As specified in the Scotland’s Future manifesto, Alex Salmond aims to remove all trace of the Trident nuclear system, as well as stripping the would be Scottish Armed Forces to the bare minimum. Instead, Scotland would rely on the collective security offered by NATO, which may seem sensible for such a comparatively small and “out of the way” nation. However, NATO officials have already expressed their concerns over Scotland’s ambition to abandon Trident. Additionally, NATO membership requires a certain military criteria in order to continue the policy of collective defence, not a defence policy designed to allow member states to do nothing but take. Some concessions have been made to allow former Warsaw Pact countries to enter the NATO fold, but Scotland’s proposed army size of 15,000 troops has raised major concerns in Brussels.
Salmond’s official manifesto states that Scotland objects entirely to the use or possession of nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds, and believes that ridding themselves will serve as a reminder to the world about the importance of nuclear disarmament. Moreover, scrapping Trident fits well in the SNP’s own political dogma, now characterised by “Welfare not Warfare”. Crucially, Salmond adds Trident to his long list of “Westminster failures” which have negatively affected Scotland, or so he says. For Salmond, with 70% backing from the Scottish electorate, Trident can serve as ammunition for the Yes to independence campaign. As the referendum approaches, Trident will be a key example of Westminster not listening to the desires of the Scottish voter. On the other hand, in the eyes of both the UK government and NATO, Trident on Scottish soil is what raises the United Kingdom into the upper echelons of Western military prowess.
Though of course, would Scotland ever be challenged militarily? The era of Braveheart and King Edward Longshanks is certainly over – but not according to two Russian ambassadors. Thanks to a recorded telephone conversation, we now know of how Russian diplomats Igor Nikolaevich Chubarov and Sergey Victorovich Bakharev – the most senior Ambassadors to Eritrea and Zimbabwe respectively – spoke at great length about the countries which could fall under Russia’s influence in the future. After Chubarov states: “We’ve taken Crimea, but it’s not the f—–g end”, he goes onto declare Russia should go onto take over Catalonia, Venice and Scotland; or what he refers to as “Cattleland”. With Bakharev’s agreement, Chubarov goes onto say the old Soviet republics of Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria should fall into Putin’s Novaya Rossiya also.
Most importantly, Chubarov and Bakharev are no low level civil servants. Both graduated from Moscow State Institute for International Relations and would have followed on with some compulsory service in the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Working in embassies throughout Africa, both men would have overseen Soviet diplomatic ties with a number of nations which often facilitated major arms deals and proxy wars. Additionally, in the early 2000s Chubarov served as Head of Section for African Affairs in Moscow and Bakharev as Deputy Director. This conversation may not have been mindless sabre rattling, but an insight into the positioning of one of the world’s most secretive foreign ministries.
In mid March 2013, Bakharev was officially commended by then President Medvedev for: “The contribution for the implementation of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation”. Currently, the mindset of these two senior officials is a foreign policy that is highly expansionist and aggressive. Bakharev in particular made constant joking references to “Miamiland” and “Londonland” which do have a comparatively large Russian population. Since the invasion of South Ossetia in 2008, the Kremlin has used persecuted Russian minorities as justification for their deeds. These land grabs often act in the strategic interests of Russia, and ethnic minorities are simply used as leverage. Of course, Russian paratroopers will not be attacking over the skies of Miami a la Red Dawn, but it would appear that two of Russia’s senior Ambassadors understand the true nature of Russian foreign policy.
Ukraine has taught us that tomorrow is always unpredictable, but now the West can observe at first hand Russia’s desire to maintain a foothold in its old Empire. Russia has almost always fought a battle with itself to remain a first rate power in the shadow of military failures ranging from as far back as the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War and the 1939-40 Winter War. This superiority complex can be traced back to the humiliation of the 1853-56 Crimean War, where Russia was subdued by an alliance of Western powers. 158 years later, and with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Russia believes it has returned for good. As the two Ambassadors said their farewells, Chubarov remarks, “The main thing is not to lose the sense of reality”. The geo-political reality in the world today is one of uncertainness, despite promises of collective security and the apparent safety net of globalised economic ties. It is doubtful that Spetznaz units will be marching down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh anytime soon, but it is a warning to the rest of the world contemplating or implementing defence cuts, everything changes and preparation is key.