extremism, Russia and China and are just not large enough to cope with the multiple threats. Meanwhile we urgently need to significantly enlarge our armed forces, raising spending to 5% of GDP, before it is too late to stem the rising tide of dictatorial aggression against the free world, of which Britain is one of the great Champions.
Britain need to learn a key lesson from America which is made all the more relevant by Brexit and Britain walking its' own path back to a global maritime economy. In contrast to the May Government where weakness has been the order of the day, Mr Trump has taken a very robust approach towards ensuring American security. He has committed to a massive jump in defence spending that is only the start of what is required to stay ahead of China. Trump has been sending a very strong message, that he is the opposite of Obama. This process commenced in Syria when Trump sent 52 cruise missiles to land on the Syrian airfield demonstrating that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would not be tolerated. Simultaneously he sent a robust message to Putin that his expansionary aims in the Middle East would not be tolerated. The most recent example being the large scale massacre of proxy Russian soldiers in the Middle East. At the same time the 52 cruise missiles also sent a clear message to President Xi of China that Trump would not tolerate his continued support of North Korea as an ally with the direct aim of weakening American influence. Trump’s strength on this matter has no doubt lead to the potential of direct talks between Kim and Trump after which there will be a binary outcome. Either Kim gives up his nuclear weapons or he will be attacked pre-emptively. During the application of pressure to North Korea, Trump also revealed to the world that China was pulling Kim’s strings and as such was America’s real protagonist. Thus he commenced a trade war designed to weaken China and encourage America’s allies to start spending on defence to make the West stronger overall. There is no doubt that in the short-term Trump is reversing the trend of American imperial decline.
For those that find this message hard to absorb, history is full of examples of the meek who perished under the boots of dictators. The hard reality is that there is only one way to co-exist with powerful nations lead by total dictators like Putin and Xi, and that is with the strongest of defence policies. But a strong military also needs to be led by strong leaders who leave the aggressor in no doubt that they place themselves at risk if they move first. The message must ring clear from Britain’s leadership that will we never allow themselves to be bullied in even the smallest way. That means that we have to revert to cold war thinking and push bank against Russia by deploying our hunter killer submarines to the arctic region, where they can resume their patrols into the zones where Russian ballistic submarines operate in protected bastions with current impunity. Additionally from now on every Russian navel vessel and surveillance ship should be shadowed upon departure from Russian waters. Any chinks in our armour will only encourage worse acts of aggression. Most of all we must remember that however expensive an arms race seems, it is always cheaper than the war that it fails to stop.