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7 reasons why by comparison with the USSR the US is losing in Afghanistan

The US is waging at inordinate cost a war in Afghanistan in which it has failed to come up with an achievable objective

Alexander Mercouris

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Today, shortly after admitting that the war in Afghanistan is being lost, US President Trump is wrapping up a strategy session with his top military and political advisers at Camp David to decide the strategy to turn the situation round.

Present will be the entire foreign policy team which following the recent purges of top officials is slowly shaping up as the definitive foreign policy team of the Trump administration: Generals Kelly, McMaster and Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, and the heads of the US intelligence community, DNI director Dan Coats and CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

These people are all without exception conservative establishment figures, and with the sole possible exception of Secretary of State Tillerson – who has shown a certain independence of mind on some issues – their approach to questions of war and peace can be summed up with the words: more of the same.

It is probably not a coincidence that the one senior Trump administration official who is known to have held different views about Afghanistan – former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon – was forced to quit just before the session.

That makes it a virtual certainty that the policy that is going to be announced for Afghanistan within the next few hours will be ‘more of the same’, apparently in the form of 4-5,000 extra US troops to ‘stabilise’ the situation there.

Needless to say any suggestion of talks with the Taliban to end the war – an idea now being actively promoted by the Russians as the only viable one – is being ruled out.

Steve Bannon for his part is known to have advocated a total pullout from Afghanistan, with the country being left to take of itself.  Needless to say, that option is being ruled out as well.

At this point a brief discussion of comparisons between the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the US war in Afghanistan, which has been going on continuously since 2001, is useful.

The differences are in fact profound and many, and here they are

(1) the USSR intervened in 1979 to stabilise the existing government of Afghanistan; the US intervened in Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow its government;

(2) the Soviet presence in Afghanistan lasted a total of 9 years; the US presence in Afghanistan has now lasted for 16 years and is still continuing;

(3) the Jihadi rebels who fought the USSR and the Afghan government in the 1980s (the so-called “Mujahedeen”) were strongly backed by the US and by a coalition of US allies including Pakistan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  They were provided with secure base areas in Pakistan and were also abundantly supplied with often sophisticated weapons including famously Stinger anti aircraft missiles.

By contrast the Taliban has received no overt support from any foreign government and has fought the US and the US led coalition largely on its own;

(4) The total number of Soviet troops who passed through Afghanistan in the 1980s is put at 620,000, though the actual number present in Afghanistan at any one time was never more than 80-104,000 (the latter is the absolute peak figure).

The total number of US troops who have passed through Afghanistan is surprisingly difficult to come by; however the peak number of US troops in Afghanistan at any one time seems to have been around 30,000.  To these of course should be added the various troop contributions made by various US allies, though these have varied widely both in number and effectiveness.

(5) Total irrecoverable losses of Soviet personnel in Afghanistan are put at 14,453.  US military deaths in Afghanistan as of 18th October 2016 are put at 2,386 military deaths and 1,173 US civilian contractor deaths.

Note however that these figures may not be exactly comparable.  The US figure apparently reports combat related deaths in the area of conflict (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan).

Apparently the Soviet figure includes deaths of wounded personnel outside ‘the area of conflict’ (ie. in hospitals in the interior of Russia) and also the significant number of non-combat caused deaths caused by accidents and above all by sickness of which there were apparently many because of the partial failure of the Soviet logistic system in Afghanistan, especially in the early years of the Soviet intervention there.

To arrive at figures that would be fully comparable losses suffered by US allies in Afghanistan should also be added to the US totals.  Britain has for example reported 454 deaths as of 24th July 2015.

The total number of deaths suffered by the US coalition in Afghanistan was put at 3,407 in October 2015 inclusive of the US combat deaths the method of calculation of which is discussed above.

(6) A February 1987 a US intelligence assessment calculated the total financial cost of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan to the USSR as 15 billion roubles, which would have been about the same amount in 1980s US dollars.  Note that this includes both military and civilian spending including economic assistance.  This is now known to have been an overestimate based on an over-high calculation of Soviet casualties (assumed to be 30,000).

The total financial cost of the US intervention in Afghanistan has been officially estimated at $1 trillion as of October 2015 (unofficial estimates put the cost much higher, though other estimates pitch it lower at $780 billion).

