Humphries drags the awful truth out of Miliband
That is a very relevant
question at the moment, given that, at a summit in
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them … will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” 
The UK Foreign Secretary,
David Miliband, visited
“I am holding talks today with international partners
and will be visiting
Not much doubt there that it is the British Government’s view that Georgia was subject to an armed attack by Russia within the meaning of Article 5 of the Treaty and that, had Georgia been a party to the Treaty, NATO should have rushed to its aid to repel this “Russian aggression”.
Nick Brown asks key question
One might have thought
that this question would be the subject of intense debate in
However, a contrary opinion has been expressed from an unlikely quarter, namely, from within the Government itself. The dissenter was Nick Brown, who re-entered the Government in June 2007 (as Deputy Chief Whip and Minister for the North East of England), when his long time political friend, Gordon Brown, became Prime Minister. Here’s what he wrote in The Guardian on 19 August 2008, in response to David Cameron:
“Cameron urges Nato to admit
“There is a bigger point here. If
western hawks really are advocating Nato membership for every small country
that borders the
That runs directly counter to the policy of the Government
of which he is a member and would normally be grounds for instant dismissal
from the Government. Nick Brown has
survived, at least for now, because his dismissal would have provoked unwelcome
discussion about why the Government is following a policy that could lead us into
all-out war with
Miliband answers key question - eventually
That David Miliband is not anxious to have this question discussed
openly was evident in an interview he gave to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 the morning after his visit to
“Do we really mean to commit
ourselves to all-out war against the
Three minutes or so later, after Humphries had insisted seven times that he answer the question, he finally capitulated and said YES, though not in so many words. A transcript of this part of the interview is given in Appendix I(A) below. It shows his desperation not to answer the question. But, thanks to Humphries’ persistence, he eventually had to concede.
His last line of defence
was that bringing the countries of Eastern Europe into NATO would prevent them
being attacked (by
“… embedding these countries in European institutions, giving them the strength of European security is actually the way to prevent hot conflict. It’s actually the way to ensure that peaceful relations are established on a basis that isn’t an imbalance of power.”
At this point, John Humphries intervened to ask:
“And if that premise fails, then we are prepared to defend them at the point of a gun?”
David Miliband still
couldn’t bring himself to say YES, to state plainly that, once
“Well, the NATO commitments are to do that. That’s written into the NATO Charter.”
Indeed it is – Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty requires NATO to render armed assistance to a member under armed attack.
Foreign Office falsifies account
There is an account of David Miliband’s interview with Today on the Foreign Office website . For understandable reasons, it is a grossly misleading account. It doesn’t mention that John Humphries asked Nick Brown’s question or that he had to badger the Foreign Secretary for three minutes in order to get him to answer it in the affirmative. All that is omitted.
Instead, the account consists of two portions of the Foreign Secretary’s replies, prefaced by two questions, neither of which was asked by John Humphries – they were both made up by the Foreign Office (see Appendix I(B) below for details).
The Foreign Office simply falsified the record because this
issue is so sensitive. The Government is
enthusiastically pressing for
Decision in December
NATO decided in principle
So going to war with
NATO expansion benign
Earlier in the Today interview, Miliband tried to
portray NATO expansion eastwards as a benign development threatening nobody and
“And the point I want to underline
above all others is that what’s happened since the collapse of the
One would never guess
that he is talking here about the expansion a nuclear-armed military alliance up
to the borders of
“The Americans promised that Nato wouldn’t move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War but now half of central and eastern Europe are members, so what happened to their promises? It shows they cannot be trusted.” 
NATO expansion took place against this background. It didn’t have to take place. There is nothing in the North Atlantic Treaty that says that every state that wants to be admitted has to be admitted. On the contrary, a state has to receive a unanimous invitation from existing members. As Article 10 of the Treaty says:
“The Parties may, by unanimous
agreement, invite any other
Miliband’s portrayal of NATO expansion as merely the product
of a desire to join on the part of Eastern European states is duplicitous. The truth is that the West has sought to
expand its sphere of influence eastwards in
As a Guardian editorial, entitled Belligerent bluster, on 29 August 2008 said:
“To claim, as David Miliband did yesterday, that Nato did not have a sphere of influence and that the eastern expansion of the military alliance was merely an expression of individual democracies exercising their new-found sovereignty, was breathtakingly disingenuous.” 
