By George Kerevan
 
SUPPOSE that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had gone missing over the Atlantic. Britain would be hard put to mount a search mission because its air and naval forces are now denuded. The RAF’s entire fleet of Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft were withdrawn from service in 2011, as a crude economy measure by the Treasury.
 
Of course, we could put up a few Hercules transport planes with binoculars, plus the odd Royal Navy frigate with a helicopter. But any passengers floating in a rubber dingy in the Atlantic are going to have to rely on the Americans, Canadians and Norwegians (who have long-range Lockheed P-3 planes) to supply the backbone of any aerial search effort.

I mention this because Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, ex- Labour defence secretary and former-secretary-general of Nato, has just made an extraordinary, over-the-top speech in Washington DC decrying the military consequences of a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum. He said Scottish independence “would be cataclysmic in geopolitical terms”.

I would reserve the phrase “cataclysmic” for, say, a Russian invasion of Ukraine, or an Iran-Israel war. I think Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, the civil war in Syria, and North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons are all dangerous threats to world security but – so far – they are containable, with a bit of diplomatic footwork. For that reason, the latter three crises have not reached a cataclysmic state. The notion that Alex Salmond running an independent Scotland ranks anywhere near them in terms of an existential security threat is, frankly, risible.

How then can George Robertson, a dour Scot from Islay, end up using such wildly disproportionate language and do so in America, as if he were Winston Churchill warning against the Iron Curtain? How can a democratic vote, carried out with not a hint of public disorder, to create a sovereign parliament in Edinburgh for a mere five million out of the UK’s 60 million citizens, constitute a threat to the world? Has George Robertson lost his marbles?

If you want to worry about threats to the security of the British Isles, might not the current ill-preparedness and under-equipment of the RAF, British Army (which is being cut by a fifth) or Royal Navy be a good start? Would George Robertson – whose tenure at the Ministry of Defence was hardly stellar – not be better off using his Washington platform to decry Britain’s lack of maritime reconnaissance aircraft?

Robertson argues: “The loudest cheers for the break-up of Britain would be from our adversaries.” Typically, he neglects to mention who these might be. However, let’s be charitable and assume Lord Robertson truly believes Scottish independence might be misconstrued by potential enemies as a sign of weakness. To the contrary, an independent Scotland not only intends to stay in Nato but to reinforce the alliance’s Atlantic flank by making up for the deficiencies of Britain’s current maritime defences.

Far from an independent Scotland (or Catalonia) balkanising the West, it is only the small, feisty European Union and Nato members who can re-invigorate Europe’s tired institutions with a common purpose. I predict the Nordic, Baltic and ex-Soviet Bloc countries in Europe will take a harder line on mutual defence than Barack Obama’s White House, which Putin is running diplomatic rings round. Note: the latest secretary-general of Nato is Jens Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway.

Robertson claims that “if the United Kingdom was to face a split at this of all times and find itself embroiled for several years in a torrid, complex, difficult and debilitating divorce, it would rob the West of a serious partner just when solidity and cool nerves are going to be vital”. But disentangling Scottish interests from the UK need not be “torrid, complex and debilitating” if London negotiates in good faith. It would help if Lord Robertson himself used his Washington speeches and contacts to secure seamless Scottish membership of Nato.

Robertson again implies that Scotland will be refused Nato membership if it demands Trident nuclear submarines are removed from Faslane. Well, George, how will the Kremlin feel about Nato deliberately weakening its Atlantic front line by kicking out a founder member of the alliance? To use your own phrase, “the forces of darkness would simply love it”.

Lord Robertson’s interest in global security stems from his numerous business connections. He is a paid “senior counsellor” for the Washington-based Cohen lobbying firm, set up by his close friend William S Cohen, Bill Clinton’s defence secretary. The Cohen Group is run by a stellar bunch of ex-Pentagon generals and admirals and helps mainly US defence companies sell their wares.

