WITH the Allied victory over fascism, a new division in Europe set two social and economic systems in competition.
The so-called Iron Curtain and the border between capitalist and socialist Germany was far enough from the western boundary of the Soviet Union to give adequate warning of a missile strike and allow its leaders a measure of tranquillity.
Once the power to threaten unilateral nuclear destruction that the US monopoly of nuclear weaponry conferred was lifted — this by the Soviet’s acquisition of these weapons of mass destruction — an uneasy peace became possible.
When this relative peace was disturbed in the mid-1980s — this time by the threat of US short- and medium-range nuclear missiles sited in Europe — millions across our continent were mobilised in opposition.
Even the most devoted of Nato’s fans among international social democracy proved reluctant to die in a nuclear exchange that, by US strategic doctrine, would be confined to Europe.
People power in the form of mass demonstrations, which Labour officially supported, plus diplomacy driven by an instinct for self-preservation resulted in a series of East/West agreements which defused tension and only recently have been unilaterally broken by the US.
The situation today is that with the dismantling of socialist state power, capitalism forms a fractious chain from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific.
Europe feels unsafe again. And it is not because of any hypothetical threat from a non-existent socialist state power, but because capitalism in this most degenerate stage is riven by economic crisis and inter-imperialist rivalry.
According to the twin tropes of Nato propaganda, faithfully reproduced by a compliant media in every Western state, the Russian army is both an existential threat to the liberal democratic order and simultaneously so inadequate in its training, command and operational state that it is being defeated by plucky little Ukraine.
When people — from top US foreign policy figures to the Pope — agree that the expansion of Nato to the borders of Russia was and is a geopolitical error of great danger, we can also understand that Putin’s invasion is also not simply a crime but a gross error of judgment.
Thursday’s proposition that Finland join the Nato bloc — and the probable confirmation today that Sweden will take the same step — illustrates just how the errors of judgment and miscalculations that allowed the Ukraine situation to get out of hand now threaten not just the prospects of peace on our continent but also the security of the Russian state.
The threat of a nuclear exchange between Nato and Russia increases with every speech that ramps up tension, with every escalation of the conflict and with the profligate export of taxpayer-subsidised arms deliveries to the region.
Nato and Russia together have over 12,000 nuclear weapons between them. The chances of nuclear war have never been greater.
Putin has been forced to recalibrate his war aims to centre the defence of the threatened peoples of Donetsk and Donbass, which at least corresponds to the basis on which the mass of Russian people tolerate their government’s actions.
If Labour today was a shadow of its 1980s self, it would pressure our government to end arms exports, dial down the cold war rhetoric and negotiate for a return to talks that can secure a Russian withdrawal and a guaranteed neutrality for Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky agreed once that the Minsk accords were such a guarantee. The reactionary forces within Ukraine and the Nato pressures from without that hold him hostage are a barrier to a renewal of that process.
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