Saturday, 30 August 2014


The NATO road show is here the helicopters and wall to wall parked up riot vans might have been a clue and the fact that there are more coppers on the streets than in New York. NATO is firmly dug in the centre of Cardiff and on the north eastern fringes of Newport in and around the Celtic Manor (in the historic Vale of Usk). 

Anti-War protests - Ukrainian style (AP)

In Newport and Cardiff people are understandably complaining about the disruption caused by the NATO summit. The disruption is ironically a result of other people making decisions on our behalf – ‘Let’s give put the summit in Wales, it will keep them (the Welsh) happy and quiet, make them feel important, etc.’ – hence the farcical arguments over the logo - this has that patronising Westminster attitude to the periphery written all over.

Many people in the south east will have little choice but to live with any disruption and any traffic chaos. I suspect that the people of eastern Ukraine would prefer columns of VIP limos rolling through their towns and along their highways to columns of Russian tanks. People might moan about NATO but I suspect that it has always been relatively easy to leave NATO by way of comparison with leaving the old Warsaw Pact.

Hordes (according to the Police, not that many according to the protestors) of noisy protestors are apparently coming to protest in Newport. We even have the added joy of hosting a probably unwanted (by most of the people of Newport – as if they were ever going to be asked) so called ‘peace camp’.  All this inconvenience in truth pales into insignificance by way of comparison with what is going in eastern Ukraine and Syria and north western Iraq.

NSATO satellite photos (REUTERS) 

I suspect that some of the older former fellow travellers who will be happily protesting on successive Saturday’s in Newport against NATO would I suspect have been quite happy for the Soviet Union – that prison of peoples - to have survived. They tend to self-selecting when it comes to causes and probably would have remained silent (had they been around) when the old USSR invaded Hungary (in 1956) and Czechoslovakia (in 1968) yet raised their voices over Vietnam.

It’s the selective silence of some of the demonstrators that’s quite interesting, silence over the slaughter in Congo (formerly Zaire), silence over the genocide in South Sudan (and little support for their struggle to achieve independence), the silence over East Timor during the long murderously brutal Indonesian occupation and a continuing silence over West Papua. Not to mention the silence over Tibet, which continues to endure a brutal occupation at the hands of the Peoples Republic of China.

My sympathies are with the victims of Russia’s blatant aggression in the Ukraine and the victims of IS (formerly ISIS) in Iraq and Syria rather than the anti-NATO protestors. Few of the protestors will I suspect offer any support to the people of the Ukraine or those trying to fight of IS (ISIS). NATO might have its faults but public collective security did the job and prevented the western half of Europe form being overrun by the Soviet Union in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.

Human Rights Watch has incidentally announced that pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine have been (and are) "regularly" detaining and torturing civilians. Human Rights Watch reports that fighters supporting rebel strongholds in the region have "captured hundreds of civilians" including journalists, pro-Ukrainian political activists and in some cases their family members since they took control of the region back in April 2014. Over 2,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Ukraine should understandably be a key issue on Friday, as NATO released satellite images showing Russian forces inside Ukraine and has suggested that more than 1,000 troops were operating there. US President Barack Obama has accused Russia of being responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The President said the fighting was not the result of a home-grown uprising but of "deep Russian involvement".

The new satellite images make Russia’s role in the crisis pretty clear. Heavy fighting continues near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Rebel forces are trying to capture the city but Ukrainian government troops are digging in. Since Thursday the insurgents (funded, directed and supported by Russia) have seized the south-eastern coastal town of Novoazovsk.

Much of the current crisis in Ukraine and NATO’s poor relations with Russia are a result of shortsighted bad decisions. Russia a few years ago was openly humiliated over Kosovo by the US (and NATO). The West failed to help Russia during the painful transition from a collapsed Soviet Union to the post Soviet economic reality.

Rather than help, support and assistance all Russia got was bad advice in relation to a brutal rapid privatisation process that shattered the old Soviet economy and paved the way for the rise of the Oligarchs. The most important side effect of this was that any prospects of the emergence of a stable democratic Russia were dashed the consequences of which we all have to live with now. As for the demo’s 10,000 people waving Ukrainian flag and calling for action might impress me…

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