The group’s website proudly states how it helped “a leading US-based global aerospace” firm snatch a $4 billion contract in Europe from under the noses of two local contractors, by arranging meetings directly with (I quote) that anonymous nation’s “Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister, Foreign Minister, and Chairman of the Parliament’s Defence Committee”. Until last year, Robertson was deputy chairman of TNK-BP, an Anglo-Russian oil company. In 2013, BP was forced to sell its half of TNK-BP to Rosneft, a purely Russian firm, after Kremlin arm-twisting. Rosneft is 70 per cent owned by the Russian state. Its boss is Igor Sechin, Putin’s former deputy chief of staff. This experience upset Robertson, who has reverted to seeing the world in Cold War terms.

Equally, the Russians viewed the appointment to the TNK-BP board of an ex-Nato chief as an imperialist insult.

Here is the contradiction in George Robertson’s preposterous rhetoric. The Kremlin thinks it has the right to a “sphere of influence” so it can bully small countries around its borders. Yet Lord Robertson, invoking a new Cold War as his excuse, wants London and Washington to exert their “sphere of influence” over Scotland, blackmailing Scottish voters with lurid threats if they dare vote Yes.


Courtesy of George Kerevan and the Scotsman

Comments  

 
# UpSpake 2014-04-09 06:38
Something very strange happens to Scots who become embroiled in the Westminster machine. Add the whiff of the ermine and they seem to loose all sense of reason and proportion.
I agree with George, Kerevan that is. Robertson has truly lost any sense of reason.
Scotland has no defence under the current UK arrangement. So we are vulnerable now are we not ?.
 
 
# macdonald88 2014-04-09 14:48
What utter nonsense to say that Scotland has no defence under the current UK arrangement. You are living in cloud cuckoo land.
 
 
# connect2 2014-04-09 07:06
We must also remember that Robertson makes this speech from the cosy platform of his membership of the House of Lords. Robertson was not elected into this position where he is guaranteed the air time to push his rather strange view point. The irony of him talking about threats to the West, when he is the walking, talking proof of the UKs undemocratic system. If Robertson is so keen to eliminate threats to the West, let's start with his resignation and rejection of his peerage and unelected role in a so called democracy.
 
 
# Leswil 2014-04-09 07:12
A very well written article that does it's job, well done again George.
 
 
# Caithness Calling 2014-04-09 07:46
The problem for Robertson and others of his ilk is that the rump of the UK may no longer be acceptable at the high tables of the UN and NATO. Its a personal problem for him as his 'friends' turn their back on him.
 
 
# pomatiaH1 2014-04-09 07:54
Brilliant information. I knew some of George Robertson's connections but not all of this.
Through another article I saw he voted for the abolition of the House of Lords, back in 1980!
 
 
# Marian 2014-04-09 08:12
George Robertson's intervention may "be a cataclysm in geopolitical terms” of unintended consequences for NO, if a conversation I've overheard this morning is anything to go by.

Person A:
"I was undecided before but I'm definitely voting YES now after listening to that ..... Robertson on TV last night."

Person B:
"Oh Why?"

Person A:
"Cos this is Scotland....not .....Crimea."

I've left out the expletives but I think the message is quite clear anyhow.
 
 
# gandkar 2014-04-09 08:40
Wandering out of the desert wilderness and sorting out the world has been done before. But in my opinion Mr. Robertson is woefully short on those qualities. People listened the last time. I believe their laughing at George's pronouncements, and so they should be.
 
 
# farrochie 2014-04-09 08:44
Do listen to Robertson's speech if you have the time. The Q&A session is worthwhile, revealing Robertson to be out of touch with politics in Scotland. He takes every opportunity to disparage Scotland and the aspirations of its people.

brookings.edu/.../...
 
