“Global, planetary catastrophe” is nigh

Speaking of the precarious situation with North Korea, Vlad Putin has given us the benefit of his geopolitical wisdom honed in the good offices of the KGB.

Further sanctions, he said, would be “useless” because North Koreans “would rather eat grass than abandon their nuclear programme”.  This strikes me as confused.

In any criminal regime, such as N. Korea, China or Russia herself, the people who decide on keeping, abandoning or perhaps using nuclear weapons are in no danger of becoming herbivores. It’s their slaves who have to change their diet in extreme circumstances, and their nourishment is rather low on the list of such regimes’ priorities. Their very lives are of little concern when measured against some evil strategic objective.

Thus Lenin, the inspiration for all three states, frankly admitted that he didn’t care if 90 per cent of all Russians perished, as long as the remaining 10 per cent lived under communism. Mao put forth a lower proportion but a higher absolute number when suggesting he was prepared to lose half his population in a victorious nuclear war. And three generations of Kims have consistently spoken in the same vein.

Vlad probably meant that Kim would rather his slaves ate grass than abandon his nuclear weapons. If so, he’s right, and we should listen to the voice of an expert trained in the same cannibalistic philosophy.

So sanctions won’t work. What will? Not, according to Vlad, “ramping up military hysteria… It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”

Sounds lovely. All God’s children love peaceful dialogue. It’s much better than threatening or, God forbid, perpetrating violence.

But, for a dialogue not to be futile, the two parties have to have a desired end in mind. In this case, that can only be N. Korea abandoning her nuclear weapons. Yet Vlad tells us they won’t do so under any circumstances. So there goes peaceful dialogue as a possible solution. There’s really nothing to talk about.

Perhaps he meant that the dialogue should be conducted with China, on which Korea depends for her survival. China is the source of close to 90 per cent of all Kim’s trade and a similar proportion of his oil. That gives China leverage, but whether or not it’s sufficient to make Kim abandon his nukes is anyone’s guess.

Even more questionable is China’s desire to exert such influence, for that communist dictatorship isn’t without strategic objectives of its own. Xi probably sees N. Korea as some kind of regional scarecrow keeping Americans at bay.

Did Vlad perhaps mean a dialogue with himself? If so, we must realise that any such conversation with Russia, or for that matter China, would amount to nothing but extortion, with Russia (or China) practising the protection racket.

The dialogue would effectively be a monologue, with Putin telling Trump: “Lift the sanctions, give me a trillion dollars’ worth of respect, and I’ll keep Kim off your back.”

Even if Vlad could deliver on such an offer, and it’s a very big if, the US can’t succumb to such blackmail while still harbouring hopes of remaining a world power. In short, “peaceful dialogue” doesn’t seem to be a promising option.

That leaves Vlad’s dark prediction of the possible consequences of ramping up military hysteria: “a global, planetary catastrophe”. This sounds apocalyptic, especially if the two adjectives Vlad used aren’t a tautology.

I rather doubt it is: Vlad was trained in the KGB to express himself precisely. If he uses two modifiers, they must mean different things. As I understand it, a ‘global’ catastrophe is akin to a house suffering fire damage, whereas a ‘planetary’ one is the house no longer standing.

N.Korea may be able to inflict the former. A preemptive NATO attack could probably take out Kim’s nuclear capability and severely degrade his military strength altogether. But it’s doubtful that such an attack could prevent a retaliatory strike.

The northern side of the DMZ is packed with missile launchers and heavy artillery. These can’t be smashed in a matter of minutes, which is how long it would take for the N. Koreans to hit S. Korea. And Seoul, just 35 miles from the border, is within range of Kim’s 150,000 artillery pieces.

It’s also conceivable that the N. Koreans would be able to launch an ICBM that could flatten, say, Tokyo, Guam or – in an extreme scenario – even Los Angeles. That would certainly produce a nuclear response, which may indeed have ‘global’ consequences.

However, when it comes to a ‘planetary’ catastrophe, N. Korea simply doesn’t have the wherewithal to destroy the Earth. The US, China and Russia are the only regional powers that can do that.

The US isn’t going to seek the end of the world, which leaves only two possibilities: China and Russia. Since Vlad can’t really speak for China, he’s implying that, should the US attack N. Korea, Russia could start an all-out nuclear war.

In other words, he’s repeating the same threat that his diplomatic, military and media mouthpieces have been screaming for the past 15 years at least: “we could turn America into radioactive dust”.