According to official US government estimates the US is spending $4 million an hour on the military side of its war in Afghanistan.

An independent British study has estimated the total financial cost of the British intervention in Afghanistan to Britain as £37 billion.

(7) The USSR withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after the Soviet backed government there had been stabilised and when it was in secure control of all of Afghanistan’s main towns and cities.

Contrary to widespread predictions the Afghan government survived the Soviet withdrawal and only finally collapsed in the spring of 1992, several months after the USSR had itself collapsed, and only after Soviet aid to Afghanistan was stopped.

Even then the final collapse of the Soviet backed government was not caused by a Mujahedeen military victory but by factional infighting within the government which led to an internal coup.

The current US backed government is said to be losing control of more and more of the territory of Afghanistan despite the continued presence of US troops there, and clearly is not expected by the US to survive a full US withdrawal, as shown by the expected US decision to commit more US troops to fight there.

To summarise:

The war the USSR fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s was shorter and far more intense, with the Soviet army having to fight an enemy strongly supported by outside powers.

The result was that on any calculation the Soviet casualty and death rate was much higher, with the USSR forced to deploy to Afghanistan large numbers of troops who were required to engaged in regular combat operations.

However by 1988-1989 the Soviet backed Afghan government, which in 1979 had appeared to be on the brink of collapse largely because of factional infighting, had been fully stabilised as the Soviets had intended, enabling the USSR to withdraw its troops from the country.

The US since 2001 has been in Afghanistan much longer.  It has deployed fewer troops there than the USSR did against an enemy who has lacked overt foreign support. As a result it has suffered far fewer combat losses.

However it has made up for this by spending on its war far more than the USSR ever did.  Indeed the financial cost to the US of its war totally dwarfs the financial cost to the USSR of its war.

It seems moreover that most of this cost has been caused by the prodigious use of inordinately expensive weapons and logistics support rather than in providing Afghanistan with economic support, though in purely monetary times (though possibly not effectiveness) the economic support the US has provided Afghanistan has also completely dwarfed what the USSR provided Afghanistan in the 1980s.

However despite this colossal commitment of resources, in the time since the US intervened the government it created and imposed on the country has not stabilised, is said to be riddled with corruption, and apparently lacks legitimacy, whilst the enemy the US is fighting, far from being defeated, is gaining territory and appears to be growing stronger, despite having no overt external support.

What conclusions can be drawn from this?

The Soviet decision to intervene in Afghanistan was a disastrous error of which the USSR repented at leisure.  Having however made – and recognised – their mistake, the Soviets nonetheless went on to make the best of a bad job, waging war in Afghanistan effectively in a way that by 1989 meant that the mission – to stabilise and save the Soviet backed government – was successfully done.

It is a fundamental error – though one Western commentators can never resist making – to think that because the Soviet backed government eventually collapsed some months after the USSR had itself collapsed, that the USSR was defeated in Afghanistan and that the collapse of the Soviet backed government of Afghanistan was inevitable once the USSR withdrew.

On the contrary there is every reason to think that if the USSR had survived and continued to support Afghanistan’s Soviet backed government with arms and supplies at the same level that it did up to the moment of its own collapse, that the Soviet backed government which the USSR in 1979 intervened in Afghanistan to save would also have survived, in which case it would probably still be the government of Afghanistan now.

The US decision to intervene in Afghanistan in 2001 was also a disastrous error, though it has never in the US been officially recognised as such.

However the stated objective of the intervention – to achieve the capture of Osama bin Laden – was fully achievable diplomatically, with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elements of the Taliban all committed to helping the US achieve it.  It was the US decision to intervene in Afghanistan militarily that made that impossible, facilitating Osama bin Laden’s escape, and ensuring his survival for a further ten years.

Since then the US has failed to hit on a coherent or achievable objective for the war it is continuing to fight in Afghanistan.  However it has continued to fight the war in its usual way, by trying to minimise casualties by fighting the war at astronomic financial cost.

The result is that no discernible objective is being achieved because the US has never come up with one.  Instead, in the absence of an achievable objective the US can realistically focus on and work towards, the US position in Afghanistan is all too predictably sliding towards defeat and crisis.

I am completely unable to see how ‘more of the same’ is going to change any of that, but judging from what we are hearing coming out of Camp David, that is what we are going to get.