The editorial ended (in what is a shift in editorial line):
“The way to counter the forces
unleashed on August 7 is clear: stop rearranging the furniture on Russia's
sensitive southern border; stop militarising the Black Sea; stop pretending
that this is only a conflict about loftier goals, a simple struggle between
authoritarianism and western liberal democracy. The ethnically driven
post-Soviet map is more complex than that. Local conflicts should be kept
local. As things stand, everything is being done to widen them out to the
regional level. As a result,
APPENDIX I John Humphries poses Nick Brown’s question to David Miliband
Today, BBC Radio 4, 28 August 2008
(A) Transcript prepared from audio on the Today website
JH Do we really mean to
commit ourselves to all out-war against the
DM We don’t want
all-out war with
JH But can you answer that question? And I ask that question because as you will know … go on
DM There’s no question
of launching an all-out war against
JH That question was raised by your Cabinet colleague, Nick Brown.
DM Well one of the things that I said yesterday, which I think is relevant
to this, is no-one ever doubted that a Russian army of up to 800,000 people was
going to defeat a Georgian army of 18,000 people. Indeed that has happened over
the last two weeks. The question, though, for
What’s happened to the
Russian stock market since the Georgian crisis?
It’s fallen in a very significant way.
And what’s the change in the world over the last 40 or 50 years? In 1968, no one asked about the impact on the
Soviet stock market of the invasion of
JH But I note you haven’t answered that question raised by your own colleague, Nick Brown. Do we really mean to commit ourselves to all-out war in the event of etc etc etc?
DM We’re certainly not committing ourselves to all-out war.
JH But that is what membership of NATO means? If one of our allies in NATO is attacked, we defend them. That’s what it is.
DM Let’s address that point.
JH Well, I wish you would.
DM I’ve referred twice
in this interview to
JH Indeed you have, but you haven’t answered this crucial question.
DM I’m addressing it
because it’s precisely the question that was raised 10 years ago, when these
countries asked to join NATO and they were allowed to join. People said, are you really saying that if
there are Russian tanks in
JH And if that premise fails, then we are prepared to defend them at the point of a gun?
DM Well, the NATO commitments are to do that. That’s written into the NATO Charter.
That is why it is a very careful process before countries are admitted to NATO; there's a critical issue of building up the armed forces of those countries; it's also important that the popular support in those countries needs to be there. I don't hide the fact at all, and I thought you might raise it, Ukrainian people haven't decided they want to join NATO; in fact the Ukrainian government's position is that there'd have to be a referendum in their own country because there are different views about it.
That is the point about a vibrant, healthy democracy, they can have those debates; and the pathway to membership of NATO is not a quick fix, it involves a long period of building up capacity, building up the relationship between not just military institutions but political institutions and ensuring that the country wants that blanket of European security. But it is not, repeat not, an offensive alliance, NATO. Neither is the EU an offensive alliance.
(B) Account from the Foreign Office website 
This account on the Foreign Office website consists of the two italicised portions of Miliband’s replies in Section A above, prefaced by
(1) Next he was asked about the possibility of
(2) Finally, he was
As the transcript in Section A shows, John Humphries asked neither of these questions – they were both made up by the Foreign Office. This portion of the interview was taken up entirely with John Humphries trying to get an answer to Nick Brown’s question.
The Foreign Office have falsified the record in order to conceal the fact that Nick Brown’s question was asked and, under pressure from John Humphries, was eventually answered in the affirmative, thereby confirming that all-out war with Russia is a possible consequence of the Government’s policy of insisting that Georgia be brought into NATO.
30 August 2008