Here it’s useful to remember that N. Korea’s regime wasn’t born by parthenogenesis. It has two parents: the Soviet Union and China. The USSR armed Korean communists to the teeth and sent its pilots and tank crews to fight against the US in the Korean War. China sent a million ‘volunteers’ to stop Americans in their tracks.

Until 1991, N. Korea had subsisted on the largesse of her two foster parents, but thereafter Russia took a step back. She was otherwise engaged for another 10 years or so, at which point Vlad’s regime came into its own and revived the USSR, albeit with the Russians finding it easier to run away.

That was bound to turn Russia into a rogue state again, and, after several attempts, the country finally achieved that unenviable status in 2014. Traditional paranoia was encouraged to come back, with the whole world being depicted as aggressors ganging up on Russia.

The West, especially the US, is supposed to want either to occupy Russia physically or to suffocate her unmatched spirituality by imposing alien, Western ways on that land of pristine, monastic pursuits. Yet those who scream about this peril the loudest don’t themselves mind decadent Western ways all that much.

They spend as much time as they can in the West, where they keep their ill-gotten lucre, houses and yachts, where they get education for their children and medical care for themselves. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that Russia has established herself as a pariah, and the West as her presumptive enemy.

Friends have become hard to come by, and only other pariah states, such as Iran and N. Korea, are natural candidates for that role. If they do Russia’s bidding to some extent, Putin can use them as blackmail weapons when dealing with the West.

To that end, Russia has been arming N. Korea (and Iran) steadily if surreptitiously, often through third parties, such as China or Pakistan. N. Korea’s nuclear programme, for example, wouldn’t have got off the ground without a massive influx of Russian scientists, acting either as free agents or, more typically, on the government’s behalf.

Nor is it just the nuclear programme. Practically every weapon system N. Korea wields has a Russian provenance.

One is the Russian equivalent of the American anti-ship Harpoon missile. Called Kh-35 ‘Uran’ in Russia and the SS-N-25 ‘Switchblade’ by NATO, this radar-guided missile is state-of-the-art.

The N. Korean Hwasong-10 intermediate-range missile threatening Guam is a slightly modified version of the Russian R-27. And the surface-to-air Pon’gae-5 missile is a clone of the Russian S-300 system. (The Russians have deployed the next-generation S-400 to protect the Hezbollah rocket factory Iran has built just inside Syria.) N. Korea’s main battle tank is the Soviet T-62, and the multiple missile launchers threatening Seoul are modifications of the Russian system being used in the Ukraine.

Most important, the N. Koreans have begun to produce Russian RD-250 rocket engines, whose blueprints reached them having first been laundered through third parties, such as Pakistan. These engines, used in Russian ‘heavy rockets’, are now powering Kim’s missiles as well.

America faces a stark choice. Either she succumbs to N. Korea’s, China’s and Russia’s blackmail and puts paid to her global status, or she acts.

I certainly wouldn’t like to have to make that choice, but then I’m not president of the United States. Trump is, and his numerous detractors are gloating at his predicament. One wonders what solution they themselves would propose.

The president is doing perhaps the most logical thing under the circumstances: trying to explain to Kim what could happen if he doesn’t ease up.

The next step would be adding action to threats. The action could take the shape of surgical strikes against Kim’s strategic capability; the threat could be that of nuclear obliteration in case of an irrational response.

For the life of me, I don’t see an alternative to the possibilities I’ve outlined. I pray that the US administration does – and that their alternative works. But succumbing to Putin’s blackmail certainly isn’t part of it.

More blows struck for diversity

Over 2,500 years ago, Herodotus pointed out the advisability of multi-culti diversity. “We must,” he wrote, “respect other people’s customs.”

Then, 50 pages later in the same book, he inadvertently refuted himself: “Burying people alive is an ancient Persian custom.” An attentive reader may conclude that perhaps not all customs are equally respectable.

While modernity has built some of its ethos on the first statement, it hasn’t given much thought to the second. Hence we feel reverential awe at the sight of any alien custom being practised at our own doorstep. No hierarchy of foreign customs based on their compatibility with our own seems to be recognised.

When we observe some ethnic group respecting their elders, we smile admiringly. When we observe the same group stoning adulterers, we smile indulgently. But we smile in either case.

Not to do so would be to run the risk of being accused of discrimination, and no graver charge exists in our global madhouse. We simply can’t and won’t discriminate among different types of discrimination, good or bad. In fact, as far as we’re concerned, no discrimination can be good by definition.

