The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom is often assumed to be one where the once-great, sophisticated Brits are subordinate to the upstart, uncouth Yanks.
Iconic of this assumption is the mocking of former prime minister Tony Blair as George W. Bush’s “poodle” for his riding shotgun on the ill-advised American stagecoach blundering into Iraq in 2003. Blair was in good practice, having served as Bill Clinton’s dogsbody in the no less criminal NATO aggression against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999.
On the surface, the UK may seem just one more vassal state on par with Germany, Japan, South Korea, and so many other useless so-called allies. We control their intelligence services, their military commands, their think tanks, and much of their media. We can sink their financial systems and economies at will. Emblematic is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s impotent ire at discovering the Obama administration had listened in on her cell phone, about which she – did precisely nothing. Global hegemony means never having to say you’re sorry.
These countries know on which end of the leash they are: the one attached to the collar around their necks. The hand unmistakably is in Washington. These semi-sovereign countries answer to the US with the same servility as member states of the Warsaw Pact once heeded the USSR’s Politburo. (Sometimes more. Communist Romania, though then a member of the Warsaw Pact refused to participate in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia or even allow Soviet or other Pact forces to cross its territory. By contrast, during NATO’s 1999 assault on Serbia, Bucharest allowed NATO military aircraft access to its airspace, even though not yet a member of that alliance and despite most Romanians’ opposition to the campaign.)
But the widespread perception of Britain as just another satellite may be misleading.
To start with, there are some relationships where it seems the US is the vassal dancing to the tune of the foreign capital, not the other way around. Israel is the unchallenged champion in this weight class, with Saudi Arabia a runner up. The alliance between Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) – the ultimate Washington “power couple” – to get the Trump administration to destroy Iran for them has American politicos listening for instructions with all the rapt attention of the terrier Nipper on the RCA Victor logo. (Or did, until the recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Whether this portends a real shift in American attitudes toward Riyadh remains questionable. Saudi cash still speaks loudly and will continue to do so whether or not MbS stays in charge.)
Specifics of the peculiar US-UK relationship stem from the period of flux at the end of World War II. The United States emerged from the war in a commanding position economically and financially, eclipsing Britannia’s declining empire that simply no longer had the resources to play the leading role. That didn’t mean, however, that London trusted the Americans’ ability to manage things without their astute guidance. As Tony Judt describes in Postwar, the British attitude of “superiority towards the country that had displaced them at the imperial apex” was “nicely captured” in a scribble during negotiations regarding the UK’s postwar loan:
In Washington Lord Halifax
Once whispered to Lord Keynes:
“It’s true they have the moneybags
But we have all the brains.”
Even in its diminished condition London found it could punch well above its weight by exerting its influence on its stronger but (it was confident) dumber cousins across the Pond. It helped that as the Cold War unfolded following former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s 1946 Iron Curtain speech there were very close ties between sister agencies like MI6 (founded 1909) and the newer wartime OSS (1942), then the CIA (1947); likewise the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, 1919) and the National Security Administration (NSA, 1952). Comparable sister agencies – perhaps more properly termed daughters of their UK mothers – were set up in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This became the so-called “Five Eyes” of the tight Anglosphere spook community,infamous for spying on each others’ citizens to avoid pesky legal prohibitions on domestic surveillance.
Despite not having two farthings to rub together, impoverished Britain – where wartime rationing wasn’t fully ended until 1954 – had a prime seat at the table fashioning the world’s postwar financial structure. The 1944 Bretton Woods conference was largely an Anglo-American affair, of which the aforementioned Lord John Maynard Keynes was a prominent architect along with Harry Dexter White, Special Assistant to the US Secretary of the Treasury and Soviet agent.
