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Michael Brenner on Brits’ “ludicrous & dangerous stunt” in the Black Sea

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International Relations Professor Michael Brenner (U. of Pittsburgh) sounds off about the British Navy’s “ludicrous and dangerous” provocation of the Russian bear last Friday, when HMS Defender violated Russian waters off Crimea and nearly started World War III. The incident ended as the Russians set off bombs directly in front of HMS Defender’s bow, forcing the British warship to turn tail and flee. Adding to the Brits’ aura of insanity, a trove of secret documents detailing British leaders’ deliberations in setting up the provocation were “found as soggy blob in a waste basket at a London bus stop.”  (For background on the New Cold War check out my new Crescent article.)

Professor Brenner draws the following ten lessons:

1) London foreign policymakers have no more of a strategic brain than their American counterparts.

2) Their understanding of Russia/the Kremlin is minimal and distorted – strikingly so since they have received blunt warnings from Putin and Lavrov repeatedly over the past few weeks about how Moscow would react were the West to continue to take hostile actions..

3) They have a deficient understanding of international law which clearly stipulates that an occupying authority has the same rights and obligations as a recognized government in regard to Law of the Sea

4) The West generally, and the Anglo-Saxon countries in particular, are living in a fantasy world that has the barest connection to reality. It is kept intact by a systematic willful ignorance of their opponents/enemies

5) HMG has lied repeatedly on even the most factual matters, e.g. intention, the vessel having primed its guns and deployed manpower to battle stations before reaching the point of confrontation, and in claiming that no warning shots were fired by the Russians

6) There is a juvenile element in their behavior; in the case of the UK, the kind that prevails at ‘public’ schools like Eton and Harrow.

7) Britain has been marginalized in European affairs; diplomatically, it is ignored by Russia, treated as an obedient vassal by the U.S., and viewed in Berlin and Paris as an erratic, unserious power. The Crimea naval ploy was Boris’ clownish way of getting them all to pay attention to him and to Britain. Instead, he has deepened their distain.  At home, though, he is unlikely to pay a political price since so many of his countrymen are wallowing in pools of nostalgia now overflowing with BREXIT conceit.

8) They retain a misguided sense of superiority and privilege toward lesser breeds – the rest of the world

9) The so-called ‘deliberations – spread over about 10 days and involving a large cast – had a level of sophistication easily matched by 3 or 4 bright undergrad IR Majors at LSE in the course of one evening bull session

10) The macho impulse to bully and coerce other countries is deep-seated and a liability of the utmost importance. To purge it, one might consider setting up a playground on some South Sea island (or desert location) where the world’s masochists should be assembled to serve as ‘macho-fodder’ for the above-mentioned juveniles. They would be uniformed to act as leaders of foreign governments. They would be available to be coerced, threatened, humiliated and generally abused. A more elaborate version of the simulation with verisimilitude would provide opportunities to perfect the art of toppling governments by illicit means.  Admittedly, this last skill-set might be applied to their own government when they return home still harboring the unexpurgated traits noted above.

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