Nigel Farage is Right That Putin is Worried About NATO – And Richard Kemp is Wrong

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Nigel Farage is Right That Putin is Worried About NATO – And Richard Kemp is Wrong

The retired British Colonel Richard Kemp has written a piece for the Telegraph, accusing Nigel Farage of “playing into our enemies’ hands” after Farage claimed that “we provoked” the war in Ukraine. What follows is a point-by-point rebuttal of Kemp’s article.

While he disapproves of Putin’s actions, it appears Farage actually believes that his pretext for war is genuine. That is something he has in common with Jeremy Corbyn.

Kemp is attempting to impugn Farage through guilt-by-association with Jeremy Corbyn. This is a poor argument and qualifies as a logical fallacy.

That was the man Keir Starmer said would have made a better prime minister than Boris Johnson, one of Ukraine’s most staunch defenders.

Kemp is contrasting Corbyn, and by extension Farage, with Boris Johnson – whom he describes as “one of Ukraine’s most staunch defenders”. What he doesn’t mention is that Johnson made the same argument as Farage back in 2016, and was summarily accused of being a “Putin apologist”. A plausible reason why Johnson changed his mind that he is not very principled: back in 2016, he wanted to be Tory leader; now he wants to be head of NATO.

If Farage and Corbyn are right, then what is the answer? Should we expel Poland, Romania and the other eastern European member states from the alliance to end the war and prevent further aggression?

To my knowledge, no one is suggesting that we should expel existing NATO members from the alliance. This is a straw man – another logical fallacy. Rather, the answer is to pursue some kind of diplomacy. One proposal has been put forward by George Beebe and Anatol Lieven – two of the many experts who disagree with Western policy but have been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Perhaps all our foreign policy decisions should be calibrated to avoid upsetting Putin.

Kemp is presenting a false dichotomy – another logical fallacy. He is suggesting that if we don’t follow his preferred policy of continuing the war, then we have to cede to all of Russia’s demands. This is obviously wrong.

Incidentally, it is not just Putin that is “upset” by Western policy. As William Burns (the former U.S. Secretary of State and current CIA Director) wrote in 2008:

Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.

Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.

Kemp would have us believe that the entire conflict can be traced back to the delusional ambitions of a single man. But this is a cartoonish view. In fact, if Putin were replaced by someone else from his faction of the elite, it is plausible that person would continue or even escalate the war.

It might be logical to similarly defer to China’s sensibilities for fear of provoking President Xi.

Kemp is stating this sarcastically, but it actually is logical. Why would it not be logical to take into account the interests of the world’s second biggest power? Again, this doesn’t mean we have to capitulate to China and give them everything they want. It’s about being realistic. We can’t afford to act like this is the 19th century when Britain engaged in gunboat diplomacy and much of the world map was coloured pink.

NATO is a purely defensive alliance, which does not present any conceivable military threat to Russia.

Kemp is being painfully disingenuous here. It is indisputable that NATO is not a “purely” defensive alliance. In 1999, it bombed Serbia – even though Serbia had not attacked or threatened any NATO members. Then in 2011, it bombed Libya – which had also not attacked or threatened any NATO members. Regardless of whether these actions were justified, there is no way to claim they were “defensive” from NATO’s point of view.

And it is irrelevant that Kemp believes NATO “does not present any conceivable military threat to Russia”. What matters is what the Russians believe; Kemp has apparently never heard of the security dilemma.

Russia has an obvious interest in maintaining its control over Crimea, which Ukraine and most or all NATO countries still recognise as Ukrainian territory – despite overwhelmingly support for annexation among Crimeans. Even Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, stated in a speech that Putin “went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO, close to his border”.

In an article [Putin] published in 2021, shortly before the 2022 invasion, he barely mentioned NATO but spoke of Ukraine.

Kemp mentions Putin’s 2021 article, which only mentioned NATO twice. However, he neglects to mention Putin’s speech on February 21st 2022, which mentioned NATO 40 times. Nor does he mention Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson, in which Putin mentioned NATO repeatedly – contrary to widespread claims. Russian elites have expressed their opposition to NATO expansion numerous times over the last few decades. This includes the great Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

He is worried that greater prosperity, especially in his next door neighbour Ukraine, will be looked at with envy by his own population.

This is a common claim, but it is not very plausible. Since 1990, Ukraine has performed worse than Russia and far worse than Belarus, a close ally of Russia. Belarussian living standards have grown by more than 100%, whereas Ukrainian living standards remain well below their 1990 level. This is most likely due to rampant corruption by Ukrainian elites.

Surely the Reform leader would not argue that any sovereign country should be denied membership of an economic union or even a military alliance because an authoritarian rival vetoed it.

In 2022, China and the Solomon Islands were negotiating a security agreement that might have led to the construction of a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands. In response, the Australian Prime Minister announced that China must not build a military base “on our doorstep”, and that doing so would be a “red line”. The White House likewise warned that it would “respond accordingly”.

It may come as news to Kemp that great powers have an interest in preventing their rivals establishing military bases close to their territory. Sometimes, it may be appropriate for their rivals to accommodate those interests. The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved when the Soviet Union agreed to remove its nuclear weapons from Cuba, thereby recognising vital U.S. interests. By Kemp’s logic, it shouldn’t have agreed to do this.