You can watch me talking about Russia-NATO on RT’s Crosstalk show here:
So when we say that England’s master
Remember who has made her so.
It’s the soldiers of the Queen, my lads
Who’ve been my lads, who’ve been my lads
In the fight for England’s glory, lads
When we have to show them what we mean
Occasionally, I tune into Russian TV chat shows, such as Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (or “Russians Shouting at Each Other,” as it’s known in my family). The other night Solovyov and guests were talking about Russia’s decision to cut all ties with NATO (a topic which I discuss in an article for RT here). One of those present argued that the problem was that NATO didn’t know what it was for. Others objected that it knew perfectly well – its objective was the containment, even dismemberment, of Russia. I think that both are wrong. NATO does have an objective, just not that one, and not a very good one either. Let me explain what it is.
But first, a little historical and personal digression.
For there was a time when I was a loyal NATO soldier myself, and looking back on it I have to say it was a damned good thing that the Soviets never attacked because I don’t think we’d have done so well in the encounter.
Take my experience of ‘Exercise Active Edge.’ This was the code name given to practice alerts, in which units of the British Army of the Rhine in West Germany were tested to see how quickly and efficiently they could mobilize themselves, and in more extreme versions of the exercise, deploy to their wartime locations to await the onslaught of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army.
Back in the dying days of the Cold War, I was just about to finish my tour of duty as a platoon commander in the 2nd Battalion, the Queen’s Regiment (long since defunct), in Minden, West Germany, when in my final stint as duty officer I got the call announcing that our unit was to immediately embark on ‘Active Edge’. We’d got a tip off earlier that evening, so it wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was still a serious bummer. I was due to leave a couple of days later and had already packed up nearly all my stuff in what were called ‘MFO’ boxes to be shipped back to Blighty. What I hadn’t packed I’d handed into the QM. So when a bunch of inspectors turned up and started asking me where was this and where was that, I looked a right idiot as I didn’t have any of it.
I also didn’t have much of a clue as to how to answer other questions. Should we take all the gear in our stores, they asked? I said no: a lot of it looked totally useless and there was so much that if we put it all in the armoured personnel carriers, there’d be no room for any personnel. We’d probably have to leave some stuff behind. No, they said. Take it all. I guess it was just as well that instead of 30 soldiers, my undermanned platoon had about 10, otherwise we’d have had to leave people behind instead of gear. But to be frank, if the Soviets had rolled up, my 10 guys and I wouldn’t have lasted a second. Frankly, it was a bit of a shitshow, as they say. Certainly not my finest hour, nor that of the regiment. The heroes of Tangier, Ramillies, Vittoria, Sevastopol, and the like, were probably turning in their graves.
There’s a point to all this – we didn’t do such alerts for the sheer bloody hell of it; we had to prepare for war. It was very unlikely that 3rd Shock would come trundling down the autobahn at breakneck speed, but the potential was real. East Germany was chock-a-block full of military gear – thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, helicopters, aircraft, all the rest of it, all ready to roll over me and my 10 guys at a moment’s notice. We weren’t likely to have to fight them, but it paid to be prepared.
And so we were (albeit not very well), by means of the communal defence organization known as NATO. And it was a defensive organization. All it did was sit around in West Germany and wait. And that was fine, and ultimately quite effective. In 1992, the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it the threat evaporated. Victory was ours.
A job well done. Time, one might imagine, to pat ourselves on the back, call it a day, and retire.
As we know, that’s not what NATO did. But it had a problem. Its raison d’etre had disappeared, and so a new one had to be invented.
Since then, the alleged threat which we in the West are all supposed to fear has kept changing with extreme rapidity. For a while back in the 1990s it was ‘fragile states’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’. Then, for a bit, it was ‘rogue states’. Then it was terrorism, or even worse the deadly combination of terrorism, rogue states, and weapons of mass destruction. And then it was Russia again. And now it’s moving onto China. None of these threats seem to have huge lasting power (though China may prove to be different). But the point is that we have to be afraid of something. Otherwise, there’s no reason to maintain the military industrial complex and, of course, NATO.
The logic of it all was perfectly expressed by George Robertson, who served as Secretary General of NATO from 1999 to 2004, and who liked to repeat his favorite mantra: ‘Out of area or out of business.’ The point was clear. NATO had to do something, anything, in order to justify its existence. And it had to be beyond its own borders because there was nothing to do within them.
