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Thursday 3 September 2015

Corbyn's election means Ukraine's stuffed

"I didn't say that, come on I've never said that, so please."

The UK Labour leadership campaign has made one thing abundantly clear - no one much cares about a war in Europe.

When I first wrote my now viral August 8 post on Jeremy Corbyn's position on Ukraine it was because no one who was then criticising Corbyn was mentioning Ukraine. Someone had to stick up for them so it might as well be me. But I was cynical and nothing since has told me that I was wrong to be cynical.

Nobody busy citing Corbyn's alleged links to antisemites, for example, has even tried by hook nor by crook to connect him to those fascists fighting for Mother Russia in the Donbas. His biggest enemies have forgotten all about the persecuted Jews in Ukraine.

When the issue finally came up at the Daily Mirror hustings (well after voting had begun) Liz Kendall quoted Corbyn's own words back at him, that he believed that NATO was to blame for 'provoking' Russian aggression against Ukraine, and he replied, Bart Simpson-like: "I didn't say that, come on I've never said that, so please."

None of the other candidates followed up. No journalists pulled that, well, lie out and waved it about.

This flat out denial and obfuscation is hardly new. When the respected Ukrainian human rights activist Halya Coynash said last week that Corbyn was ignoring Russian human rights abuses his campaign claimed that he'd "sent his support to peace campaigners across the region." When? Where? Any evidence of this mythic support?

At the Channel Four hustings this week Andy Burnham's soundbite that "it sounds like you're making excuses for Putin" got the headlines. But my pick would be when Lithuania (oddly) came up and Corbyn said that if Russia invaded we'd be "sucked into it" because of being in NATO. Here he sounded just like the American libertarian isolationist Ron Paul.

*available from an anti-imperialist store near you
Or another pick from that hustings would be when Corbyn claimed that 'the Russian military/industrial connections used the opportunity [of Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity]' to push their government (Putin) to do things like invade Crimea. Who else argues that it's never Putin's fault, that Putin is let down by other mysterious actors? Russian TV and all those banging the drum for the infallible leader, that's who.

Both of these jaw-dropping comments went unremarked. Clearly UK journalism doesn't hear this stuff and think 'gaffe' because it doesn't understand that they are gaffes.

No one has Fisked me (picked my argument that Corbyn supports Russian imperialism apart) - although I've had my fair share of abuse. Despite over ten thousand views for my August 8 piece it is obvious that Ukraine just isn't such an important issue for Corbyn supporters that someone feels the need to trash me.

Even though it has now become a headline, via Burnham, Ukraine is still an minor, disposable adjunct to all the other stuff about Hamas and who he sat on a stage with and OBL. Example: When I bovvered commenting on the Labour Uncut website mentioning Ukraine a couple of weeks ago not a single pro or anti Corbyn commentator took me up. Clearly neither side saw Ukraine as a tool in the armory of arguments.

My original post was a reaction to seeing foreign policy starting to be raised but with no mention of Ukraine. It has barely been raised since, including, still, by his opponents.

And none of his supporters has seen fit to even bother to argue for Corbyn's coming election via his policy on Ukraine - a European war with 7k dead and well over a million displaced. They don't think that was important enough to argue that Corbyn has the answers.

Instead debate on policy on a war in Europe has been shamefully reduced to #suggestacorbynsmear and Jeremy Corbyn refuses to deny being a Russian agent. This has gone way beyond the fringe to the pages of Private Eye and BBC Radio Four comedy shows.

The amazing, disappearing European war

TL:DR - The collective response from the entire UK left has been 'I ain't bovvered.'
Am I bovvered? Am I bovvered though? Look at my face. Is it bovvered? Asks me If I'm bovvered! Look, face, bovvered? I ain't bovvered!

I was shocked to read the AWL, for example, defending Corbyn while failing to mention Ukraine - when they have been one of the strongest on the issue and in promoting Ukranian socialist voices. This is the same AWL that the Guardian Political Editor saw fit to mention in his long read on what happens post election, so he thinks they have some clout.

Look at the lengthy piece by influential journalist Owen Jones on what happens next and notice what is absent. "Labour should suggest a more constructive role for Britain within the [NATO] Alliance", he says. What the heck does that mean for Ukraine? We abandon them to their fate or what?

