Collective security was once fundamental to the Labour Party’s traditions. Among the party’s historic achievements for example, was the role that Clement Attlee’s government played in the creation of NATO in 1949, which tied the defence of Europe to that of the US. All postwar British governments treated NATO membership as the bedrock of defence policy but there has been a persistent dissenting minority opinion within the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn has been a long-time critic of the alliance and has made several controversial claims over the years.
As head of states have gathered in London this week to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary, a 2014 column written by Mr Corbyn for the Morning Star, the socialist newspaper, has resurfaced, in which the left-winger hit out at the EU and NATO’s involvement in Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia have been embattled since Moscow supported a pro-Russian separatist uprising in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, in 2014, where armed conflict remains to this day.
Since then, the EU has progressively imposed economic sanctions and restrictive measures against Russia and NATO has suspended all practical cooperation with the Russian military.
In his column, Mr Corbyn appears to be attributing the crisis in Ukraine to the alliance and Brussels.
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He said the “root of the crisis” lay in “the US drive to expand eastwards” and described Russia’s actions as “not unprovoked”.
He claimed it “probably was” a mistake to allow former Warsaw Pact countries to join NATO as it has increased tensions with Russia and made the “world infinitely more dangerous”.
Writing before his bid for the leadership of the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn noted: “On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion.
“But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied.
“And there are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine. The obsession with Cold War politics that exercises the NATO and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.”
He added: “The EU and NATO have now become the tools of US policy in Europe.”
Mr Corbyn’s views on Ukraine, Russia, and NATO were criticised by a number of writers at the time, including Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph, writer and security specialist Edward Lucas saw Mr Corbyn as having a “desire to appease Russia by sacrificing Ukraine” and said that his “anti-imperialist sentiments did not stretch to understanding countries such as Ukraine”.
Lithuanian ambassador Asta Skaisgirytė also disagreed with the left-winger’s portrayal of NATO, saying her country was not “forced or lured into NATO as part of an American global power grab. We were pounding on the door of the alliance, demanding to be let in”.
Since becoming leader of the Labour Party, his views on the alliance have softened.
Mr Corbyn told The Guardian in August 2015: “I am not an admirer or supporter of Putin’s foreign policy, or of Russian or anybody else’s expansion.”
He claimed that though he would like to pull the UK out of NATO, he acknowledges that there is not an appetite for it among the public and instead will push for the alliance to “restrict its role”.
However, last month, he refused to call NATO a great military success during an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Asked if he agreed with the chief of defence staff Nick Carter’s description of NATO as being the “most successful military alliance in history”, he said: ‘”I’m not sure I’d define it as that.
“I would define it as a product of an attempt to bring people together during and after World War 2 and we are obviously in NATO and our voice is there to reduce tensions.”
On whether the alliance had a future, Mr Corbyn replied: “I think there has to be some kind of relationship and alliance to make sure there aren’t conflicts but the point is that Turkey is a member state but is now in conflict with many others.”
A Labour spokesman recently said on their leader’s views: “Jeremy Corbyn will do whatever is necessary and effective to keep the British people safe. He has consistently made the right calls in the interests of peace and security at home and abroad.
“In government, Labour will spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence and we will maintain our commitment to NATO, our close relationship with our European partners, and use our influence at the United Nations to support peace and security worldwide.”
Collective security was once fundamental to the Labour Party ‘s traditions. Among the party’s historic achievements for example, was the role that Clement Attlee’s government played in the creation of NATO in 1949, which tied the defence of Europe to that of the US.
Collective security was once fundamental to the Labour Party ’s traditions. Among the party’s historic achievements for example, was the role that Clement Attlee’s government played in the creation of NATO in 1949, which tied the defence of Europe to that of the US.