And so began NATO’s march towards the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, its failed military operation in Afghanistan in the 2000s, and the talk at its most recent summit of taking action to contain China (which is about as far from the North Atlantic as one can imagine). At this point, we find that we finally have an answer to the question posed at the start of this post. What’s NATO for? And the answer is obvious. What drives NATO is NATO’s desire to exist. Period.
Like any being, NATO doesn’t want to die. It has an institutional momentum of its own, and in its struggle for the resources it needs for survival it will generate reasons for people to give them to it. And when those reasons lose credibility, it will invent some others.
That’s not to say that the bureaucracy doesn’t believe in what it’s doing. The great joy of such bureaucratic politics is precisely the fact that those involved genuinely conflate institutional and national (or in this case, international) interest. Belief and self-interest go together in a happy package.
The guests on Solovyov, like so many Russians, have it wrong They think that it’s somehow all directed against them. It isn’t. For now, Russia happens to be in the crosshairs, but that’s purely incidental. Tomorrow, it could be somebody or something else – whatever is credible from the point of view of budgetary politics. The result, in my opinion, is dangerous, because you have the most powerful military structure in the world in perpetual search for things to do to justify its presence in this world, “seeking monsters to destroy.” The result is that conflict is created where it does not need to be.
Back in my day, we just sat around waiting for the monsters to come to us. As I said, thank goodness they never did. I can’t guarantee that we’d have won.
In my latest piece for RT (here), I contrast the Western flight from Afghanistan with the relative calm being displayed by the Chinese and Russians. I always like to be positive and find a silver lining somewhere. In the instance of Afghanistan, the fact that the country now has peace for the first time in about 45 years is one such lining. There are some indications that the Taliban may be rather more pragmatic and interested in good governance and positive relations with their neighbours than they were when they first took power in 1996. If that is so, the Russians and Chinese may be well placed to take advantage. As I conclude:
“Somewhat strangely, therefore, the rise of the Taliban provides certain opportunities for Afghanistan’s development that were not previously available. It’s far from certain that the Taliban will want to make use of these opportunities, but the Russians and Chinese seem to be willing to give it a shot. If they do, they may well reap considerable benefits.“
Meanwhile, you can watch me discuss Afghanistan, NATO, and Western foreign policy with James Carden in this interview for the American Committee for US-Russia Accord.
On Tuesday, I gave a talk to the Group of 78 in Ottawa on the topic of ‘NATO: Solution or Problem?’ You can watch it below.
Along the way, I discuss some of the reasons for the dismal failure of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. Events have already overtaken me, as the Afghan government collapses like a pack of cards. I will write up a piece on that topic for later today or tomorrow.
On Saturday I took part in an online conference organized by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute on the topic “Why Canada Should Leave NATO,” which you can watch on Facebook here . Note that the conference title was not phrased as a question! To be honest, I was a bit of a fish out of water, ideologically speaking, in this group, but it gave me a chance to develop my ideas on the topic of NATO in light of some recent reading I’ve been doing.
I mentioned a few posts ago that I was in the process of reading some works on late Soviet thought and the origins of perestroika, for instance Robert English’s book “Russia and the Idea of the West.” What I got out of all that is that among dissidents and what one might call “enlightened bureaucrats” of the late Soviet era, there was a strong desire to “return to the West” as it were. A certain element within the Soviet intelligentsia, some of whom were to strongly influence the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, wished to end what they considered to be their country’s isolation from the West, and to reintegrate with it, so that Russia could again become a “European” country.
In another book I read last week, Daniel Thomas’ “The Helsinki Effect,” Thomas shows how this desire then collided with the fact that the Soviet Union had agreed in 1975 to include human rights in the Helsinki Final Act. With this, human rights became a norm of international relations, leading to a situation in which Soviet reformers who wanted to “return to Europe” concluded that such a return was impossible without a liberalization of the Soviet Union, to bring the country into conformity with these new international standards.
Thomas thus concludes that Western pressure on human rights did have an effect on the Soviet leadership. But I think that one needs to go one step further. It had this effect only because there was an influential element within the Soviet leadership that yearned to be part of the West and believed that if it did the West wanted it would be appropriately rewarded. This situation, I think, is not the case to day.
