The following are comments from someone called Mike Pennings who is apparently a minister of state in the UK government concerning a movement of Russian ships through international waters in the English channel:

Most of us thought the cold war was over. We thought we could look at the threats from other parts of the world and apply our defence accordingly. In the past couple of months we have had to look back to the old foe. We saw their fleet sailing through the English Channel, probably as a sign of what they could do.

We saw black smoke coming out of the top of the aircraft carrier—she could not have gone a knot faster if she had tried because she is so old and decrepit—but she represents a threat. Could they have gone round the north, as they have done before?

In fact, the weather was very bad off the west coast at the time, but probably they were sending a message. Our boys and girls in our armed forces shadowed her man for man as she came through. I know that because I was on a frigate in the channel while the aircraft carrier was coming through.

[On defence spending] Could we spend more? I am sure we could, but 2 per cent is a Nato guideline. Would it not be great…if the other Nato countries also stepped up to the plate and spent 2 per cent of their GDP on defence?”

What great news it was today that our GDP has increased, even though scaremongers, including the BBC and others, said that the economy was in a dive after Brexit. It has gone in the opposite direction, which will mean there is more money to be spent.

No Defence Minister would stand up and say, “No, we wouldn’t like to have more money,” and anybody who did would not be telling the truth. However, we have to live within our means and make sure that what we get is spent correctly. [1]

So. Mr Penning doesn’t forget to tell us about his big moment on a frigate in the channel. But he can’t his story straight. Is the Russian fleet a rusting joke or a real threat to the UK? It doesn’t matter. It will be used to call for more tax-payers’ money for British Aerospace and US arms corporations anyway. In passing we can note that these people think it acceptable to use the most undiplomatic of language. Even if you believe that Russia is a “foe” a decent person still shows some respect rather than abusing their flag-ship in the crude, vulgar, language of a street urchin. When these people do this they just show how little class they have…

Logically his remarks don’t stand up. While Russia sailing a fleet near the UK’s borders is an act of aggression by a “foe” the UK can do as it please. Only in February his boss, the equally foolish man, Michael Fallon was promising to send 5 warships to the Baltic Sea. [2] And the UK’s master, the US, is continually rotating destroyers into the Black Sea. [3] In June 2015 NATO staged a mock landing just 100 miles from Russia’s borders! [4]

It is imbecilic to think that your warships are like doves and Russian warships like dragons breathing fire. That “our” actions are peaceful and cannot be construed as a “threat” by the other side, whereas their actions are always deliberately threatening.

(We could add. At least the Russian warships are on their way somewhere. The NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea are all pointing directly at Russia).

The explanation for this irrationality, by which one sees ones own military actions as always “peaceful” and those of the “foe” as always “aggressive”, is the same as it has always been. Roman senators also saw their Empire as imposing peace. Barbarians (even ones living quite happily on the periphery) were always aggressive. The conviction of innate superiority. A belief in a divine right to rule. An inability to think rationally and objectively. An inability to acknowledge that the other could even have valid interests of their own. The thinking is all lop-sided. And still, after 150 years of compulsory schooling, and even with people who’ve been to University in a modern ahem ‘democracy’ in the 20th century it still happens. It presents a spectacle which is bizarre and alarming at the same time. It’s also potentially a little dangerous.

If Mr Penning is startled to find himself looking again at an old “foe” as if it were the Cold War all over again he could do well to ask himself what his actions, and those of his department, may have contributed to this sense of déjà vu.

Update – faking threats and winning contracts

The Western political ‘elite’ seem to think they can bash Russia in every possible way – economic sanctions designed to strangle its economy, military pressure (building up forces all around its borders), an active campaign of denigration of Russia in the press, constant accusations about “war crimes”  and so on, and then when Russia adapts its policy and the tone of its dialog (for example withdrawing from a certain treaty, seeking new economic alliances of its own, criticising Western policy) it is seen as “aggressive”.

This is the head of Britain’s MI5:

Russia increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the West and seems to act accordingly. You can see that on the ground with Russia’s activities in Ukraine and Syria [5]

This is the same bizarre mental disease as the imperialists. They bash someone (the economic sanctions for example are openly and explicitly designed to smash the Russian economy) and then when there is any kind of protest that is seen as ‘aggression’ and disobedience. The other is allowed only to be submissive or not exist at all. This is the psychopathology of the wife-beater.  There is no room for a partnership of equals.

In Syria and in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine Russia has rational national interests. They’ve acted to defend those interests. They haven’t done that like a spoilt child in “oppositional defiant” mode for the sake of picking a fight. They’ve done that because they have interests and have taken a decision that they will pursue them even knowing it will cause problems with the West – which has its own ambitions. Russia is engaged in a programme of modernising and for that matter ‘Westernising’ both its economy [6] and its social institutions. (For example adopting up to date standards in child care). On the international stage Russia has joined the WTO. It continually seeks negotiation on matters of international tension. Of course; Parker is free to believe that all the Russian attempts to negotiate with its international partners are a front carefully coordinated at every level of the Russian government for years on end. But, the overwhelming evidence is that Russia is forging ahead as its own nation which wants to integrate into the ‘world order’ albeit without sacrificing its national interests and history.

If this is the level of ‘analysis’ offered by Britain’s leading intelligence officer matters have come to an alarming pass. Not to mention questions about how the tax-payers’ money is being spent in paying Andrew Parker’s salary… On the other hand, and there is no point being naive, Mr Parker is not paid to provide the British political ‘elite’ with objective analysis. The role of the intelligence services is to support British imperialist policy by fair means or foul. “Sexing up” (faking) the “threat” posed by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a case in point. Manipulating public opinion by planting stories in the press is par for the course. (In the run up to the Iraq war MI6 was planting stories in the media in non-aligned countries in an attempt to manipulate the UN vote). [9] So – Parker is simply doing his job. He may even be very good at it. It just doesn’t include providing neutral, objective, analysis.

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that on the same day that Parker gives an exclusive interview to the Guardian about the “Russian threat” [7] the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has announced massive increase in spending on “cyber-defence”. [8] Great news for the US/UK corporate IT industries but bad news for ordinary people.


1. Daily Telegraph. 29 October 2016.

2. Guardian. February 2016. UK to send 5 warships to the Baltic

3. RT. July 2016. US Destroyer enters Black Sea

4. Guardian. June 2015. Report on NATO landing exercise near Kalingrad

5. RT. November 2016. Report on MI5 head, Andrew Parker’s comments to the media

6. New Obs. Review of OECD report on Russia

7. Guardian. Nov 2016. MI5 head Andrew Parker gives exclusive interview to the Guardian 

8. Guardian. Nov 2016. Philip Hammond announces increase in spending on cyber-security.

9. Scott Ritter. War on Iraq. Profile Books 2002

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer