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By Jason Michael
IN ALL LIKELIHOOD the London government’s decision to release the so-called ‘Russia Report,’ the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russian interference in British politics, is a massive squirrel – a distraction – designed to take the heat off Number 10 as the realities of Brexit begin to hit the ground. Powerful states meddle in the affairs of smaller states, and the United Kingdom and the United States have done and are doing their fair share of ‘intervention.’ But while much of what is contained in the document is obvious, there are a few disclosures which are worth at least some of our attention in the Scottish independence movement.
What is immediately apparent from the report is the British government’s upset at Premier Putin not playing by the rules. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the US and its allies have been perusing a set of foreign policy objectives directed towards the ‘containment’ of Russia’s regional and global geopolitical ambitions – a policy which has in effect become the ‘rules’ the UK now expects the Russian government to keep. The report itself bemoans Russia’s refusal to play the game:
…following the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the USSR, there was a concerted effort by the West to engage Russia as a potential future partner in the Rules Based International Order. Following the election of Putin as President in 2000, the Russian government has increasingly shown itself instead to be actively hostile towards the UK and the West, and fundamentally unwilling to adhere to international laws and norms.
– Paragraph 139
Engaging Russia according to the ‘Rules Based International Order’ has never been the benign or neutral process paragraph 139 implies. For as civilised and inclusive as it sounds, this rules-based order refers to the ‘liberal international (economic) order;’ something described by Thomas Wright, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute – a Washington DC thinktank, as ‘the alliances, institutions, and rules the United States created and upheld after World War II.’ In short, these ‘rules’ were integral to the US Cold War strategy of hemispherical domination and are now a vital component of the US’s present designs on global hegemony. These rules are inimical to Russian interests, and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell Vladimir Putin was ever going to play be them.
We can take Russia’s hostility towards Britain – a small-to-medium nuclear power moving towards perfect alignment with US foreign policy – as a given, and it is highly likely the Russian government would want to throw a spanner in the works by interfering in British politics. With the Trump administration proving to be a less than stable defence against these Russian manœuvres, none of this is particularly good news for a UK left to blow in the breeze by the US and now isolated from the European Union – which has its own troubles with Russia. But this need not be bad news for the cause of Scottish independence. Russian meddling – whether a direct attempt to divide the UK or a prolonged strategy of breaking the union by keeping us ‘better together’ in a lockdown situation – can work to our advantage.
‘Russian meddling – whether a direct attempt to divide the UK or a prolonged strategy of breaking the union by keeping us ‘better together’ in a lockdown situation – can work to our advantage.’Tweet
Dismissed as conspiracy theories at the time, the idea that the British government somehow rigged the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 has become somewhat more plausible in light of the Conservative election fraud in England and the dubious conduct of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. The Russia report makes an interesting excursus in relation to the 2014 vote. Rather than concentrating on Russian involvement or interference in UK politics, the report turns to the treatment of the referendum in the Russian domestic media:
… it was widely reported shortly after the referendum that Russian election observers had suggested that there were irregularities in the conduct of the vote, and this position was widely pushed by Russian state media. We understand that HMG viewed this as being primarily aimed at discrediting the UK in the eyes of a domestic Russian audience.
– Note 44, Paragraph 41
It seems the lady doth protest too much, no? This same note goes on to cite an article published by the Atlantic Council’s ‘Digital Forensic Research Lab’ to back up the claim Russian trolls fuelled the suspicion the referendum had been rigged. But the Atlantic Council – another US thinktank and relic of the Cold War – is hardly what one would call an impartial and unbiased source. This is asking the fox to explain all the dead chickens.
There is every reason to assume Russia ‘undertook influence campaigns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum (paragraph 41),’ but then, thanks to Joe Pike’s tell-all exposé of Project Fear, we know the British government was interfering in Scotland’s democracy. It may not always be comforting to think about it, but Scotland was a pawn in a bigger game in 2014 and the outcome of our referendum was going to have far-reaching consequences for the global balance of power. Senior members of the British government readily admit that the breakup of the United Kingdom would weaken England and the NATO alliance to the benefit of states like Russia and China.
The end of the Union would destabilise our whole nation and - because of our size - many others. It would leave fam… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat) June 21, 2020
As already noted, however, there is nothing new about any of this. Larger states have meddled in the affairs of smaller states since the dawn of civilisation. With or without Scottish independence, both Russia and the United States are going to interfere in British politics. What we have to think about is how we might exploit this reality to our own benefit. And, interestingly enough, this is not without precedent. In 1918 the Bolshevik revolutionaries made the Scottish socialist John Maclean the high consul of the USSR to Great Britain.
There is no reason then why elements of the independence movement shouldn’t reach out to the Russian government with a view to building a relationship. It certainly is not rocket science to see how such a relationship would be beneficial to Russian interests and the cause for Scottish independence. This is not something the Scottish government could do, but there are plenty of people on the ground in Scotland who could help give Russia a better and more nuanced understanding of realities in the country. What we do know, and what we can see from this report, is that the thought of Russian involvement and interference unsettles the British government, and keeping Britain unsettled is really good for Scottish independence.
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