“In every major conflict this century Stop the War has been right and the Labour Leader of the day has been wrong – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. That is surely true in this case too.”
By Andrew Murray, Stop the War
Keir Starmer’s extraordinary attack on Stop the War falsifies our policy in relation to the Ukraine crisis. Nothing we have said justifies any claim that we are supporting aggression.
He does however remind us of two thing. The first is that he is desperate to align Labour with the establishment on every issue, and denouncing Stop the War aligns with that project.
The second is that it reminds the world that in every major conflict this century Stop the War has been right and the Labour Leader of the day has been wrong – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. That is surely true in this case too.
To be clear, we are against anyone starting military action in the Ukraine-Russia crisis. There is no justification. We stand for a diplomatic resolution of the dispute.
We also acknowledge the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination, at the same time as we recognise some of Russia’s security concerns. I am not going to talk about Ukrainian politics tonight, beyond pointing out that it is a very divided country in terms of identities, and self-determination should apply to communities and regions which have a strong Russian identity too.
Stop the War is unashamed that our focus is rather on the British government. The Johnson government is talking up war at every opportunity, more than any other government involved. Every day there is a new scare story from ministers about coups, imminent invasion and so on.
At the same time the government has sent new arms to Ukraine and deployed more British troops into Eastern Europe – the very things Russia has raised concerns about. It is almost as if the British government wants to provoke a conflict.
It has shown less interest in diplomacy than the US. And it has done nothing to emulate the efforts of Macron in France or the German government in seeking to de-escalate and pursue a peaceful resolution.
We need to be clear on a couple of things about NATO, since NATO expansion is at the heart of this. First, there is no right for a country to join NATO, and its rights are not violated if they are not allowed to. Existing members decide who can be admitted, which in reality means it is determined in Washington. That is why the breach of promises made to Gorbachev in 1991 not to expand NATO eastwards seems so menacing to Moscow.
Second, it is simply false to pretend any longer that NATO is a defensive alliance. The aggressions against Yugoslavia and Libya, and the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan were all carried out under NATO auspices. And while NATO was not directly party to the Iraq war, its main powers obviously were. This is not a peaceful record.
Nor can any comfort be taken from the fact that the Ukrainian regime celebrates Nazi collaborators and mass murderers.
And those now concerned about Ukrainian sovereignty were silent in 2014 when Victoria Nuland, then and again today a senior US diplomat, chose the next Ukrainian premier at the height of the insurrection. It is this endless drive to US hegemony across Europe, as in other parts of the world, that lies at the root of the present instability.
We believe that the solution lies firstly in a return to implementing the Minsk accords signed by Russia and Ukraine with France and Germany in 2015 to end the bleeding wound of the Donbas. The Ukrainian government has yet to fulfil its commitments.
Secondly, there needs to be a new security arrangement for all of Europe, under the hegemony and direction of no one power, replacing the policy of NATO expansion.
That is not what the British government, or the British opposition, seem to want. It is as if they wanted a conflict, if not an all-out shooting war, as a pretext to entrench further in eastern Europe.
That is a policy that leads to war, and Stop the War will continue to oppose it.
- Andrew Murray is a co-founder and former chair or Stop the War. Follow them on Facebook here, and twitter here.
- This article is a published version of a speech given by Andrew Murray at the Labour Outlook forum: “No to Blair’s Knighthood – No Return to Blairism” on Thursday, 10th February. You can watch the event in full here.