Sadly for the Soviet reformers, it didn’t work out the way they wanted. The Soviet Union reformed, then collapsed, but it never became part of the West. In fact, something else happened.
Historically speaking, the West has never been a real thing, in the sense of actually existing anywhere other than in peoples’ minds. The West – and more narrowly, Europe – has been more of an idea than anything else. As such it was always possible for Russia to be part of it, if it so chose.
Moreover, politically Europe was always divided. Alliances came and went in ever changing combinations, and Russia could be part of the European network of international relations as one of the members of this continually fluctuating system. When the Iron Curtain came down across Europe in the late 1940s, the situation changed, with Europe divided into two rigid blocs. But the collapse of communism seemed to provide an opportunity for Russia to once again join in the wider European system.
What actually happened, though, was something different. The institutions of Western Europe – the EU and NATO – spread eastwards up to Russia’s borders, in effect dividing Europe into two pieces – “Europe” and Russia. In the process, the West, which had previously only been an idea, became institutionalized, and institutionalized in such a way as to permanently exclude Russia.
We are therefore now in an entirely new historical situation – something that I don’t think that most people understand. The problem with EU and NATO expansion is not that they threaten Russia, but that they have institutionalized the dichotomy between Russia and the West. This has serious implications.
There is no point in modern-day Russian reformers arguing like their Soviet forebears that that they need to change the way that the Russian government operates in order to facilitate Russia’s “return to Europe”. Such a return is now impossible. For the same reason, it’s naïve of people in the West to imagine that the human rights agenda today can have the same impact that it did in the 1970s and 1980s. Beyond that, the institutionalizing of the West can in the long term only weaken Russians’ sense that they are Western, and so weaken also their desire to seek the West’s approval.
This is, of course, not an irreversible process. For now, Russia for the most part still looks West. But the more the institutionalized West seeks to exclude Russia, and the more that the new Iron Curtain solidifies, the harder it will be to convince Russians that they have a European future. In this context, it’s difficult to see how a new generation of Westernizing reformers could come to power in the way of the enlightened bureaucrats of Gorbachev’s era.
Of course, few people saw Gorbachev and co. coming, so you never know. It could yet happen. But I wouldn’t bet the house on it. The situation now is very different, and in some respects not for the better.
Barring the publication of something quite remarkable in the next couple of months, I can now announce the winner of the 2018 prize for ‘best book about Russia I’ve read this year’ – Russian Hybrid Warfare: Resurgence and Politicisation by Ofer Fridman, a research fellow in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Actually, the title Russian Hybrid Warfare is a bit misleading, as the book is not exclusively about Russia. Rather it’s about hybrid warfare in general, and more specifically about how it has been conceptualized and politicized in both Russia and the West. Readers will come away with a good understanding of how the term ‘hybrid war’ came into being, what people mean by it, and how it has been used, or more correctly misused, by various actors to serve their own political and bureaucratic interests. Russian Hybrid Warfare is succinct, solidly researched, clearly written and jargon-free, devoid of obvious political biases (a rarity in discussions of Russia these days), challenges clichés, and brings nuance and understanding to a field of study too often characterized by black and white simplicities. The one weakness of the book is that it is a little repetitious; Fridman enjoys saying the same thing more than once; he likes to tell us what he’s already told us; he says things over and over. But apart from that, I found nothing to fault. I realize that strategic theory isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but given how hybrid warfare has become part and parcel of public discourse in the past few years, everyone with an interest in international security should give this book a read.
Going to war is generally a bad idea. I’ve long been interested, therefore, in analyses which provide some clues as to why political leaders make the almost certainly stupid decision to do so. For that reason, I’m grateful to RT for bringing to wider attention a report commissioned by the Norwegian government entitled ‘Evaluation of Norway’s Participation in the Operations in Libya in 2011’. RT gets a lot of abuse for publishing ‘fake news’, but it does provide a public service in producing stories which otherwise don’t get any attention in the English-speaking media. This is a good example.
