You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter, columnists including Tim Marshall, Maggie Pagano and Adam Boulton, full access to the site and invitations to member-exclusive events, become a member HERE. 

Just like clockwork, out comes the ghost of Labour’s past, Jeremy Corbyn, who has claimed that NATO’s “build-up of military personnel” in Eastern Europe is to blame for the current tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

As Sir Keir Starmer became the first Labour leader in a decade to meet the secretary-general of NATO to discuss the threat imposed by Vladimir Putin, the suspended Labour veteran told a Stop the War Coalition forum entitled “No War in Ukraine – Stop NATO Expansion” that it was “incredibly dangerous” for the United States and Britain to ship troops and weapons to assist with the genuine threat of Russian invasion.

Diane Abbott, former shadow home secretary, gave her hot take, telling attendees: “Claims that Russia is the aggressor should be treated sceptically. The destabilisation in the entire region comes from the continued eastward expansion of NATO.” Except for the fact that there have been only two neighbouring countries that have joined NATO in the last 20 years – Estonia and Latvia.

Starmer has dismissed the group as cranks, writing in the Guardian yesterday: “The likes of the Stop the War coalition are not benign voices for peace. At best they are naive; at worst they actively give succour to authoritarian leaders who directly threaten democracies.”

As Starmer seeks to re-establish Labour as the party of Ernest Bevin, Corbyn will continue to remind voters that he is the disastrous radical heir to Michael Foot.

Justin Webb live in conversation
Justin Webb live in conversation with Iain Martin – 22 February 2022, 6:30pm