This arrant nonsense is a symptom not only of a psychiatric disorder but also of sheer idiocy. Discrimination is the sine qua non of morality, taste, judgement, intellect – of everything that makes us human. It’s at the heart of the ability to tell good from bad, right from wrong, beautiful from ugly. Take that faculty away, and we’re all reduced to the level of Tony Blair.

Discrimination is a controlled test applied to anything we wish to evaluate. As such, it requires a certain set of criteria against which we judge, say, other people’s customs. In the West, such criteria can only be rooted in our own civilisation.

Thus an alien group respecting old people doesn’t contradict our own customs. The same group stoning adulterers does. The first custom should be encouraged and, ideally, emulated. The second should be decried and, ideally, punished.

What gave rise to this line of thought is the recent culture clash in Florida, involving a young Indian family. The husband, Devbir Kalsi, felt that his wife, Silky Gaind, wasn’t sufficiently obedient.

Western men are all familiar with this problem and have learned to live with it. Begrudgingly we’ve had to accept that our possible countermeasures are limited to the point of being non-existent.

That has been the case for a long time and, among the more civilised strata of Western men, practically for ever. Some men used to regard their wives as chattels, but that sort of attitude had been unwelcome for centuries before modern feminism made its appearance.

By contrast, Devbir was brought up in a different culture, one that Silky implicitly flouted by not always doing as she was told. Acting in accordance with the ancient customs of his native India, Devbir knew that a disobedient wife has to be disciplined. That means beaten.

That he proceeded to do regularly, and when Silky tried to use their baby as a shield, Devbir beat them both. A time-honoured custom was thus served, but it wasn’t served well enough.

Silky still persisted in her insubordinate ways, continuing to pretend that Florida was exempt from the more extreme of Indian customs. To his credit, Devbir realised his limitations as an agent of discipline.

He knew he needed help, and that’s where another fine Indian tradition came in: cohesion of the extended family. Not for the Indians the severing of ties among generations; not for them grown-up children hardly ever talking to their parents and only seeing them once a year, at Christmas.

As the Sanskrit saying goes, a family that slays together stays together (or words to that effect; my Sanskrit is a bit rusty). So, when Devbir cried to his parents for help, they dutifully flew 8,000 miles to lend him a heavy helping hand.

The parents and their son locked Silky in her room, took her mobile away and joined forces in beating the woman systematically, along with her baby when he got in the way. However, according to the book with only a limited appeal on the subcontinent, “nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest”.

Having heard the screams produced by the disciplining efforts, Florida police, in a flagrant exercise of racial discrimination, arrested Devbir along with his parents and charged them with “domestic violence, child abuse and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon” (Devbir held a knife to Silky’s throat while his parents worked her over).

All three may be deported back to the land of the Vedas, yoga and Mahabharata, back to the civilisation supposed to be at least equal to ours or, according to a strong minority opinion, even better. But that’s the US for you.

How many alien barbarians have been deported from Britain lately? Hundreds, at most. Out of probably hundreds of thousands of chaps who offend our traditions and customs every day, often by using women for punching bags.

Nothing pleases me more than watching our champions of multi-culti progress squirm trying to resolve the conflict of two pieties: diversity and feminism. Third World arrivals personify ideological virtue; wife beating, ideological vice.

A quandary if I’ve ever seen one. How does one find a way out? Wish I could help, but I can’t. Perhaps they should ask their parents.


Bad girl, England

Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, has volunteered to “teach the British people and others what leaving the EU means”.

Well, it’s never too late to learn, and I for one welcome the forthcoming lesson. Why, I’m even prepared to submit to corporal punishment should I prove to be an inept and indolent pupil.

Alas, it saddens me no end that not all English people are as eager to welcome foreigners trying to teach them how to live. Call it small-mindedness, call it jingoism, call it anything you like, but you can’t deny this pig-headed recalcitrance exists.

Not so long ago, for example, a sturdy woman speaking with a broad London accent gave her misbehaving nipper a light smack on the 22 Bus. An even sturdier woman speaking with a broad German accent took exception to that educational practice.

“In Germany,” she said, “ve don’t smack children”. “In England,” replied the Londoner, “we don’t gas Jews.”

One could surmise with chagrin that the child-abusing woman rather inclined towards Euroscepticism – to a point where she was prepared to reject valuable, if unsolicited, tuition. Gasping with horror, one may even guess which way she voted in the subsequent referendum.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the French in general and Mr Barnier in particular have a lot to teach England about running her political affairs. After all, who’s better qualified to be a marriage counsellor than someone who has been married many times? Experience brings knowledge, and knowledge must be passed on.