The shining exception is Peter Tatchell who coherently explains why he backs Corbyn despite his difficulties on Ukraine and other issues. Tatchell says:
I am confident that he will respond to fair criticism and reconsider some of his past associations. And I'm certain that if he became prime minister he'd adopt a somewhat different stance. Already he's modified his position on NATO and the EU, from withdrawal to reform.
Sorry Peter (and others) but I'm not confident and there are numerous reasons why.

We love contradictory Jeremy?

One of the most active Ukraine supporters on the left told me that Jeremy has taken 'contradictory' positions. I'll say he has.

When I wrote my original Corbyn post there was way enough evidence to say that he clearly supported Russian imperialism. So when in late August a video of a speech given last year by Corbyn 'emerged' (meaning that someone important was notified) in which he says the following it just underlined what I'd argued. Nevertheless I gawped when Corbyn said:
[Nato's] interests in the Ukraine are not benign interests in support for the people of Ukraine. It's about advancing military technology and a military presence further and further eastwards in order to create this ghastly scenario of some kind of hi-tech war with Russia in the future.
Just how much nonsense this is is shown by how many are yelling at the Americans now for their delays to supplying non-lethal military help to Ukraine. I already disproved his repeated spiel about NATO 'expanding eastwards'. It's just factually wrong, as well as insulting to Eastern Europeans.

So where is he getting this fantasy from?

Have a look. The sole others I can find making this particular "hi-tech war with Russia" argument are American neo-Confederate libertarians. See this piece from the Ron Paul fanclub for example. And you can also read similar arguments on the conspiracist, pro-Putin website

They're Jeremy's go to sources for foreign policy guidance? Anyone who asked would be yelled at. By the candidate (as we've seen several times in the election campaign) and by his crew. It's worth noting here that not even the truly insane John Pilger has mentioned "hi-tech war with Russia."**

Still think, Peter Tatchell, that Corbyn will respond to fair criticism like 'where are you getting the batty ideas from?' Or will it be called a 'smear' or 'I never said that'?

Again. Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy.

Who the heck is advising him was precisely and generously what I said in my original post and the argument that 'everything will be alright on the night' seems to consist in part of the notion that Labour leader Jeremy will be shifted because of the weight of the office and that the problems with advice/influence from the Stop The War Coalition leaders and various others will drop away. Oh, and it'll all turn out OK as he's 'basically anti war', which is just BS because everything he's said so far supports Russian imperialism aka war.

Again, being fair and generous, I have tried to find out what Corbyn has done behind the scenes. This is because his old mate John McDonnell MP is chair of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC). Well, he signed an EDM supporting the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine in the industrial centre of Kryvyi Rih. I'm told he helped USC get a room in Parliament. But he never showed up on a USC platform. And that he supports the Crimean Tatars, but there's nothing on the public record I could find.

Then there are statements cited such as this one in his Financial Times interview (my emphasis):
I am no defender whatsoever of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or Russian foreign policy any more than I defend the west’s foreign policy but I do feel nervous about this expansion eastward and the consequent militarisation of Russia. I think the important thing is that there be a better-developed relationship with Russia and [efforts to] demilitarise on both sides of the border [with Ukraine] . . . The onus is on both sides to make that happen.
As the old saying goes, everything before the 'but' is BS. Then there is the question of what you do in Corbyn's scenario if the 'other side' fails to demilitarise - which is exactly what is going on right now as Russia continues to pour in troops and equipment. Just keep talking and/or aid the Ukrainians?

When Crimea was invaded, it was recently reported, the Ukrainians were advised not to put up a fight by both the Americans and the Europeans. As it happened during the chaotic situation just after Yanukovych exited the new government was not really in a position to put up a fight anyway, as later events made very clear the military was a mess. So we had the humiliating scenes of Ukrainian bases in Crimea being besieged by the Little Green Men.

That Crimea could be so easily taken surprised the Kremlin and emboldened them in the Donbas. Although she doesn't cite Crimea, that's evidence which supports Yvette Cooper's claim at the Channel Four hustings that soft power does not work with Putin.