American and British agendas also dovetailed in the Middle East. While the US didn’t have much of a presence in the region before the 1945 meeting between US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Saudi King ibn Saud, founder of the third and current (and hopefully last) Saudi state – and didn’t assume a dominant role until the humiliation inflicted on Britain, France, and Israel by President Dwight Eisenhower during the 1956 Suez Crisis – London has long considered much of the region within its sphere of influence. After World War I under the Sykes-Picot agreement with France, the UK had expanded her holdings on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, including taking a decisive role in consolidating Saudi Arabia under ibn Saud. While in the 1950s the US largely stepped into Britain’s role managing the “East of Suez,” the former suzerain was by no means dealt out. The UK was a founding member with the US of the now-defunct Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in 1955.
CENTO – like NATO and their one-time eastern counterpart, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) – was designed as a counter to the USSR. But in the case of Britain, the history of hostility to Russia under tsar or commissar alike has much deeper and longer roots, going back at least to the Crimean War in the 1850s. The reasons for the longstanding British vendetta against Russia are not entirely clear and seem to have disparate roots: the desire to ensure that no one power is dominant on the European mainland (directed first against France, then Russia, then Germany, then the USSR and again Russia); maintaining supremacy on the seas by denying Russia warm-waters ports, above all the Dardanelles; and making sure territories of a dissolving Ottoman empire would be taken under the wing of London, not Saint Petersburg. As described by Andrew Lambert, professor of naval history at King’s College London, the Crimean War still echoes today:
“In the 1840s, 1850s, Britain and America are not the chief rivals; it’s Britain and Russia. Britain and Russia are rivals for world power, and Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, which is much larger than modern Turkey — it includes modern Romania, Bulgaria, parts of Serbia, and also Egypt and Arabia — is a declining empire. But it’s the bulwark between Russia, which is advancing south and west, and Britain, which is advancing east and is looking to open its connections up through the Mediterranean into its empire in India and the Pacific. And it’s really about who is running Turkey. Is it going to be a Russian satellite, a bit like the Eastern Bloc was in the Cold War, or is it going to be a British satellite, really run by British capital, a market for British goods? And the Crimean War is going to be the fulcrum for this cold war to actually go hot for a couple of years, and Sevastopol is going to be the fulcrum for that fighting.”
Control of the Middle East – and opposing the Russians – became a British obsession, first to sustain the lifeline to India, the Jewel in the Crown of the empire, then for control of petroleum, the life’s blood of modern economies. In the context of the 19th and early 20th century Great Game of empire, that was understandable. Much later, similar considerations might even support Jimmy Carter’s taking up much the same position, declaring in 1980 that “outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” The USSR was then a superpower and we were dependent on energy from the Gulf region.
But what’s our reason for maintaining that posture almost four decades later when the Soviet Union is gone and the US doesn’t need Middle Eastern oil? There are no reasonable national interests, only corporate interests and those of the Arab monarchies we laughably claim as allies. Add to that the bureaucracies and habits of mind that link the US and UK establishments, including their intelligence and financial components.
In view of all the foregoing, what then would policymakers in the United Kingdom think about an aspirant to the American presidency who not only disparages the value of existing alliances – without which Britain is a bit player – but openly pledges to improve relations with Moscow? To what lengths would they go to stop him?
Say ‘hello’ to Russiagate!
One can argue whether or not the phony claim of the Trump campaign’s “collusion” with Moscow was hatched in London or whether the British just lent some “hands across the water” to an effort concocted by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, the Clinton Foundation, and their collaborators at Fusion GPS and inside the Obama administration. Either way, it’s clear that while evidence of Russian connection is nonexistent that of British agencies is unmistakable, as is the UK’s hand in a sustained campaign of demonization and isolation to sink any possible rapprochement between the US and Russia.
As for Russiagate itself, just try to find anyone involved who’s actually Russian. The only basis for the widespread assumption that any material in the Dirty Dossier that underlies the whole operationoriginated with Russia is the claim of Christopher Steele, the British “ex” spy who wrote it, evidently in collaboration with people at the US State Department and Fusion GPS. (The notion that Steele, who hadn’t been in Russia for years, would have Kremlin personal contacts is absurd. How chummy are the heads of the American section of Chinese or Russian intelligence with White House staff?)