Now, since 1789, when the modern French state came into existence to the accompaniment of clanging guillotine blades, how many constitutions has England (or Britain, if you’d rather) had? A measly one.

Yes, the country has been stuck in the rut of the same political system for centuries. Is that any way of gaining experience, I ask you? The word stick-in-the-mud springs to mind.

By contrast, France’s mind has been wide-open to new experiences, new knowledge. During the same period, she has had five republics, all sorts of assemblies, directories, dictatorships, empires, monarchies and – I can see you turn green with envy – 17 (!) different constitutions.

If that doesn’t qualify France to teach us politics, I don’t know what possibly could. And when it comes to maintaining close ties with other continental powers, especially Germany, Mr Barnier’s country makes us look like ignorant novices dripping wet behind the ears.

Why, between 1940 and 1944 the two great EU powers, Germany and France, enjoyed such a close relationship that they managed to fine-tune all the requisite institutions and practices. Following a smooth post-war transition, that precious experience contributed to the subsequent unqualified success of the EU, based as it is on a similar type of fraternal cooperation.

While that went on, rather than taking the same finishing classes Britain was playing truant. She resisted attending school and even tossed bricks through the window. Bad girl, wasn’t she?

This kind of bloody-mindedness goes back a long way. For example, in the early nineteenth century, Napoleon, then the headmaster of the French School of Politics, tried to teach England how to stay in step with progress underpinned by the slogan Liberté, Fraternité, Aligoté.

That noble attempt was met with sheer ingratitude, presaging Britain’s current misbehaviour. While welcoming with unbridled enthusiasm the Aligoté part of the triad, the British rejected out of hand the other two parts and instead insisted that Napoleon himself attend the St Helena post-graduate academy.

Like all good schools these days, the EU charges tuition fees, which point Mr Barnier has stressed with a great deal of didactic emphasis. However, other good schools tend not to demand payment once the pupil has matriculated.

Yet the level of education provided by Mr Barnier’s school is of such sterling (euro?) quality that he insists – logically and justly – that Britain should continue to pay 14 per cent of the EU’s budget for the next three years upon graduation.

A reasonable demand if I’ve ever heard one, and yet Britain, this miserly nation de boutiquiers in Headmaster Napoleon’s definition, refuses to comply. Or rather pretends to – I’m sure that eventually Britain will see the light shining out of Mr Barnier’s… well, out of Mr Barnier and pony up.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the richly deserved punishment to be meted out by Mr Barnier, Britain would be well-advised to line her knickers with cardboard. Then she should bend over and brace herself for six of Mr Barnier’s best.

Alternatively, we could tell him to place his education into the same depository out of which his light shines. That’s the kind of ingrates the British are.

Have you consented to be governed?

Conservatives believe in tradition. Libertarians believe in less state power. Socialists believe in more state power.

Yet they all accept ‘consent of the governed’ and the resulting ‘social contract’ as words chiselled in stone. In fact, they’re drawn in the sand just before the tide comes in.

As do so many perverse modern notions, ‘consent of the governed’ derives from Hobbes and mostly Locke, the inspiration behind both the American and French revolutions, and therefore the modern world.

An idealised picture Locke must have had in mind was that of ‘the people’ coming together at some instant to decide on accepting or rejecting the notion of post-Christian secular government unaccountable to any absolute moral authority. Upon deliberation, they consented to it. A show of hands must have been involved, all perfectly equitable and democratic.

This idea is doubtless attractive, and it would become even more so if any evidence could be found that this meeting of minds ever took place. Alas, no such evidence exists.

In fact, no attempt to replace a traditional monarchy with a modern state, be that the English revolutions of the seventeenth century, the American and French ones of the eighteenth, or the Russian ones of the twentieth, involved asking for the ‘people’s’ consent.

What they all did involve was unbridled violence unleashed in ‘the people’s’ name by a small cadre of subversives and their variously named revolutionary committees. In most cases, including the American Revolution, ‘the people’ not only didn’t give their explicit consent but in fact withheld even their tacit approval.

When such reticence was detected, the revolutionaries, acting in the name of ‘the people’, would resort to violence, its extent restricted only by expediency, not any moral considerations. They could kill hundreds (Americans), thousands (Englishmen), hundreds of thousands (Frenchmen) or millions (Russians). Whatever was needed.

Since neither Locke nor his French followers could pinpoint the granting of ‘consent’ to any specific historical event, they had to talk about some nebulous ‘social contract’, to use the phrase first used by Democritus and later popularised by Hobbes and especially Rousseau. This idea is false even at an elementary logical level.