Norway played a leading role in NATO’s 2011 campaign to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Norwegian Air Force contributed six jets to the NATO mission, and dropped around 600 bombs on Libya, accounting for about 15% of the NATO total. At the time, the military campaign had almost unanimous support among Norwegian politicians, but by 2017 some of them had developed doubts, and so the Norwegian parliament instructed the government to conduct an inquiry into the operation. The report of the committee of inquiry has just been issued (unfortunately only in Norwegian), and can be downloaded here.
Outside of Norway, the press has almost entirely ignored the report, but RT picked it up, publishing an article entitled ‘Norway didn’t know much about Libya yet helped bomb it into chaos, state report finds.’ The article goes on to tell us that:
A Norwegian state report says the officials “had very limited knowledge” of what was going on in Libya, but promptly decided to join the US-led intervention, turning the once thriving North African nation into a terrorist hotbed. Norway rushed to help its NATO allies to pound Libya with airstrikes in 2011, without understanding what was actually happening on the ground or the dire consequences the intervention might lead to, a new state report has concluded. The commission, chaired by former Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, found that politicians in Oslo “had very limited knowledge of Libya” when they dragged the nation into the US-led bombing campaign against the Libyan government. “In such situations, decision-makers often rely on information from media and other countries,” the report says.
This perked my interest, so with the help of Google Translate, I’ve given the report a read. In fact, it says a lot more than the RT article suggests, and covers matters such as the legality and constitutionality of Norway’s war against Libya, the conduct of Norwegian military operations, and the humanitarian and political aspects of Norway’s involvement in Libya. What interests me most, however, are the findings concerning the decision-making process, so I will concentrate here on those.
As RT says, the report notes that Norwegian politicians knew very little about Libya or the conflict which erupted there in 2011. This is stated several times: ‘When the uprising started in February 2011, the knowledge about Libya among Norwegian decision makers was very limited’; ‘The Norwegian authorities had limited Libya expertise’; and so on. To compensate for this, the Norwegians relied on two sources: their allies, and the media. The former painted a very negative picture of the situation in Libya. According to the report, once Norway’s French and British allies had persuaded the UN Security Council to authorize military action, ‘the Norwegian authorities did not find it necessary to verify the Security Council’s understanding of the situation.’ As for the media, its reporting was one-sided and pressured the Norwegian government to act forcefully. Consequently, the report concludes, the evidence
suggests that warnings from, among others, Libyan opposition groups in exile, some regional actors, and human rights activists were accepted without any kind of critical examination.
In these circumstances, Norwegian leaders assumed the worst. Fearing that a massacre of the people of Benghazi was imminent, they felt that they needed to act immediately. According to the report, ‘The decision was taken in a very small circle’, and was ‘taken very quickly.’ The smaller parties in the ruling coalition were then ‘exposed to relatively large pressure’ to fall in line.
The speed of the decision-making left no time to adequately consider not only the evidence, but also the pros of cons of action and inaction. What becomes clear from the report is that Norwegian leaders considered only the possible negative consequences of failing to act without considering the possible negative consequences of acting. In particular, the report notes that the Norwegian government feared that if nothing was done, ‘there was a real danger that the country would be divided into two … the conflict would lead to government collapse and further fragmentation of what was already considered a dysfunctional state.’ It was feared that this might lead to a flood of refugees from Libya into Europe. What’s ironic about this is that exactly the things the Norwegians feared would happen if they didn’t act are what did happen because they did!
It is quite obvious from the report, however, that nobody thought of this. The report is written in the sort of bureaucratic style which doesn’t directly criticize policy. Instead, it hints, making suggestions which if you read between the lines point out that something went badly wrong. It concludes:
Norwegian authorities should work systematically in order to ensure the widest possible decision-making basis, including building up an organizational culture which facilitates a more systematic analysis of different scenarios and unknown variables. Possible measures are:
The establishment of so-called red teams, who have a mission to point out the challenges and consequences of an intervention.
Use of checklists in connection with the preparation of decisions. Such lists can be of great use in crisis situations, where a one-sided interpretation based on incomplete facts can weaken the understanding of the situation.
