In my first article I went into details of our first stumbling block, namely our nuclear weapons and the willingness to use them. My second will be the USA, with regard to their bases within the UK, our commitment to the “special relationship”, and NATO.
In 1942 the USA established a military presence in this country to help us in the fight against Nazi Germany and its Allies. They never went home. They still have a considerable number of military personnel, estimated at around 10,000, on six sites around England, plus 2 other intelligence gathering sites run, I believe by their National Security Agency, the most obvious one being at Menwith Hill, Harrogate. All of these have an RAF title, but very few British military personnel are present. Once past the entry gate they are under American law and rules, and we as British citizens have no right to know what goes on or to pay them a visit. They are supposedly here as a part of NATO now, but we will discuss that shortly, for we need to close these bases if we are to gain Neutrality. This is a Problem now faced by Ireland who allowed the use of a building and runway at Shannon airport to the US military some years ago in breach of their UN treaty on Neutrality. They are still there and show no signs of going.
Does this really exist? I must admit that I am a really big sceptic on this, even though it is paraded out time and again by successive Prime Ministers. For many people being able to cuddle up to the undoubted military strongman in the world brings a feeling that they will always be there for us, because we have always been there for them. But looking into history this is not always the case, we only recently paid off that portion of our National debt that covered the two world wars of the last century, the USA having loaned us the money to keep fighting, with large interest to pay along the way. We paid off WW2 in 2006, and made the final payment for WW1 on 09 March 2015. The latter had incurred 3.5% interest for the 100 years or so per year. At the moment an extradition trial is still under way for the Journalist Julian Assange, with the USA expecting to win as the treaty we signed with them means they do not need to prove the case to win, they just need to ask. They however make the British jump through hoops to get the request of an American, and still can say no. How “special” is that.
This relationship has also led us into our four most recent wars, namely Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. In each case we joined in not for our own perceived threat, but to give the USA the International support and Alliance it needed to go to war itself. The cost of this has been very high for the UK in terms of wounded and dead servicemen, and for our status in the world, and the cost in those countries attacked, even more. This has got to stop, and Neutrality could be the way.
To enable us to be neutral we will have to end all mutual defence treaties that we have signed with other countries. If we are going to say that we will not attack anyone who does not attack us, how can we then do so on behalf of another. NATO is the largest such mutual defence treaty we have signed, and will have to be exited. This will also have the big benefit of closing all the military bases that the USA has in this country, and bringing home all our servicemen from their bases overseas in Europe. NATO’s function was set up to oppose the Soviet Bloc, which does not now exist, and still is used as a threat to Russia. By all accounts in the press and on the internet, Russia is way down the list of threats to the UK, so it is time we made peace with them, and all the other countries we have threatened at the same time. Who knows, we might set a trend, with a huge peace benefit.
Michael Elstub served in the British Army, he is currently Chairman of the VFP UK Policy Group.