According to the legal principle going back to the Old Testament, for any contract to be valid it has to be adjudicated by an authority holding sway over both parties, one whose judgement they accept as binding.

In any reasonable sense, such an authority has to be institutionally superior to the two parties. That’s why, for example, when the seller and buyer of a house sign a contract, they have to have the document notarised by a legal official empowered by the state.

The only authority that can be deemed superior to both the state and the individual is God. Hence frequent, if insincere, appeals to the deity in various founding documents of the early liberal democracies. Yet one would look in vain for any reference in the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures either to ‘government by consent’ or to ‘social contract’.

Nowhere does it say that a third of the electorate, a proportion considered adequate in most modern democracies, can cast their vote in a way that’ll give them absolute sovereignty over the remaining two-thirds. What both Testaments do repeat time after time is that “all power is from God” – not from some mythical compact.

A critical aspect of ‘consent’, as understood by Lockeans everywhere, is that it’s irrevocable: once presumed to have been given, it can’t be reclaimed by any peaceful means. Yet in no conceivable way could it be true that a third or even a fourth of the population voting in a government has given consent on behalf of the rest of the people as well. This is patently ludicrous, as is the whole idea of consent.

Any valid contract includes terms under which it may be terminated. In the absence of a higher adjudicating authority, no ‘social contract’ can possibly have such a clause. Therefore violence is the only recourse either party has, meaning that in a modern state a revolution isn’t so much an aberration as a logical extension of the ‘social contract’, the only way for the people to withdraw their ‘consent’ – just as tyranny is the only way for the state to enforce it.

In any logical interpretation of Locke, a society can only remain peaceful not because of the people’s meaningful consent but because of their docile acquiescence. In other words, the people can give ‘consent’ only passively, not actively – by refraining from overthrowing either the government or the whole political system by force.

Thus Hobbes and Locke, along with their American, English, French and Russian followers, had no option but to sanctify the people’s right to revolution. But the people at large never perpetrate revolutions – this function is usurped by a small group of activists and ideologues (‘professional revolutionaries’ in Lenin’s parlance) who combine radicalism with deviousness.

Those chaps are seldom, and never merely, driven by noble motives. Hatred is always present as a significant animus.

In modern revolutions, this hatred is really levelled not at any particular abuses singled out as pretexts but at the traditional order as such. Depending on the pet issue of the day, this target may be packaged in a box labelled as ‘monarchy’, ‘absolutism’, ‘popery’ (a bugbear for both Hobbes and Locke), religion in general, ‘taxation without representation’ – the tag doesn’t really matter.

Hence Hobbes and Locke were issuing a carte blanche to arbitrary violence as the only option for withdrawing ‘consent’ never given in the first place. The people, or rather those acting in their name, would henceforth feel justified to rebel against any legally instituted authority for any reason exciting them at the moment.

If it’s ‘popery’, that’ll do famously. If it’s ‘taxation without representation’, that’ll work just as well. If it’s ‘bloodthirsty tsarism’, even better. In most instances, the existing government would be predictably replaced by one palpably more abusive.

All modern democracies were originally contrivances with tenuous claims to legitimacy. That’s why the most successful and durable among them always contain elements of the organic, monarchic state.

That state appeared so seamlessly that it was tempting to take a cue from St Paul and believe it was indeed willed by God – in fact Burke interpreted it that way. According to him, the same God “who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of its perfection. – He willed therefore the state.”

To see whether a state is organic or contrived, one can apply a simple test that would work in most cases: unlike the origin of a contrived state, the origin of an organic one can’t be pinpointed to a single historical event or, for that matter, any precise moment in time.

We know that the American republic started in 1776, the French one in 1789, the unified German state in 1871, the Bolshevik one in 1917, Israel in 1948 and so forth. But when did the English state begin? We can’t be sure. That’s how we know it isn’t contrived.

Contrivances of any kind demand some kind of plausible justification. They can’t just be accepted; they need to be explained.

Hence, unlike the Decalogue, modern law relies on thousands of recondite, exegetic tomes. Without accompanying stacks of abstruse articles on art theory, most modern painting would be seen as a madman’s scribble. And without the falsehoods of consent and social contract, modern democracies would be seen for the arbitrary contrivances they are.

Thus it’s not only totalitarian states that excel at inculcating false ideas in people’s minds. Liberal democracies do a good job of it as well, and that’s where all modern states converge.

Golden fleece

One can’t shake the impression that the EU is trying to fleece Britain not so much for economic reasons as for punitive ones. There’s also the ulterior motive of tangling the negotiations up indefinitely, turning Brexit step by excruciating step into an unrealisable abstraction.