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Shakesvshav
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Shakesvshav

Similar view here: http://www.statecraft.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/NATO Papers 3 Lessons from the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.pdf

Simon
Guest
Simon

Fair enough on all the negatives, but unlike the Soviet intervention the US version has been an absolute godsend for the high-end Dubai and Doha property markets, and as for the global opium trade…well, what can you say….just phenomenal results.

my2Cents
Guest
my2Cents

I am so tired of hearing about “our values”

GeorgeG
Guest
GeorgeG

The US spent easily 1 trillion $ on its own “war on poverty” and failed; it spent (and is still spending) 1 trillion-plus $ on the “war against Al Qaeda” in Afghanistan, and failed. In both cses, corruption and drug-profits soared. Seems there is a lesson there.

Franz Kafka
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Franz Kafka

On the plus side, the US does seem to have won its undeclared war on Reality.

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

They don’t care how much they spend – just adding trillions dollars to US deficit. Monkey money.

Franz Kafka
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Franz Kafka

A magisterial assessment by Alexander Mercouris, as always.
Is it just me, or do the Americans look like total fkng retards?
That may have something to do with it.

TecumsehUnfaced
Guest
TecumsehUnfaced

Of course, we look demented. Our parasites are killing the host, ourselves.

BobValdez
Guest
BobValdez

The us “mari-annes” are “kill on command” zombified retards who will obey orders without question and be cannon fodder at request. It is said they are so dumb, they will salute a lamp post if unsure.

FlorianGeyer
Guest
FlorianGeyer

Indeed they do, from top to bottom 🙂

samo war
Guest
samo war

Woorld is crazy game cia mosad kgb ?
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZEmj0USgf4

Vera Gottlieb
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Vera Gottlieb

I don’t need any number of reasons – seems to be the new fad, numbering everything. There is only one outcome: losing.

TecumsehUnfaced
Guest
TecumsehUnfaced

There is no way our military can beat the Russians. Our military and its suppliers are one big scam, while for the Russians they are for the defense of the country. Our vampires have captured the government. If they don’t get to feed on the rest of the world all the time, they are at least feeding on us.

richardstevenhack
Guest
richardstevenhack

You answer your own question, Alexander, when you point out the COST of the US war.

It’s all about the MONEY. Wars have to be paid for and someone gets that money. It’s that simple.

seby
Guest
seby

bush the III obviously agrees with cnn that US militarism keeps Americans in “jobs”.

Hamletquest
Guest
Hamletquest

So Trump has announced his capitulation to the MIC as Alexander Mercouris and others predicted. So more money will be poured into the pockets of the unproductive economy. It has taken 8 months for total capitulation of the POTUS elect. Obama capitulated to the Bankers within weeks, also pouring infinitesimal amounts US dollar into the unproductive sector. The Peace Laureate also capitulated on the WAR front too. So it looks like whoever the poor people of Amerika vote for they get the same creed of greed the 1% who would bleed their mothers dry running the whole circus. It’s very… Read more »

Bankotsu
Guest
Bankotsu

“…the Jihadi rebels who fought the USSR and the Afghan government in
the 1980s (the so-called “Mujahedeen”) were strongly backed by the US
and by a coalition of US allies including Pakistan, Britain, Saudi
Arabia and Egypt.”

And China.

Latest

Honest liberal says he is NOT INTERESTED in policy explanation [Video]

When news anchors try to act like prosecuting attorneys instead of actually interviewing people, we all lose.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One characteristic of modern-day television “news reporting” is that the political news is not truly reported. Rather, if the interviewer disagrees with the one being interviewed, the session turns into interviewer grandstanding. Regrettably, this tactic is used by liberal and conservative journalists alike. However, it is usually not admitted, as the interviewer usually chooses to say things like “I want the truth” when he or she really wants to force the other person to admit the correctness of the interviewer.

Over the weekend, Fox News’ Chris Wallace grandstanded against White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller. However, Chris Wallace at least was honest about his wish:

STEPHEN MILLER: … At a fundamental level, we could go down into the details, and you know, Chris, I can go down into details as much as you want to, but the bottom line is this…

CHRIS WALLACE: Please don’t! (laughs)

This is a big problem. The responsibility of any good journalist is to get full and accurate information about a given topic. Isn’t it?

