World War 3 edges closer every day as a beleaguered establishment no longer has any plans for improving living standards. Against this backdrop they are promoting a vision of total warfare with the old enemy – Russia – as the number one threat.

Following an announcement by General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of Army staff, the media and social media were very excited about the possibility of the reintroduction of conscription for young people.

Rishi Sunak was forced to deny that there were any such plans. Whilst his colleague, former Defence Select Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood, said: “We’ve been too complacent. What’s coming over the horizon should shock us. We’ve had three decades since the Cold War. Life has gone well. It’s now going to get more difficult. There is a 1939 feel to the world right now.”

The rhetoric is being ramped up, and some people are more than happy to jump on board the bandwagon, which seems motivated more by a desire to increase military spending than any genuine threat from Russia.

In 2023 there were 142,560 personnel serving in the British Armed Forces, compared with 148,220 in the previous year. In 1954 it was 840,000. This decline in the standing army has long been a concern of the military, and creating a heightened sense of paranoia in order to force the government to commit more resources to the army has become a ritual demand. 

However, this seems slightly different in that there is a genuine sense of gloom around, fuelled by the economic crisis and the devastation in Gaza, together with the ongoing war in Ukraine. Whilst Sanders is not calling for conscription as such, it is clearly where this is heading if he gets his way.

As Stop The War said on XTwitter yesterday: “The idea of dragooning ordinary people into these wars is utterly reprehensible and underlines the dystopian nature of the increasingly aggressive foreign policy being pursued by this government.”

Interestingly, however, whilst the right-wing newspapers and excitable Tory MPs have been quick to assert the Russian threat, nobody has yet produced any evidence that such a threat exists. The idea that in the next few years we have to fight a land war against Russia seems fanciful, not least because they would have to fight their way across Europe first and are having trouble even against Ukraine.

The paranoid rhetoric about the perceived ‘Russian threat’ follows on from Sweden’s civil defence minister, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, telling attendees at a defence seminar, “There could be war in Sweden.” Sweden’s chief of defence Micael Bydén echoed Bohlin, saying the Swedish population should mentally prepare for the possibility. British right-wingers were quick to follow suit.

Whilst NATO says, “NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia,” NATO denies that it ever had an agreement not to expand eastwards. Rather convenient as it circles Russia. It is plausible that Russia has more to worry about from expansion of a west in severe economic decline than vice versa.

Part of the problem is that under ‘normal circumstances’ we could dismiss the rantings of a few right-wingers as no more than that. However, these right-wingers have significant influence in governments throughout Europe and the USA. Whilst the ‘Red Scare’ now seems fanciful to many, it seems that significant parts of the establishment would prefer to take us closer to armageddon than accept that their system is failing and needs to be radically  altered if we are all to survive.

A change of government in the UK is unlikely to see the rhetoric scaled down, as Starmer made clear in December that he too sees Russia as a “constant threat not just now but into the future”. A stance that echoed his Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey. 

We should remember that, as war gets closer to our shores and as the rhetoric becomes louder, many ordinary people, mostly those unlikely to be conscripted, will begin to swing to a view that we must stop them before they get here. Such a view, if it gains real traction, would be an absolute disaster both for the west and the east. We must remain on our guard, arguing not only against the current wars but any suggestion of a future, even more devastating, world war.

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