To wit, two recent developments:

The International Trade Secretary Liam Fox apparently received a blackmail note and recoiled with horror. The threat was too awful to contemplate:

“Pay attention, Liam, because I’m only going to say this once. We’ve got Britain and, if you ever want to see her alive again, put £50 billion under the rain barrel outside your Westminster house tonight. And remember: no funny business or Britain will get it. Signed: the EU.”

At the same time David Davis, the Secretary of State for Brexit, filed for divorce from his marriage to Europe, citing loss of sovereignty, his spouse’s excessive bossiness and his own desire to return to his past bachelor ways.

In response, the plaintiff has received a list of demands from the defendant’s solicitor Michel Barnier: “Sale con d’anglais! My client has been suffering for years from your mental cruelty and lack of loyalty, but no? Ze settlement will have to reflect zis a priori, in extremis and in toto. We want 50 billion pounds (or euros, pas de différence these days) up front and your continued commitment to every projet vert – that’s green project to you – ever mentioned in Brussels, Strasbourg or Berlin. If you refuse, we’ll tie you up in litigation for as many years as it takes for you to decide zat perhaps a divorce isn’t such a good idea after all. Say oui, or no deal, you espèce de merde britannique.”

Now I have a confession to make. Though Dr Fox did mention that the EU was trying to blackmail Britain, and Mr Davis does talk about Brexit in the terms normally reserved for nuptial divorce, neither man has received such a missive. The spirit of the EU’s demands, however, may not be far from the letter of those two notes, so the temptation to draw a direct parallel with blackmail or divorce may be hard to resist.

But it must be resisted. For the situation is neither blackmail nor divorce, and the use of such terms has a large potential for obfuscation.

Blackmail presupposes extortion by issuing a realistic threat. The blackmailer finds himself in an ad hoc position of power and uses it to force compliance with his demands.

So whence does the EU’s power come? What realistic threat is hanging like the sword of Damocles over Britain’s head?

Suppose Liam Fox responds that, as far as Britain is concerned, her association with the EU is summarily at an end.

We’ve paid enough entrance and membership fees over the years not to have to pay an exit fee as well. As to all those green, red, pink, rainbow and other variously coloured projects from the EU palette, we’ll assess each one separately on its merits. If we wish to participate, we shall. If we don’t, we shan’t. In neither case can this be a precondition for Brexit.

What’s the worst that could happen? The EU will refuse to trade with us? Impose stiff tariffs on British goods?

That would be cutting off their trade nose to spite their economic face, for Britain would obviously respond in kind. German manufacturers are already moaning that all this Brexit toing and froing is hurting their business. What are they going to say if, due to their government’s stupid intransigence, the damage grows tenfold? They do have business lobbies in Europe that can get bloody-minded, especially around election time.

The level of trade tariffs is regulated by the WTO, and I doubt the EU would wish to flout those rules or especially leave the WTO as a result. Yes, since the EU is an ideological entity rather than an economic one, it’s capable of causing mutual damage pour encourager les autres. But that falls far short of being a deadly threat, especially when Britain’s ancient constitution is at stake.

Blackmail is thus not a precise term. Neither is divorce.

Divorce presupposes an equitable division of both assets and liabilities. So far I haven’t heard one word about the portion of EU assets to which Britain is entitled as the second largest net contributor to EU coffers. All one hears is hissing about the money Britain supposedly owes.

Hence this isn’t a normal divorce but again a kind of shakedown attempt, with the supposed plaintiff bearing all the brunt of the separation. The only logical response would be a demand that terminological precision be restored.

Britain leaves the EU effective immediately, while two teams of lawyers wrangle at their leisure about the assets and liabilities, and how they are to be divided. They can take their time; there’s no particular rush. Meanwhile, Britain and the EU will live their separate lives.

To move from the metaphors of blackmail and divorce to an amorous simile, the so-called Brexit negotiations are like a sexless man pretending to be making love to a sexless woman. Neither of them wants a consummation, but they both go through the motions for the hell of it.

EU laws are drafted for the purpose of making exit inordinately difficult. There exist a myriad casuistic details that can never be worked out, and certainly not within any kind of limited time. That renders pre-Brexit negotiations counterproductive.

Negotiations are only possible when both parties are seeking a speedy and successful conclusion. The EU definitely seeks nothing of the sort, and it increasingly appears that neither does our government, where the two top positions are held by Remainers.

Hence all the talk about negotiations, blackmail, divorce, soft Brexit, transition period and so forth amounts to nothing but a delaying ploy. That whole mass of details will never be worked out because it’s designed not to be.

