A letter to The Daily Telegraph, 26 November 2018
Handling the Russian Threat
SIR - That the new head of the army, General Mark Carleton Smith, should say that he needs more troops is not surprising. (Daily Telegraph page 24 interview and front page Saturday 24 November) To back this up he naturally needs to point to an enemy that threatens us. Russia fits this requirement admirably. Russia has been guilty of acts of aggression illegal under international law and many actions designed to harass the UK.
How should Britain respond? General Carleton Smith seems to be suggesting that we should be building up our forces to be able to fight Russia. Can we not imagine the enormity of the disaster this would be?
We need an alternative approach. We need Russia to reduce its military strength and activity and give up its nuclear weapons. To persuade Russia to do this we need to transform our relationship with this country, just as we have done with other former enemies such as France and Germany.
What we have done in recent years and at the present time has been counterproductive, only encouraging Russia's aggressive military stance. For example, welcoming former Soviet States into NATO could not enhance Russia's sense of security. And more recently British troops in Estonia carrying out military exercises along the Russian border can only be seen by Russia as highly provocative.
Can we understand that president Putin's personal standing is being undermined by our behaviour and that gestures of self-assertion and Russia's shows of military strength are only to be expected.
The old days (decades) of hostile attitudes, even “mutually assured destruction”, need to be replaced by mutually assured help and cooperation. Many will say, look at Putin's record of illegal aggression. We can't deal with him. But if we examine our own record of illegal aggression this century our record might be considered no better. Can Putin be trusted? Germany seems to think so. Germany relies on Russia for over one-third of its natural gas supplies. The world trades with Russia.
We need to recall our troops from Estonia and change our diplomatic approach to Russia.