Not in the press of our day. Chris Wallace is a valued personality for the Fox News Channel. As a former CBS anchor for 60 Minutes, Wallace brings a well-known face and voice of the mainstream media to Fox, even though he is quite liberal politically, as are many in the entertainment and information professions.

The problem is that the topic here, the facts justifying President Trump’s National Emergency declaration on Friday over the still permeable US-Mexico border, are present in abundance. But Mr. Wallace did not want to know these facts, or perhaps worse, he did not want to let his viewing audience know this information, so he tried to prevent Mr. Miller from talking about those details.

Stephen Miller, thankfully, was not having it. He insisted on giving a full and informed response to Mr. Wallace’s questions, even though Wallace did not want to hear any information.

The rest of the interview is comprised of Mr. Miller trying to dissemimate information and Mr. Wallace trying to block it and refuse it in order to sustain his own preferred narrative.

Chris Wallace’ point of view is that the President called a National Emergency for no good reason, and that President Trump is breaking the law by appropriating money for the Border Wall, something which only the House of Representatives can do, legislatively.

However, the point of view expressed by Mr. Wallace and President Trump is that as Chief Executive of the United States of America, the President is responsible to preserve the country from invasion. For the President, the never-ending waves of illegals coming into the country and not being deported, but rather, released into the US pending trials that they often never attend years later, amounts to a slow invasion.

Strictly speaking, President Trump is correct. The illegals are not (usually) armed representatives of a foreign power, but neither do they become American citizens. Many of them take advantage of generous provisions and loopholes in the law (Mexico teaches them how to do this!) and they therefore earn money but usurp the country of resources.

It has been exceedingly difficult to move the level of interest in stopping illegal immigration in the US. Rush Limbaugh rightly stated in his program on Friday, February 15, what the problem is, and we include some of the details (as we should) for why Mr. Limbaugh says what he says here:

There is a limit on a number of detainees. There is limit on how much of border and fence can be built. There’s a limit on what kind can be built. There’s a limit on modernization. This bill is filled with congressional edicts telling the president of the United States what he cannot do. Now, it authorizes $23 billion for Homeland Security, but it specifies $1.375 billion for fencing and bordering.

But there are so many limits on this as to make this practically irrelevant — by design and on purpose, because I firmly believe that what members of Congress (both parties) actually want with this bill is to send a message that nothing is ever gonna happen as long as Donald Trump is President. The attempt in this budget deal is to send a message to you Trump voters that it’s worthless voting for him, that it is a waste of time supporting him, because they are demonstrating that he can’t get anything done.

This is Pelosi in the House and Schumer in the Senate getting together, because they know when it comes to illegal immigration, these parties are unified, folks. For the most part, the Republicans and Democrats are for open borders. There are exceptions on the Republican side. But there are a lot of Republicans that don’t want Trump to succeed even now. There are a lot of Republicans just after he was inaugurated who don’t want him to succeed. So they come up with a piece of legislation here that is outrageous.

It is outrageous in its denial of the existence of a genuine emergency at the border. They don’t care. They will deal with whatever mess they create. They don’t care how bad it gets because in their world, the only mess is Donald Trump — and since the Russian effort and the Mueller effort and everything else related to that has failed to get his approval numbers down (and that has been the objective from the get-go), this is the latest effort, and it won’t be long… You mark my words on this.

There is an emergency at the US-Mexico border. Last year almost half a million people were apprehended by the Border Patrol and ICE. Many, if not most, though, are still in the United States. They were not all sent back. Some were, and some of them probably have come back in yet again. The fact that our nation’s borders are unrestricted in this manner is absolute folly.

The more American people know the details about what is actually happening at the border, the more they support the wall’s construction and President Trump’s policies. We have seen evidence for this in polling even by liberal network outlets. President Trump managed to call attention to this topic and bring it into the center of the discussion of US domestic policy. Rasmussen reported that the level of approval of Trump’s work to close the border is high – at 59 percent, with only 33 percent disapproving.

The President made this an issue. Chris Wallace tried in his own program to deflect and dissuade information from being brought to the attention of the American viewers who watch his program.

This is not journalism. It is reinforcement of propaganda on Mr. Wallace’s part, defense against facts, and an unwillingness to let the American people have information and therefore to think for themselves.