While there are no obvious Russians in Russiagate there’s no shortage of Brits. These include (details at the link):
Stefan Halper, a dual US-UK citizen.
Ex-MI6 Director Richard Dearlove.
Robert Hannigan, former director of GCHQ; there is reason to think surveillance of Trump was conducted by GCHQ as well as by US agencies under FISA warrants. Hannigan abruptly resigned from GCHQ soon after the British government denied the agency had engaged in such spying.
Alexander Downer, Australian diplomat (well, not British but remember the Five Eyes!).
Joseph Mifsud, Maltese academic and suspected British agent.
At present, the full role played by those listed above is not known. Release of unredacted FISA warrant requests by the Justice Department, which President Trump ordered weeks ago, would shed light on a number of details. Implementation of that order was derailed after a request by – no surprise – British Prime Minister Theresa May. Was she seeking to conceal Russian perfidy, or her own underlings’?
It would be bad enough if Russiagate were the sum of British meddling in American affairs with the aim of torpedoing relations with Moscow. (And to be fair, it wasn’t just the UK and Australia. Also implicated are Estonia, Israel, and Ukraine.) But there is also reason to suspect the same motive in false accusations against Russia with respect to the supposed Novichok poisonings in England has a connection to Russiagate via a business associate of Steele’s, one Pablo Miller, Sergei Skripal’s MI6 recruiter. (So if it turns out there is any Russian connection to the dossier, it could be from Skripal or another dubious expat source, not from the Russian government.) Skripal and his daughter Yulia have disappeared in British custody. Moscow flatly accuses MI6 of poisoning them as a false flag to blame it on Russia.
A similar pattern can be seen with claims of chemical weapons use in Syria: “We have irrefutable evidence that the special services of a state which is in the forefront of the Russophobic campaign had a hand in the staging” of a faked chemical weapons attack in Douma in April 2018. Ambassador Aleksandr Yakovenko pointed to the so-called White Helmets, which is closely associated with al-Qaeda elements and considered by some their PR arm: “I am naming them because they have done things like this before. They are famous for staging attacks in Syria and they receive UK money.” Moscow warned for weeks before the now-postponed Syrian government offensive in Idlib that the same ruse was being prepared again with direct British intelligence involvement, even having prepared in advance a video showing victims of an attack that had not yet occurred.
The campaign to demonize Russia shifted into high gear recently with the UK, together with the US and the Netherlands, accusing Russian military intelligence of a smorgasbord of cyberattacks against the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and other sports organizations, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Dutch investigation into the downing of MH-17 over Ukraine, and a Swiss lab involved with the Skripal case, plus assorted election interference. In case anyone didn’t get the point, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson declared: “This is not the actions of a great power. This is the actions of a pariah state, and we will continue working with allies to isolate them.”
To the extent that the goal of Williamson and his ilk is to ensure isolation and further threats against Russia, it’s been a smashing success. More sanctions are on the way. The UK is sending additional troops to the Arctic to counter Russian “aggression.” The US threatens to use naval power to block Russian energy exports and to strike Russian weapons disputed under a treaty governing intermediate range nuclear forces. What could possibly go wrong?
In sum, we are seeing a massive, coordinated hybrid campaign of psy-ops and political warfare conducted not by Russia but against Russia, concocted by the UK and its Deep State collaborators in the United States. But it’s not only aimed at Russia, it’s an attack on the United States by the government of a foreign country that’s supposed to be one of our closest allies, a country with which we share many venerable traditions of language, law, and culture.
But for far too long, largely for reasons of historical inertia and elite corruption, we’ve allowed that government to exercise undue influence on our global policies in a manner not conducive to our own national interests. Now that government, employing every foul deception that earned it the moniker Perfidious Albion, seeks to embroil us in a quarrel with the only country on the planet that can destroy us if things get out of control.
This must stop. A thorough reappraisal of our “special relationship” with the United Kingdom and exposure of its activities to the detriment of the US is imperative.