Brigadier Mark Totten of the British Royal Marines recently gave an interview to the Times newspaper of London. In the interview he revealed that the British were going to embark on covert tasks focusing on Russia and China.
The British SAS and SBS forces were planning on new missions directed against both Russia and China. Precisely what these tasks for the special forces would be was not revealed by the Brigadier, but they will apparently include training forces in the nations of the South China Sea region to counter what the Times described as “Chinese hostility” in the region.
Part of this British focus was evident in the recent incident in the territorial waters off Crimea where the British ship HMS Defender recently sailed into the territorial waters of Russia and was rebuffed by a strong Russian force. The British who have never recognised the return of Crimea to Russia, persist in the fantasy that it remains part of Ukraine. From their point of view, they were therefore justified in sailing within Crimean waters is it remained part of Ukrainian waters, with whom the British have an ongoing relationship.
The British case was not helped by the blatant lies about what they did and why. It was revealed by two journalists who happened to be on board that the ship’s weapons were fully armed. The claim that it was innocent passage in Ukrainian waters was clearly a lie. It was also revealed later that the plan to sail the ship in Crimean waters was the subject of disagreement within the British military forces, with the military preferring not to engage the Russians in this way, but being overruled by the Prime Minister. He was clearly looking for a way to confront the Russians, which is consistent with his long-standing hostility to Russia.
The incident resulted in a retreat by the British ship from Crimean waters, which clearly represented a stand down by the British. They were clearly wishing to avoid a confrontation with the Russians, notwithstanding Johnson’s provocative views.
The British are clearly minded to cause problems with both the Russians and the Chinese. The new British aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth is now sailing to the South China Sea with the clear intention of confronting Chinese forces in that region. The British intention is clearly provocative. On one level it may be interpreted as a desperate attempt by a second-rate military power to attempt to prove to the world that it is still a force to be reckoned with.
On another level this is better seen as a pointless and provocative exercise that is unlikely to cause the Chinese any sleepless nights. If the British did get involved in a shooting match with the Chinese, their very expensive ship would be very much in danger of becoming a hugely expensive shipwreck, being sunk by the Chinese who have no reason to fear British posturing of this nature.
In taking on the Russians in the Black Sea and planning to confront the Chinese in the South China Sea the British are clearly seeking to make a point; that they remain a force to be reckoned with in a military sense. It is a dangerously naïve belief that could well end in a major tragedy for the British.
In adopting this stance, the British are clearly aiming to impress their American masters. The United States president Joe Biden is currently making placatory noises towards the Russians in order to concentrate United States hostility on China whom they perceive as the real enemy to be confronted.
According to some reports the Americans envisage separating the Russians and the Chinese from the strong partnership, which recently celebrated 20 years of cooperation and friendship. In this endeavour the Americans are clearly delusional. Although the Russians welcome the lessening of covert American hostility, they are under no illusions that this represents a real change in attitude. It is clearly a tactic designed to try and separate the Chinese and the Russians from their progressively growing relationship.
One has only to look at recent developments involving both China and Russia to see that in this endeavour the Americans are more delusional than usual.
This is no better demonstrated than the reaction of both countries to recent events in Afghanistan. Despite officially regarding the Taliban as a terrorist group, the Russians have nonetheless played host to a Taliban party that clearly wants a better relationship with Russia. They have a similar view towards China, recently describing that country as a “true friend”.
Both Russia and China are viewing recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are making rapid advances, with careful interest. Afghanistan is an observer state with China’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Chinese clearly envisage a better relationship with the ending of the war in Afghanistan.
The Chinese are under no illusions, and neither are the Russians, that the war has actually ended. It is the American intention to leave thousands of mercenary forces in Afghanistan after they officially “withdraw”. An important role of those missionaries will be to protect the cocaine crop that produces 80% plus of the world’s heroin supply. Although the western media are markedly reluctant to acknowledge the fact, that crop is under the control of the CIA and its sale constitutes a significant supplement to their unofficial budget. It comes with a complete lack of surprise that the CIA is opposed to the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Taliban showed during their previous spell in power in the 1990s that they had zero tolerance for the heroin crop and there is no reason to believe that their view has changed.
Both Russia and China have shown a willingness to assist the Taliban in eliminating the heroin crop. The product has been a problem for both countries and they have a clear incentive to assist the Taliban in its removal.
The United States has expressed its intention to retain an interest in Afghanistan, although that will be a long-distance exercise as all of Afghanistan’s neighbours have made it clear that they have no intention of providing their territory for any continued United States presence in the region.
It Is clear that the United States is having to confront a different geopolitical reality in the region. It will be a measure of the maturity of both the British and American governments how well they cope with this new reality. It would be unwise to be too optimistic that the Anglo-American leopard has really changed its spots.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.