Saturday , May 25 2024

The West has become squeamish of defending freedom

Despite Russia’s reverses in recent weeks in its invasion of Ukraine, China has doubled-down in its diplomatic support for Putin. We can be grateful this has yet to materialise into the People’s Liberation Army mustering in Donbas, but it now seems only a matter of time before the world will have to confront aggression, not in the West, but in the East, and, most probably, against Taiwan. From Kaliningrad in the Baltic to Hainan in the South China Sea, a new Red Curtain has descended on the continent of Eurasia.

As with the evil regimes of World War II – Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and the militarised Empire of Japan – who formed the last Axis against the West and its values, the resurgent ‘Have-Not’ states of China and Russia are swiftly moulding into the New Axis of the twenty-first century. The China-Russia Axis may define the future for us all.

We should be in no doubt about the nature of these regimes. The United Nations has confirmed Beijing’s human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority – many claim it is genocide. Perhaps we should not be surprised. After all, this is the same regime that has yet to apologise for the mass slaughter of student protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989. As for Putin, the grim revelations of horrific war crimes in the areas recently liberated from the Russian yoke in Ukraine are only the latest in an ever-escalating tyranny where opposition politicians and journalists are imprisoned as a matter of course, or simply murdered. Woke, they are not.

Comparisons with the earlier Axis are not only in terms of terror. The parallels abound. Germany, Italy and Japan, smarting from defeat or disappointment after the First World War, cast themselves as ‘Have-Not’ nations, striving to recast the world order from the grasp of the Western democracies. Today, Russia seeks to justify an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as revenge for NATO’s expansion to its borders. China, ignored on the world stage for a generation after the Second World War, has grown fat on the off-shoring of the West’s industrial economy and is finally able to flex its terrifying muscles. Never mind that the last NATO expansion in Central or Eastern Europe was in 2004 or that China, without imperilling world peace, may soon become the largest economy in the world. They remain dissatisfied and are prepared to do something about it.

Have-Not nations are high risk poker players. The brazen invasion of Ukraine is of a piece with: Bismarck’s three wars to unify Germany; the Kaiser’s ‘blank cheque’ to Austria in July 1914 in the full knowledge it may trigger European conflagration; Hitler’s gamble that the West would back down over his invasion of Poland in 1939 as they has done the year before; Mussolini’s disastrous invasion of Greece in 1940, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour… You get the idea. We ignore the China-Russia Axis (in that order by virtue of power and importance) at our peril.

The pretexts may be trivial and pathetic, but we have neglected the fundamentals of the international order – the sanctity of borders. It is why the Cold War in Europe never became hot. Everybody knew that a step over the Iron Curtain could spell oblivion. It’s why the West finally stood up to Hitler. He had been a tyrant to his citizens for over six years, but we went to war because he crossed the border into Poland. We defended South Korea and liberated Kuwait even though they were not members of NATO, because you cannot go around invading things. Blair and Bush’s grave error in Iraq in 2003 muddied these very clear waters.

And the West became squeamish of defending freedom.

We preferred to turn a blind eye in 2014 when Putin invaded Ukraine under the cloak of Russian separatists and annexed Crimea. Ukraine is not in NATO, but it is still a sovereign nation. If Putin’s annexation of Crimea on grounds of its ethic mix was the new Sudetenland, his pseudo-invasion of Eastern Ukraine in 2014 was the new Poland.

Whilst some in the West might shrug their shoulders about the bad things going in a faraway country about which we know nothing, the West should remain ever vigilant of such tremors along the geo-political fault lines that can presage disaster. The relatively insignificant Italian invasion of Libya in 1911 is now seen as unleashing Balkan jealousies that led to Sarajevo. If the West had acted with resolve upon Japan’s attack on Manchuria in 1931, would the first Axis have ever come to life? It can be years and millions of deaths later before the tectonic plates of the international order once again come to rest. So the similar triggers by Putin, first in 2014 and again in 2022, should be addressed with decision and not pusillanimity.

As with Truman in 1947, let us hope for a Biden doctrine to unequivocally defend any nation, including Taiwan, threated by Russia or China; to preserve the pre-2014 borders of Eurasia. And, as for many in the West who lived through the first Cold War, to restore for a time, a period of stability between the major powers, despite the incessant threat of nuclear oblivion, but where everybody knows the rules. And, with the mutual acceptance of the new Red Curtain, deliver a new generation of peace.

About John Hartigan

John Hartigan is author of Betrayal of Britain: How politics failed Great Britain in the early 21st Century now available on Amazon. Founder of the AskBritain movement to restore voters' rights to consent to constitutional change. He is a member of the Labour Party and candidate in local elections. His postgraduate research on the World War One volunteers was published in Midland History. He is an investment director and former bank manager.

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  1. The United States fought the wrong enemy during World War II.

    It should have allied with the Axis against the real threat, Soviet Communism.

    Patton was right.

  2. Qianyou Pan

    To my astonishment, the author compare the rise of china as the axis countries in ww1. What evil is china when china pulls 80M chinese out of absolute poverty, what evil is china when china put a lot of valuable resources to help other countries though china is struggling with its own difficulties, the west cannot coexist with china only because of different system in china? From the ignorant author and his shameful paper, I even doubt the WW1 if you compare it with china.

    • John Hartigan

      The article compares the Axis in WW2, not WW1. As for the charming nature of the Chinese regime, ask the Uyghurs, the relatives of those killed in Tiananmen Square or those in Hong Kong whose guaranteed rights have now been taken away. To prove your point, please try and protest against something you dislike about current Chinese government policy.