The fact that the committee of inquiry felt it necessary to make such recommendations is revealing. It indicates in a subtle way that the Norwegian government did not carry out a ‘systematic analysis of different scenarios and unknown variables’, and did not consider ‘the challenges and consequences of an intervention’, but did follow ‘a one-sided interpretation based on incomplete facts.’ It’s well-hidden, but it’s a pretty damning conclusion. Simply put, the government didn’t consider alternative possible outcomes of their actions, let alone weigh the pros and cons of different options, but just chose one option on the basis of inaccurate information which it didn’t bother properly to check.
To be fair, the report does take pains to point out that the Norwegian government was operating under intense pressure in what appeared to be an emergency situation which required a rapid decision, and that it did so in an atmosphere of great uncertainty. For this reason, it doesn’t criticize what was done but treats it as understandable in the circumstances. I have some sympathy with this perspective – it’s quite easy to criticize from a distance when one isn’t under the same sort of pressure and when, with the benefit of hindsight, one has the relevant information at one’s disposal. But, while I have some sympathy, I can’t ultimately accept the argument. In the first place, time pressure isn’t a reason not to consider the possible consequences of what one is planning to do. And second, neither the Norwegian government nor any of its NATO allies acted as if they were in a situation of uncertainty. Rather, the problem was that they seemed all too certain that their analysis was right and said as much in the most categorical terms.
In short, there was a rush to judgement. Alas, this wasn’t a one off. It’s a story we’ve seen repeated in many countries on numerous occasions in recent years. I wish I could say that it is shocking. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise.
My talk to the Group of 78 on the subject ‘Do we still need NATO?’ is available on youtube. You can watch it here:
I was on TVO’s ‘flagship current affairs program’ The Agenda last night, talking about NATO, Russia, defence spending and the like. You can watch it here.
Given the hysterical level of Russophobic rhetoric in Washington at present, it is rare for anybody to raise their heads up above the parapet and say that better relations between America and Russia might be a good thing. The prevailing belief is that the worse relations are the better: Russia is an aggressive and dictatorial nation with which it is impossible to reason; attempts at dialogue or to forge compromise will merely be interpreted as weakness and encourage further aggression; the only viable policy is to show strength at every opportunity.
It’s good, therefore, to see the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank which has historically had close ties to the American government and is generally considered representative of the American establishment, publishing a report entitled Reducing Tensions Between Russia and NATO. The report, written by Kimberly Marten of Barnard College, makes a number of quite sensible suggestions and demonstrates that traditional Realists haven’t entirely abandoned the foreign policy community.
As might be expected, Marten talks of Russian ‘aggression’ and raises the spectre that ‘Russia may seek to break the NATO alliance or even expand at NATO’s expense – to reconquer lost Soviet territory, to attain regional hegemony in Eurasia, or allow Putin to go down in history as the man who re-established Russia’s great power status’. She lays out scenarios which may lead to a military clash between Russia and NATO, including a Russian attack on the Baltic states. And she says that ‘many analysts consider Putin’s crackdowns on Russian media and civil society and his recentralization of state control over the Russian economy as the start of a re-Sovietization of Russian life.’
Marten isn’t, therefore, any type of Putinversteher. That would doubtless be too much to expect, and would in any case just cast her as ‘not serious’ in the policy community. But, in line with other Realists such as John Mearsheimer, she doesn’t think that current US-Russian tensions are entirely the Russians’ fault. She accepts that American policies, including NATO expansion, have generated real fears among Russian officials, and that Russian acts are as much a reaction to those fears as a product of aggressive, imperial ambitions. NATO’s decision to counter with military means what it sees as the Russian threat runs the risk of escalating tensions still further, reinforcing the Russian leadership’s sense of paranoia, and even producing a war between Russia and the West if there were to be something like a repeat of the occasion when Turkey shot down a Russian airplane.
This danger makes Professor Marten believe that improving relations with Russia is very much in America’s interests, and she adds that there are positive steps which the USA can take to reassure Russia that America doesn’t threaten it.
To this end, Marten proposes a two-pronged strategy; deterrence and reassurance. ‘First’, she says, ‘the Trump administration should continue to work with its NATO allies to deter Russia from threatening or undermining any NATO member.’ She comments that ‘To condemn NATO allies to face a potential new Russian threat on their own would irreparably harm the United States’ reputation for reliability and integrity, permanently damaging its ability to exert influence abroad.’