The only way for HMG to show that it really intends to comply with the people’s wishes is to take an immediate French leave. (Which, appropriately, is called filer à l’anglaise in French.)

And, while banging the door, we should make it clear that Britain won’t be fleeced, certainly not by a bunch of jumped up bureaucrats with learning difficulties and delusions of grandeur.

1 September, 1939, comes before 22 June, 1941

The bloodiest war in history started on this day 78 years ago, didn’t it? Well, not as far as most Russians are concerned. According to them, the war began on 22 June, 1941, when Hitler’s preemptive strike beat Stalin to the punch by a week or two.

This one date says all you need to know about Soviet and post-Soviet propaganda, compared to which Goebbels’s efforts look like amateur hour. It’s because of this falsification of history hammered into their minds round the clock that most Russians fail to see an obvious paradox.

Before Operation Barbarossa, the Soviets had fought two wars within those that are collectively known as the Second World War. On 17 September, 1939, they attacked Poland from the east just as their Nazi allies were attacking it from the West. On 30 November, the Soviets launched another unprovoked attack, this one against Finland.

In the first war, the Soviets lost 3,000 KIA. In the second, somewhere between 100,000 and a million (they were rather lackadaisical in counting corpses – what’s a hundred thousand here or there among friends?). Yet, while all the Polish and Finnish soldiers killed by the Russians perished in the world war, none of the Russians did. The war didn’t start until 1941, remember?

Such playing fast and loose with history is hard to forgive but easy to understand. The entire post-war Soviet mythology rotates around the hub of what they call the Great Patriotic War. The peaceful Soviet Union was treacherously attacked by the Nazis, having to lose tens of millions to repel the aggression under the wise leadership of Comrade Stalin. To this day one can hear criticism of Stalin rebuked with “Yes, but thanks to him we won the war”.

The twentieth century witnessed many lies, but none so brazen as this one. The whole purpose of it is to absolve the USSR of any guilt in starting the Second World War, portraying it as an innocent victim.

In fact, but for what today would be called the ‘peace process’ between Hitler and Stalin, Hitler might not have started the war at all or, if he had, it certainly wouldn’t have been as protracted and bloody.

The pact signed on 27 August, 1939, wasn’t the sum total of that alliance but only its culmination. The cooperation between German and Russian extremists started in 1917, when the German General Staff transported what Churchill accurately described as the ‘bacillus’ of Lenin’s gang into Russia.

The contagion worked – Lenin usurped power and promptly took Russia out of the war. Germany’s defeat in 1918 turned both countries into pariahs and they fell into each other’s embrace by signing the 1922 Rapallo Treaty.

Several years later the Soviets helped Germany cheat on the terms of the Versailles Treaty. They set up several training facilities for German officers in Russia, the most prominent of them being the Kama tank school at Kazan.

There Soviet and German tank commanders worked out the tactics of pincer manoeuvres at depth. Later, such alumni of that school as Model, Manstein and Guderian put the tuition to good use, first in the West and then against Russia herself.

When Hitler came to power, the schools closed but the cooperation continued in secret. The NKVD and Gestapo even formed a Friendship Society, with the Soviets teaching the start-up organisation the mechanics of mass terror, and the Nazis supplying the latest in torture technology. The Society, incidentally, remained active, if on a limited scale, throughout the war.

Stalin was acting in accordance with the Lenin canon, according to which Germany was to become “the icebreaker of the revolution”. Lenin knew that sooner or later the Germans would light a pan-European fire, out of which the Russians would then pull all the tasty chestnuts.

In preparation, Stalin turned his whole country into a combination of prison, munition plant and boot camp. The mass murders of the industrialisation and collectivisation served that purpose, turning Russia into a single-minded military monster operated by slaves.

At the time Hitler was ready to pounce on Europe, Stalin had at his disposal the largest and best-equipped army in the world. His 21,000-odd tanks outnumbered the tank forces not only of Germany (just over 3,000) but the rest of the world combined, and the top models, the T-34 and KV, remained unparalleled until late 1942.

It was time to push the button, and it was pushed by what’s known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that caught the West unawares. (This despite numerous reports by Soviet defectors, such as Walter Krivitsky, that the Pact was imminent. The West chose to believe not those reports but Soviet anti-Nazi propaganda.)

Stalin’s plan was to have Hitler bogged down in a war of attrition with the West and, when the two sides were near complete exhaustion, to strike from the rear. Meanwhile, it was Hitler’s task to get the ball rolling. However, Germany was short of essential raw materials, and this is where Stalin’s help was invaluable.

