Corbyn is right on Russia

By Mark Buckley

Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, backed a thorough investigation and is urging political leaders to act with calm heads and base their response to the attacks on real evidence. Given the absence of the latter he has cautioned against a new ‘cold war’ and an escalation of military spending.

For taking this correct stance on the attacks in Salisbury and the unsubstantiated accusations levelled at Russia, Corbyn has come under ferocious attack from the Tories, the mainstream media and a number of right wing Labour MPs. In essence this is a denunciation because he will not give a carte blanche to the Tory government in anything it may do to ramp up hostilities against Russia. He is excoriated because he refuses to be a Tory stooge.

The actual facts of the case may never be fully known. By their nature security services, whether in this country or any other operate largely in secret and with subterfuge. The practice of false flag operations is known to them all.

Even Theresa May does not claim that there is unequivocal proof of Russian state culpability. The scientists at the research establishment at Porton Down will only go so far as to say that the poison is ‘of a type developed by Russia’. Internationally, some well-informed observers suggest that it is unlikely that Vladimir Putin was behind the attack. The attack certainly fails the test of who benefits? The Russian authorities have been attempting to loosen Western sanctions imposed on it since the conflict in the Crimea and anything that is seen as an act of aggression undermines its own efforts.

Jeremy Corbyn makes two key points. First, that the charge of Russian state direction of the attack in Salisbury is not proven. Second, that war with Russia is in any event inconceivable and the opening of a new ‘cold war’ is highly undesirable. Therefore some mechanisms of dialogue and negotiation must be found to reach a new relationship between Britain and Russia. For these entirely correct points, he is pilloried.

It is clear from May’s own statements and those of officials that the first point is correct. As Russia is the world’s second most important military power behind the US and retains nuclear weapons, Corbyn’s second point should be self-evident. As is clear on numerous issues from the Iraq war to the disastrous NATO attack on Libya Corbyn’s position has been proved right against the Western neo-cons are cold war advocates.

Logic has not prevented the puerile Foreign and Defence Secretaries from claiming knowledge of Russia’s guilt and calling for significantly increased military spending in response to Salisbury. This is the real thrust of UK policy, to get as close as possible to the most belligerent anti-Russia (and anti-China) forces in the US Administration.

Jeremy Corbyn’s position, which is for a policy based on evidence and rationality, for improving state relations and peace, runs counter to this Cold War II perspective. The aim is to use this as a key issue to derail Corbynism. Immediately in the sights are Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray, simply because they are stalwarts of the anti-war movement who play important roles in the leadership team.

The Cold War warriors and enemies of Corbyn should not be allowed to succeed. The traditions of British foreign policy have led it into a string of disastrous foreign wars and interventions. Whole countries and literally millions of lives have been ruined as a result. Corbyn offers a much better way on both domestic and international policy.