This is fairly typical stuff, and reflects the unhealthy obsession American elites have with their ‘reputation’. Precisely why Russia needs deterring isn’t fully explained beyond a reference to uncertainty. It just seems to be taken for granted that Russia is potential aggressive. This segment of the report, therefore, isn’t particularly novel or interesting, except for one section where Marten talks about ‘deterrence by denial’. In this segment, she writes:
President Trump and the State Department should use formal and informal discussions to encourage Estonia and Latvia to better integrate their Russian populations. Both countries have made real progress in this respect over the past decades, partly in response to international pressure. But more could be done, both by offering unconditional citizenship to a greater share of stateless residents born after the collapse of the Soviet Union and by expanding employment opportunities and empathetic community policing efforts.
This is an entirely sensible suggestion. It is often said that Russia might exploit discontent among Russian-speakers in Estonia and Latvia to cause trouble there and even justify an invasion. Rather than sending troops to the Baltic States, it would make more sense simply to remove the cause of discontent. Given that NATO members have committed to defending Estonia and Latvia, the rights of the Russian speaking populations of those countries have become their security concern, and they should do more to ensure that those rights are granted.
After having dealt with deterrence, Marten moves on to the theme of reassurance. ‘The Trump administration’, she says, ‘should take reasonable actions alongside its NATO allies to reassure Russian political and military officials and the Russian public that the United States and NATO have defensive intentions and do not threaten Russian territory.’ To this end, Marten makes a number of specific recommendations, including that the Unites States should:
- ‘Treat Russian leaders and the Russian state with respect’ – no more comparing Putin to Hitler.
- ‘Formally reaffirm President Trump’s message that the United States does not seek to impose “regime change” on Russia.’
- ‘Publicly state that the United States believes that Ukraine does not currently meet NATO membership standards and has a long way to go.’
- ‘Explicitly tie the planned deployment of US interceptor missiles at the land-based Aegis BMD system in Poland to Iran’s behavior in fulfilling its commitments to the nuclear non-proliferation deal reached in 2015. … To demonstrate that this BMD system is indeed designed against a threat from Iran and not Russia, the United States should reach an agreement with Poland that the missiles will be stored on US territory and deployed to Poland only if Iran appears to be violating the terms of the agreement.’
Marten also comments that, ‘policy decisions should be based on consistent, transparent, rule-based criteria wherever possible. Law-abiding behavior will deflect Russian accusations of hypocrisy.’
The proposal about BMD is quite interesting. Russians, as far as I can tell, simply don’t believe that the BMD system is designed against Iran, for the simple reason that there is no such thing as an Iranian nuclear ballistic missile nor is there any indication that there is every likely to be. Because of this (in my view entirely accurate assessment of the Iranian threat), it would be much better simply to scrap the European missile defence system. But given how much money and how many careers have been invested in it, one must recognize that the Americans are not going to admit that they were wrong and get rid of the whole thing. Marten’s proposal would at least allow them to keep investing in the program without annoying the Russians.
Overall, I would say that Marten’s recommendations suffer from a couple of weaknesses. First, they probably don’t go far enough to provide genuine reassurance – e.g. saying that Ukraine is far from reaching NATO standards isn’t at all the same as saying that Ukraine will never join NATO. Second, saying that US policy should abide by international law ‘wherever possible’ gives an awful lot of wriggle room and isn’t a very firm commitment. The problem isn’t ‘Russian accusations of hypocrisy’; it’s actual hypocrisy. The reputation on which Marten places so much important has been hugely damaged by America’s repeated breaches of international law. What is needed is a wholesale change in attitude, including a full-scale repudiation of ‘regime change’, ‘humanitarian interventions’ and the like. And third, it may all be too late. The Russians have by now lost so much trust in the USA that a few gestures of reassurance may no longer be enough to repair relations, and if coupled with a simultaneous policy of ‘deterrence’, these gestures may well be dismissed as entirely meaningless.
In short, Marten’s proposals are possibly too little too late. Still, they represent a significant step forward compared with most of the suggestions nowadays coming out of Washington, and among them are some specific proposals which are definitely worth pursuing. It is probable that Marten’s recommendations represent more or the less the outer limit of what is presently acceptable, and for that reason her report is definitely welcome. Having said all that, in the current climate the chances of anybody in power actually paying any attention are probably fairly small.