 
# bigbuachaille 2014-04-09 08:58
We have to thank Blair, of all people, that this embarrassing person was not the first FM of Scotland. Blair evidently weighed up talent and interpersonal skills and plumped for Dewar.
Despite his elevated, unfathomable NATO promotion, George has never been able to rid himself of what underpins his view of Scotland.
Put plainly, he just hates Nats, as evinced by his successive rants in last night's interviews on #scotnight and #newsnicht.
His threats and apocalyptic language were so obviously risible most folks will deduce two things:
1 A YES vote is a vote for the future
2. His marbles are irrevocably lost.
 
 
# Angus 2014-04-09 09:22
Most people are now thinking wow, Scotland must be important and not too wee and stupid
 
 
# Abulhaq 2014-04-09 09:35
what Robertson implies is preposterous bluster from a man who needs to as they used to say in the MadMen era "take a powder". Nato is, in my view, a dangerous relic of cold-war politics looking for opportunities to stir up mischief. We ought to be wary of it and think deeply whether we ought to associated with its schemes. The latest SecGen designate is from a small country, Norway, the previous from Denmark and before that Holland. The idea that hawks exist only among the big guys is laid to rest by the evidence. Having produced a hawk ourselves we must be on our guard against being sucked back into anglo-american adventurism.
 
 
# Angry_Weegie 2014-04-09 10:05
Part of Robertson's speech that I hadn't seen (thanks to Arc of Prosperity for this) is:

but if [those] who make this facile comparison (between Scottish and US independence) understood the history of this country they might look more relevantly at the Civil War where hundreds of thousands of Americans perished in a war to keep the new Union together. To Lincoln and his compatriots the Union was so precious, so important, and its integrity so valuable that rivers of blood would be split to keep it together.


Just what are we to take from this? What precisely is he threatening? A war between Scotland and rUK?
 
 
# bringiton 2014-04-09 10:54
A union is only possible so long as both parties agree.
When one party decides that the union no longer works for it and the other issues threats (it now appears to include violence) to try and maintain it,something has to give.
I am not surprised that a New Labour man should borrow the expression "rivers of blood" from an extreme right wing politician because that is the direction British Labour are now heading in.
Presumably HMG sanctioned his speech.
 
 
# falloch 2014-04-09 12:22
This quote really is shocking, and perhaps is what Sturgeon was referring to; when people say her reaction was OTT, they hadn't read this, which was omitted from BBC reports. Remember Lord Naw Naw was addressing the Brookings think tank, peopled by the bloodthirsty, Rapture-believing cheerleaders of the Iraq bloodbath, i.e. his mates.
 
 
# Skip_NC 2014-04-09 16:19
Greetings from Raleigh, North Carolina.

If George Robertson understood the Civil War, he would not have made such an obviously erroneous statement. The war was not about unity versus secession. It was the culmination of a thirty year economic argument. The north needed the agriculture of the south, but did not want slaves and did not want to pay the costs involved. It had nothing to do with flag-waving patriotism.

In any case, we hardly have a union any more. The north-east, the west coast and parts of the upper Midwest are either heavily liberal or lean that way.

The south is heavily conservative and the middle ground is fast disappearing. Any suggestion that there is still a union is, at best, simplistic.
 
 
# MacSenex 2014-04-09 11:49
It doesn't say much for the former leaders of the members states of NATO that they were prepared to suffer George Robertson as Secretary General.

What did they see in him?

Their must be some retired prime minister of president who has expressed an opinion in his or her memoirs

As he was complaining about the SNP not engaging in a proper debate (which is laughable given the inability of PT reps to turn up at pre-arranged debates)would it not be opportune for Angus Robertson to challenge him to a debate on TV?
 
 
# Claverhouse 2014-04-09 12:05
GR is another trough feeder as the union has been good for him and is ilk

When you look back at the standard of the old Labour guard from say the 1940's to the 70's and compare them with the present incumbents...the standard of politician has fallen below the fold...it is dire
 
 
# John SJ 2014-04-09 12:41
During his TV interviews last night Lord Robertson stated that he did not think that anyone would vote for independence for £500 a year, shows how far out of touch someone can become when £500 is less than two days of their attendance allowance at the House of Lords,yet more than four times the basic weekly state pension.
 
