At a Labour leadership hustings in Birmingham, Jeremy Corbyn was questioned about whether he would come to the aid of a Nato country that was invaded by Russia. After Owen Smith said we would have to go to the aid of such a country, when pressed on this issue Corbyn said:
That’s in the NATO treaty. I would hope we that could strengthen our relations and activity within the OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation within Europe, which includes Russia and every other state. We cannot allow a military build-up which is going to lead to some calamitous, incredibly dangerous situations…
[he’s interrupted by the interviewer here, who presses him again on the scenario]
I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and also trying to not isolate any country in Europe to bring them up.
[Corbyn is pressed further by the interviewer at this point]
I don’t wish to go to war, what I want to do is achieve a world where there is no need to go to war, where this is no need for it, that can be done.
The problems I have with this response are that:
- he has not actually answered the question of what his response as British PM to a Russian violation of sovereignty of a Nato country would in fact be.
- he appears to think he can avoid the scenario ever rising through diplomacy and through avoiding any kind of military build up, but surely whether or not Russia (or any other country) will decide to invade another state is not under Corbyn’s control. Even if his approach to diplomacy might work to achieve a world where we there is no need to go to war, he’s assuming he’ll have time to put it in place after being elected PM before being faced with such a scenario.
- it may be Russia’s (or another country’s) intent to invade an allied country regardless of any dialogue or diplomacy,
- Corbyn seems unwilling to let us know whether he would or would not take military action in these circumstances, but this is surely an important thing we need to know for a would-be Prime Minister.
I conclude that Nato members cannot rely on a Corbyn government to honour the mutual defence pact should the need arise.