‘Britain baits the Russian bear at its peril… we might become its prey’

Lord Dannatt was talking tough from the House of Lords (Image: Getty)

Get UK politics insight with our free daily email briefing straight to your inbox

Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice

Jingoism is a term coined to describe extreme nationalism. It comes from a song popular in pubs and music halls during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877/78.

The patriotic chorus runs:

“We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do,

“We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too.

“We’ve fought the Bear before, and while we’re Britons true,

“The Russians shall not have Constantinople!”

Some versions read: “We’ll fight the Bear again!”, a boast that comes to mind during Britain’s current military stand-off with Russia.

The Royal Navy last month tweaked the Bear’s snout in the Black Sea off Crimea, the very region about which our music hall ditty was composed more than a century ago.

So things don’t change much. Except that we no longer have an Empire whose sea routes we must defend, or much of a navy to police international waters.

But the old sweats still love baiting the Bear. Former Army chief Lord Dannatt, rattling his sabre from the safety of the red leather benches, demands a more aggressive posture. “The West will continue to look Putin firmly in the eye!” he bellows. “We will not blink!”

We don’t usually know the thinking behind the nation’s military operations, but this time we do – from secret Whitehall documents abandoned at a bus stop in Kent.

They disclose that MoD officials war-gamed Russian responses to our decision to deliberately sail destroyer HMS Defender 12 miles off the coast of Crimea.

They also reveal that the MoD considered an ­alternative route that would avoid provoking Russia, but that was seen as cowardly and portraying the UK as “being scared/running away”.

That’s it. Official. The UK is in the business of provoking Russia. Some foreign policy, that is. Blinkered, you might say.

Ex-diplomat Sir Tony Brenton, once Our Man in Moscow, argues that Crimea, for long an integral part of Russia and re-annexed in 2014, is irrecoverable by western powers.

Our last Crimean War took place in the mid-19th century, immortalised in the Charge of the Light Brigade.

With our allies the French and the Turks, we won that one. But I wouldn’t put money on winning another fight with the Bear, by Jingo.

******

When the shutters came down on Wednesday night, 5.6 million European citizens had applied for “settled status” in the UK. Almost all have been granted.

That’s more than the population of Scotland, or Yorkshire. Indeed, more than Croatia – or Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta combined.

It’s also two million more than expected, and a testimony to the attractions of living here. There are around 1.3 million Brits living in EU countries.

Plainly, they want to come and live here more than we want to go and live there.

Coronavirus, the gig economy, the weather, the traffic and sleazy Tory politicians notwithstanding, this is still the best place in the world to call home.

******

Wild boar trapped in Japan’s Fukushima nuclear hellhole have mated with domestic pigs to produce off-white animals with black spots. Which begs the question: how would leopards fare in this situation?

******

Names for the proposed £200million national yacht are invited. How about Boris McTwoFace?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *