The Conservative leader's comments on the crisis in the Caucasus have attracted praise in some quarters. For myself I find them disturbing, both naive and ill-considered and symptomatic of an approach to foreign policy that would be dangerous if adopted in government.
I would quote Mr David Cameron's direct words: "For a start it is about energy security". What kind of comment is this? "For a start", as I have argued several times, and indeed quite recently, it is a flawed policy to base your economy upon petroleum; so how much more flawed is it to base your international policy on one product in one sector.
I can well appreciate that oil fuelled the 20th century. Indeed it fuelled two terrible wars and the devastation of the global environment. It fuels jet planes and missiles, I understand, in a way that few other fuels are able to do so. It also helped fuel economic growth and some limited global prosperity; but it has never been beyond the wit of man to develop alternative sources of energy. The good Lord has bestowed energy in abundance upon us in the natural world and our scientists have long known how to harvest this energy. But oil has made mankind lazy; and the notion that it should continue to trigger wars and global confrontations is most terrible indeed.
This Cameron would seek to lead Britain in the global interest in the 21st century; yet his feet appear planted in the miserable 20th century.
He then proceeds to state: "What's more, it's about global security. History has shown that if you leave aggression to go unchecked, greater crises will only emerge in the future." I have heard Cameron speak to an audience and have been impressed by his bonhomie. I can hear him speak this sentence; it is worthy of a history undergraduate who would scrape his degree with a poor third. Europe suffered a severe trauma in the last century, I fully understand, and young Churchill distinguished himself wonderfully. Indeed it is little surprise that a son of Jo Chamberlain should bear responsibility for the debacle of 1939. But in the grand sweep of history, it remains only one war, one crisis, and the public will be fooled repeatedly if they believe this argument can be applied to every incident, every exchange of gunfire in a remote mountain republic. Indeed to do so, is to do a grave disservice to those millions who perished in that most awful of conflicts.
The Conservative leader's next statement calls for the community of nations to condemn Russia's actions. With this I concur. The Georgians acted foolishly in South Ossetia and have left a legacy of bitterness, a devastated capital, amongst one of those mountain races who can be so dangerous in adversity. This was no justification for the invasion of Georgia, the bombing of its cities or the Russian procrastination in observing a just cease-fire agreement. It is an unrealistic proposal, even this, however; for Russia wields a veto in the United Nations. Nevertheless let us not stay silent about injustice on all sides of this conflict.
Mr Cameron proceeds to call for the acceleration of recruitment of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. This is foolishness in the extreme. It would only serve to provoke Russia; and as I have stated repeatedly would not help add clarity to the purposes and objectives of NATO. Does Mr Cameron see its purpose as to contain Russia? Or to act as a world peace-keeper? If it has a purpose it must be as an alliance of like-minded democracies. In history neither Georgia nor Ukraine has a good claim to independent existence. Indeed Ukraine is Russia; its capital Kiev the historic capital of Russia; and its region of Crimea, that which was defended so bloodily by the Tsars against the adventurism of our own nation. For America or Britain to absorb these regions of old Russia into an anti-Russian alliance might be seen as provocation in the extreme. Let talks proceed, by all means, but let diplomacy continue also and let Russia be reassured that NATO's purpose is to enhance the security and freedom of all nations, that it no longer holds its cold-war objective of being in opposition to Russia.
And let us not forget that NATO has no call to condemn Russia for military adventurism, for the invasion of a sovereign nation and the occupation of its lands. Our protests must sound in Moscow like the man in our Lord's parable who complained of a moat, a speck of dust, in his friend's eye when there was a beam protruding from his own.