A group of eleven Labour MPs, on the left of the party, were forced in February 2022 to remove their names from the statement drawn up by the “Stop the War Coalition” criticising the role of NATO and the UK Government is playing in Ukraine.
Although most of the mainstream media reported this as an attack on NATO, the statement, signed by MPs including Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon, focused on the British Government’s role. This was described as having “talked up the threat of war continually to the point where the Ukraine Government has asked it to stop, played a provocative role in the present crisis, talking up war, decrying diplomacy as appeasement and escalating arms supplies and military deployments to Eastern Europe.” It points out that, unlike the French and German Governments, the UK has advanced no proposals for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and has only contributed sabre rattling.
Although people may no longer be surprised at the command-and-control, anti-democratic leadership style of Starmer, this move was particularly significant. By stifling the small minority of MPs who were calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis a year ago, there is now even less possibility for dissent in Parliament on the UK’s approach to the conflict. Jeremy Corbyn remains a lone voice. In fact Starmer is so anxious to ensure that there are no noticeable differences between the two parties, he has recently followed in Johnson and Sunak’s footsteps and visited Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. During this visit, he emphasised Labour’s commitment to backing action to arm the country and said that the UK’s position would remain the same if there was a change of government next year.
Not only has any dissent been stifled in Parliament, but any approach that calls for an exploration of a peaceful solution is portrayed as being either pro-Putin or, as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, preparing “another Munich.”
In the meantime, Rishi Sunak announced that the UK would be sending 14 Challenger 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. He is also urging the West to give Zelenskyy “advanced, NATO -standard capabilities” saying the allies need to “double down” on sending equipment, and that more needs to be done to ensure the country’s “long-term security”. The British Government is also investigating whether it could supply Ukraine with fighter jets, with Sunak saying, “Nothing is off the table”. Stop the War Convenor Lindsey German said, “This is another example of the British Government leading the charge for more militarism. The tanks will make little military change but are designed to put political pressure on other countries to increase weapons supplies – especially of German Leopard and US Abrams tanks. We need peace in Ukraine not escalating war. Sunak and Starmer are unfortunately making greater war more likely.”
So, while Ukraine’s senior military leader, General Valery Zaluzhny, is demanding another 300 tanks, Vladimir Putin has said Russia will halt its participation in New Start, the last major remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the US. Not only are the people of Ukraine and Putin’s conscripted soldiers bearing the brunt of this terrible war, but there is also a real risk that this could escalate into a situation that will be outside anyone’s control.
Whilst calls for peace will continue to be stifled in parliament, it is up to the entire anti-war movement to unite, based on challenging the British Government’s aggressive posturing.
Mick Wallace, on Twitter, summed the situation up perfectly when he said:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unforgivable, the devastation is horrific as in all Wars. -Also unforgivable is how willing Western leaders are to ensure this becomes a War without end. Instead of calls for Peace,we’re deepening Western involvement regardless of the repercussions pic.twitter.com/eaAE3X3YK6— Mick Wallace (@wallacemick) February 15, 2023
There have been protests across the world, including Russia, calling for an end to this conflict. In the UK, Stop the War has announced a National Demonstration on Saturday 25th February at 12 noon at Portland Place, London, demanding that all sides engage in peace talks immediately.
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