Even though the Germans didn’t keep their end of the bargain by never achieving the stipulated level of technological supplies to Russia, the Soviets overshot the quota by a large margin. Thousands of railcars full of cereals and every essential raw material were pouring fresh blood into the body of the Nazi monster, building up its muscle.

Without those supplies Hitler wouldn’t have been able to wage his war – and probably  wouldn’t even have been able to defeat Poland. The Nazis were so overconfident that they didn’t even prepare for the war properly. When the shooting started, they were rapidly running out of supplies, especially aircraft bombs.

Stalin helpfully obliged, later repeating the trick during the Battle of Britain, when most of the bombs raining on London were of Soviet manufacture. But in the autumn of 1939 the Poles were resisting bravely, having managed to regroup after the original setbacks.

Army Group Poznan got entrenched on the eastern bank of the Vistula, and the German offensive began to run out of steam. That’s when the Soviets struck, claiming the part of Poland to which they felt entitled according to the terms of the Pact. Poland quickly collapsed, and the German predator was ready to turn west.

Stalin’s gigantic army was poised to fulfil its historic mission, as outlined by Lenin and Trotsky, and refined by Stalin. But, being by nature a cautious man, Stalin dithered. His plan was to strike only after the Germans landed in England, where they were bound to be tied up in knots.

Yet the Germans had no technical means to launch their much-vaunted Operation Sea Lion. Their transport fleet was woefully inadequate for such a mission, especially considering the dominance of the Royal Navy.

And even their ability to secure a beachhead with paratroops was compromised by their conquest of Crete, which was widely seen as a dress rehearsal for Sea Lion. But that was a Pyrrhic victory because in the process the Nazis lost practically all their airborne forces.

Yet the Germans managed to convince Stalin that the invasion of England was forthcoming, and the Soviet juggernaut poised at their border didn’t roll. But a fully mobilised army can’t stay in a state of readiness indefinitely. It had to go into action, and Hitler realised that.

He, along with every German, was aware of the perils of a two-front war. But he also knew that, once the Stalin juggernaut rolled, it would be unstoppable. Hitler’s only chance was to launch a lightning strike in the hope of destroying the Soviet army within a couple of months.

The plan almost succeeded. And this is where another Russian lie is shown for what it is. For the war didn’t become ‘Patriotic’ until later. At the beginning, the Soviet people didn’t want to fight for their slave masters.

They fled, leaving all that state-of-the-art hardware behind in heaps of useless iron. They deserted en masse. And they surrendered in their millions, often still fully armed. Whole regiments would march into Nazi captivity to the sound of their brass bands; up to 1.5 million happily put on German uniforms.

By December that year the Germans had taken 4.5 million POWs, in a rout never before seen in history. Had Hitler not been poisoned by his racist ideology, he could have won at a canter by proclaiming a war of liberation against bolshevism.

Had he done so, he would have had not 1.5 but 15 million Russians ready to fight against the most satanic regime in history. But Hitler ran a satanic regime of his own. “We are not liberating Russia,” he rebuked Gen. Halder. “We are conquering her.”

The Germans began to commit well-documented atrocities, encouraged by Soviet saboteurs whose main task was to turn the Nazis against the occupied people. Those people initially greeted the Nazis with flowers, food and drink. When the Nazis began to act in character, the mood changed.

At the same time, Stalin started a terrorist campaign of his own, trying to whip up a fighting spirit among his reluctant populace. Retreating soldiers and those who managed to escape German captivity were shot or formed into suicide ‘penalty battalions’.

Altogether the Soviets shot 154,000 of their own soldiers following tribunal verdicts – and at least twice as many even without such travesty of justice. They therefore hold the distinction of inflicting heavier losses on their own army than the Germans and the Japanese managed to inflict on the US forces. It was also explained to the fighting men that their families would be held responsible for their insufficient valour.

Eventually, the Soviets ended up in Berlin, having lost anywhere between 20 and 40 million (it’s that account keeping again). When Churchill commiserated with Stalin over such devastating losses, Stalin shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “We lost more during the collectivisation,” he said.

Amazingly, the echoes of Russian propaganda reaching the West aren’t sufficiently attenuated. If asked, most Westerners would still say that the Second World War was started by Germany, with Russia as one of her victims.

Yet the war that started 78 years ago today featured not one aggressor but two: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The latter finished the war as our ally, but then so did fascist Italy.

History doesn’t lie, even though some people do. Let’s listen to history, shall we?