We know that Corbyn thinks we shouldn't aid Ukraine as we now are with night vision goggles, meals ready to eat and training, because in his world that just 'provokes' poor Russia who then have to respond to the nasty West. So what do we do when we talk to them? Ask nicely? He's yet to be asked whether sanctions are a good idea but I think we all know what he'd say.*

Next month the MH17 report will come out from the Dutch Safety Board. This will lay out in detail just how come Russia was responsible for downing the Boeing - and killing ten Brits. There will be a renewed call, if not a screaming demand, for more sanctions.

What will Corbyn say on MH17? 

Lewes Bonfire Night
The reaction to the MH17 report will immediately bring to the surface who is deciding foreign policy in the Party and whether Corbyn will continue to play the game of saying bad things are indeed bad but actually the biggest baddest West is always ultimately responsible. Going on past practice that is exactly what will happen with any MH17 statement from him and it will be facepalm godawful.

When we ask about foreign policy we are told and Corbyn has said that he supports greater democracy in Labour policy decisions. This does not fill me with confidence either having seen countless repetition on Kremlin memes, even from the likes of Eric Joyce, and when YouGov finds that nearly a third of Corbyn supporters think the world is controlled by a 'secret elite' and half that "the United States is the greatest single threat to world peace." Then, as Nick Cohen has pointed out, also take note that there are plenty on the right in Labour who believe in 'realpolitic' or are actually in the pay of Russia, Mandelson for one obvious example.

Good luck to anyone trying to patiently explain internally in Labour how Corbyn's statements align with Marine LePen's (which they do). It'll be 'how very dare you!' Already is.

Interestingly the pro-Kremlin Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald also puts Corbyn in the same camp as LePen for his anti-Americanism. And MacDonald points out that this position is popular - he's not wrong, as any visit to the comments on the Daily Mail website will tell you. 'Why should Britain support Ukraine, we're better off out of it' is hardly an unpopular or, probably, vote losing stance.

I've also pointed out that Russia would deploy all to get the UK's alternative government onside. Meaning spies. This is far from a ridiculous red-baiting argument as they've already been exposed trying to infiltrate the Tories, as well as the establishment in France and other European countries.

MH17 will be an immediate test of all these factors. Will Labour supporters buy into what will undoubtedly be an all-out effort by the Kremlin to confuse and to defame the Dutch? Will Labour MPs stand up to Corbyn when he says it was an awful thing to happen and he condemns those responsible but it wouldn't have happened if pesky NATO hadn't been involved? For MPs it does not bode well.

We just had a two month leadership campaign where a war in Europe barely came up and when it did, at the last moment, it was obviously not important. The other leadership candidates clearly didn't understand much about it (otherwise they would have raised it much earlier). Corbyn's other opponents mostly didn't either. Anyone trying to raise the issue was literally laughed at or dismissed, never debated with.

Tell me again how come Ukraine isn't going to be stuffed by Labour because I'm buggered if I can find one reason to not think it will be.

* There's so much of it one loses track ... of course Jeremy opposes any sanctions on Russia.
** On the appointment of the Guardian journalist Seumas Milne as Corbyn's PR + strategy guy I discovered that Milne has said similar stuff.

Edited to add: When the MH17 report came out it was worse than Corbyn saying something stupid - no one from Labour said anything at all. No one.


  1. Thanks for keeping the focus on this Paul. You are absolutely right, again. What I fail to understand re JC (whom, I would like to support) and Ukraine, is his position regarding nuclear weapons and the future of the NPT.
    Even if, as it seems, he sincerely believes the trigger for the Russo-Ukrainian is down to NATO and a geo political struggle then surely his anti imperialism would lead him to support Ukraine, the country in the middle that gave up nuclear weapons. I don't understand why he would not be talking about a rescue package for Ukraine in order to save the NPT.
    Much of 'the left' and all of the Green parties in Britain seem to have abandoned the NPT along with Ukraine

    1. Ukraine is seen within the prism of geopolitics. His anti-Americanism drives him to blame the West for everything, even when the West is doing nothing or next to it. This supersedes everything, including the NPT, to the point where he just makes stuff up, as we have repeatedly seen.

      I am heatedly sick of seeing him portrayed as a man of peace because he is not, he supports Russian imperialism and that mean war.