 
# Abulhaq 2014-04-09 12:55
the Brookings Institution presents itself as centre-left and liberal. By European standards it is rightwing. It has supported US global strategic initiatives. Like Nato it reflects the interests of continuing Anglo-american political and economic hegemony. Robertson should be well at home their.
 
 
# Gaelstorm 2014-04-09 16:07
Robertson is coming up to form like the nasty piece of work he always was. A bigger Uncle Tom than Brian Wilson, & that's saying something.
 
 
# Jimsie 2014-04-09 16:53
Dr Strangelove has returned in the shape of Lord Naw Naw Robertson. I"ve never heard such rubbish since Ronald Reagan postulated his "star wars" theory.These extreme right wing nutters like to sound off now and then.

That the Labour Party can support these statements shows they are even further to the right than the Tories.
 
 
# DonaldMhor 2014-04-09 20:29
In olden days pre WWW and Newsnet and Wings Over Scotland, these peoploe people could get up on their hind legs and bray this sort of nonsense ansd and have it reported as fact. Then the proles would nod wiseley wisely and tick their box at the next election. The MSM had done it's job abd and spread thweir their lies and propaganda. The trough snufflers could then grunt with satisfaction as they enjoed enjoyed another five years sooking at our purse.

Now we have a new medium of information and Robertson, Darling and their ilk are incandescent with fury that their lies are instantly exposed. You lie in America and by morning it has been filleted and left flapping in the breeze on the WWW. They cannot control it so they attack attack attack. The messenger must be killed, but they cannot find us all. Robertsons Robertson's latest offering on Newsnicht shows us how deeply sinister these deperate desperate little men now are. Watch him destroyed: wingsoverscotland.com/.../


[Admin - It takes less than a minute to check posts for spelling errors etc. Can people who post messages please check their comments from time to time?

Thanks]
 
 
# Clydebuilt 2014-04-09 21:39
Quote George:"The RAF’s entire fleet of Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft were withdrawn from service in 2011, as a crude economy measure by the Treasury."

My take on the scrapping of the Nimrods is that it was done to force the UK to purchase planes from the US. Fox was in charge at the time, his assistant was a retired US officer. These aircraft weren't stored in a hanger, they were cut up by JCB's behind screens, within hours of the order. The Harrier fleet was given away for a song to the US to be used as spares. They could have been used on the new carriers. BUT why do that when you can buy American!
 
 
# Rosie 2014-04-10 18:41
Among the bluster of his responses to questions at the Brookings Institution, I was shocked to hear George Robertson bungle the name of the late Scottish Poet Laureate, Edwin Morgan, calling him Edwin Muir. Thanks for the link to the whole event which was chilling in its neo-con tones. My disillusionment continued when GR failed to give an accurate response to the question about the impact of the loss of the labour vote - there has only once, and briefly, been a Labour government dependent on the Scottish vote. How little he knows about Scotland...
 
 
# michaelkav 2014-04-10 22:56
The notion that Alex Salmond running an independent Scotland ranks anywhere near them in terms of an existential security threat is, frankly, risible.

That "really" made me laugh out loud! The idea the first minister could destabilise the world is frankly hilarious. Does "Lord" George think the Scots are stupid?
 
 
# Breeks 2014-04-12 00:39
I've been out of touch these last couple of weeks.
I think Mr Robertson has been out of touch a lot longer than that.

Paradoxically, I do follow his logic, but fundamentally and profoundly disagree with him. Why is democracy the tonic of choice for our adversaries, but too bitter a pill to swallow ourselves?

If Mr Robertson worries so much about the potency of British influence abroad, then he might seek to address the issues of bias and misrepresentati on peddled by the BBC as it plays high stakes poker with its prized international reputation.
Unlike a nuclear fleet which can never be used, the BBC is a much better investment when it comes to manipulating foreign opinions, but those sands are shifting, and a BBC exposed as corrupt and dishonest becomes another obsolete commodity as dated and discredited as Trident.
 

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