Unfortunately, such practices are not limited to Mr. Wallace. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others all utilize this form of questioning, and it is a shame, because the news reporter no longer reports the news. When a talking head on TV or radio places himself or herself as the Gatekeeper to allow or prevent information from reaching the American people, this is highly presumptuous, ego driven and almost always, dishonest.

Worse, such an approach reinforces this message to American people: “You cannot think for yourself. It is too hard, so we will do your thinking for you. Trust us!”

This style of journalism became more and more popular over, under the “appearance” of “tough questioning.” However the usual course of “tough questioning” is ideologically aligned with whatever the journalist thinks, and not at all about what is actually important. Chris Wallace is notorious for doing this with conservatives, and he does aggravate them, but he reduces interviews to an argument between the journalist and the person interviewed.

And usually, this is not the story. This was made absolutely clear in the interview with Stephen Miller, even to the point that Mr. Wallace actually voiced the request, “please don’t (give us all the specifics of this issue.)” 

Good journalism respects the fact that different people have different points of view. Agreement or disagreement with these points is what Op-Ed writing is for. But when Op-Ed is treated as hard fact journalism, we all lose.

We included the whole interview video from the beginning here so that the viewer can take in the whole course of this discussion. It is well worth watching. And as it is well-worth watching, it is also well-worth each person’s own personal consideration. People are smarter than the media would like us to be.

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Macron pisses off Merkel as he tries to sabotage Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 177.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss an EU compromise for Nord Stream 2 where EU member states, the EU Parliament, and its Commission will give the bloc more oversight on gas pipelines, with one caveat…the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia will not be threatened by the new regulations in the agreement.

Macron pushed hard to have the new regulations include (and derail) Nord Stream 2, an action which annoyed Angela Merkel, who eventually got her way and delivered another blow to Macron’s failing French presidency.

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Via The Express UK

Angela Merkel hit back at Emmanuel Macron over Russia and Germany’s pipeline project, declaring it would “not be a one-sided dependency”. The German Chancellor explained that Germany will expand its gas terminals with “liquified gas”. Speaking at a press conference, Ms Merkel declared: “Do we become dependent on Russia because of this second gas pipeline? I say no, if we diversify. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas.

“This means that we do not want to depend only on Russia, but Russia was a source of gas in the Cold War and will remain one.

“But it would not be one-sided dependency.”

Via DW

The EU parliament and its Council are set to adopt new regulations on gas pipelines connecting the bloc members with non-EU countries, the EU Commission announced early on Wednesday.

The upcoming directive is based on a compromise between EU member states and EU officials in Brussels. The bloc leaders agreed to tighten Brussels’ oversight of gas delivery and expand its rules to all pipelines plugging into the EU’s gas distribution network.

“The new rules ensure that… everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law,” EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement.

For example, owners of pipelines linking EU and non-EU countries would also be required to allow access for their competitors. Brussels would also have more power regarding transparency and tariff regulations.

Russian ambassador slams US

Brussels has repeatedly expressed concern over the controversial Nord Stream 2 project which would deliver Russian gas directly to Germany through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Many EU states oppose the mammoth project, and the US claims it would allow Moscow to tighten its grip on the EU’s energy policy.

Berlin has insisted that the pipeline is a “purely economic” issue.

Speaking to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, Russian ambassador to Berlin, Sergey Nechayev, slammed the US’ opposition as an attempt to “push its competition aside” and clear the way for American suppliers of liquefied gas.

“It’s hard to believe that a country that is destroying the rules of free and fair trade, that is imposing import tariffs on its competition, that is flying slogans like ‘America First’ on its flags and often threatens biggest European concerns with illegal sanctions, is now really concerned about European interests,” the Russian envoy said in remarks published in German on Wednesday.

Last week, France unexpectedly rebelled against the project, but Berlin and Paris soon reached a compromise. Thanks to their agreement, the latest deal is not expected to impede the ongoing construction of Nord Stream 2.

Citing sources from negotiators’ circles, German public broadcaster ARD reported that the deal left room for Germany to approve exceptions from the EU-wide rules.

According to the EU Commission, however, exceptions are “only possible under strict procedures in which the Commission plays a decisive role.”

The Gazprom-backed pipeline is set to be completed by the end of the year.

 

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UK Defence Secretary looking for a fight with both China and Russia (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 87.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s idea to deploy hard power against China and Russia, starting with plans to send Britain’s new aircraft carrier to the tense sea routes in the South China Sea.

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“Britain’s Gavin Williamson places Russia & China on notice, I’m not joking,” authored by John Wight, via RT

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is itching for conflict with Russia and China. He’s not mad. Not even slightly. But he is stupid. Very.

Unlike former fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson, I am no military expert. But then you do not need to be one to understand that while Britain going to war with Russia and China might work as a video game, the real thing would be an exceedingly bad idea.

So why then in a speech delivered to the Royal United Services Institute in London, did Mr Williamson’s argument on the feasibility of the real thing elicit applause rather than the shrieks of horror and demands he be sacked forthwith it should have? This is a serious question, by the way. It is one that cuts through British establishment verbiage to reveal a country ruled not by the sober and doughty political heavyweights of years gone by, but by foaming fanatics in expensive suits

Placing to one side for a moment the insanity of the very concept of Britain deploying hard power against Russia and/or China, the prospect of fighting a war against two designated enemies at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Not satisfied with that, though, Mr Williamson is actually contemplating a conflict with three different enemies at the same time – i.e. against Russia, China, and the millions of people in Britain his government is currently waging war against under the rubric of austerity.

“Today, Russia is resurgent,” Mr Williamson said, “rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit.”

For Mr Williamson and his ilk a resurgent Russia is a bad thing. Much better in their eyes if Russia, after the Soviet era in the 1990s, had remained on its knees as a free market desert; its state institutions in a state of near collapse and tens of millions of its citizens in the grip of immiseration. Yes, because in that scenario Western ideologues like him would have had free rein to rampage around the world as they saw fit, setting fire to country after country on the perverse grounds of ‘saving them’ for democracy.

As it is, he and his still managed to squeeze in a considerable amount of carnage and chaos in the years it did take Russia to recover. The indictment reads as follows: Yugoslavia destroyed; Afghanistan turned upside down; Iraq pushed into the abyss; Libya sent to hell.

By the time they turned their attention to Syria, intent on exploiting an Arab Spring that NATO in Libya transformed into an Arab Winter, Russia had recovered and was able to intervene. It did so in concert with the Syrian Arab Army, Iran and Hezbollah to save the day – much to the evident chagrin of those who, like Gavin Williamson, prefer to see countries in ashes rather than independent of Western hegemony.

As to the facile nonsense about Russia trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine back into its orbit, both countries happen to share a border with Russia and both countries, in recent years, have been used by the UK and its allies as cat’s paws with the eastward expansion of NATO in mind.

It gets worse though: “The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost.”

“Provocations,” the man said. Since British troops have been taking part in exercises on Russia’s doorstep, not the other way round, one wonders if Gavin Williamson wrote this speech while inebriated.

It is Russia that has been on the receiving end of repeated provocations from NATO member states such as the UK in recent times, and it is Russia that has been forced to respond to protect its own security and that of its people where necessary. Furthermore, not only in Russia but everywhere, including the UK, people understand that when you have political leaders intoxicated by their own national myths and propaganda to such an extent as Britain’s Defence Secretary, danger ensues.

The most enduring of those national myths where London is concerned is that the British Empire was a force for good rather than a vast criminal enterprise, that Britain and America won the Second World War together alone, that Iraq had WMDs, and that international law and international brigandage really are one and the same thing.

Perhaps the most preposterous section of the speech came when Mr Williamson tried to fashion a connection between Brexit and Britain’s military strength: “Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.”

Reading this, you can almost hear Churchill turning in his grave. Britain’s wartime prime minister had such as Gavin Williamson in mind when he famously said, “He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

Mr Williamson obviously misread the memo talking up not the opportunity for increased conflict with China after Brexit but trade.

This was not a speech it was a linguistic car crash, one that will forever command an honoured place in compendiums of the worst political speeches ever made. As for Gavin Williamson, just as no responsible parent would ever dream of putting an 10-year old behind the wheel of car to drive unsupervised, no responsible British government would ever appoint a man like him as its Defence Secretary.

In years past, he would have struggled to find employment polishing the brass plate outside the building.

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