Friday, March 02, 2018

Rallying Round Theresa... No Chance

The Prime Minister (pro tem) of the UK has made another speech imploring the British people to rally round and come together in order to make the country a success post-Brexit.

Let me state why I, for one, will not be doing that.

The surprise result of the referendum on British membership of the European Union could have been answered by the Conservative government in a variety of ways.  Once the Conservatives had time to change their leadership after the precipitate departure of David Cameron, it could have been reasonable to say something like: " we understand that the British people, by a small margin, are asking us to start the process of leaving the European Union. However we believe that it is imperative to retain our economic links in the single market and the customs union, so we will initially negotiate an economics-led relationship that could either be full membership of the EEA, like Norway, or a customs union, like Switzerland, once this is enacted, we can either consult again or continue as we then become.

Theresa May did not say any of those things, she said two things: one, that the UK would no longer recognize the jurisdiction of the European Court, and therefore two, "Brexit must mean Brexit".  This meant that the goal of her Conservative government, from the beginning, was to leave all of the European co-operation framework, including Euratom, EuroPol, the air traffic system, and so on. 

ALL OF IT. 

The UK would retain nothing and become a third country in all of its dealings with the EU. Frankly this was not what such Anti-Europeans as Dan Hannam said they were campaigning for. It was an extreme position, unquestionably not supported by the majority of the British people.

Since that time, over 18 months ago, it has become clear that the decisions made in haste have made it impossible to complete any negotiations within the 2-year time frame of Article 50.  It usually takes about a decade for a comprehensive trade agreement to be made.  However the long term transition period that would imply is also not acceptable to the extremist Conservative position. No, everything must be wrapped up within 2 years of the UK departure, in other words before spring 2020. More to the point, the agreement to do this must be completed before September 2018. This is not achievable even by by a government that is not run by a cabal of incompetent, narcissistic, ego-driven third raters. Johnson, Gove, et al do not have any executive experience worth a damn, and their PR/Journalist skill set is totally inadequate to the tasks that must now be completed within an accelerated time frame.

In other words, the Conservatives are demanding an extreme position, not supported by the majority of UK voters, within a time frame that can not be delivered. 

Why should anyone support a government whose policies are both extreme and extremely reckless?

In fact the simple impossibility of what the broken-backed Conservative government is proposing is now totally manifest, and it is not a stab in the back from those who oppose the Tories, it is a self-inflicted stab wound by the Conservatives themselves.

The UK economy is showing an increasing number of warning signs flashing red- all of the very worst fears of what could happen under Brexit are now showing every sign of coming true. This is not the caddish slur "project fear", it is project reality, and the Conservative government has no one but itself to blame.

Even if you loath the EU and all its works, what was wrong with an interim position of the EEA?  It is the sheer unreasonable, intemperate fanaticism of the 62-odd Tories in the ERG that is bringing the UK to the brink of a serious economic, political and constitutional crisis.

So, I will not be rallying round. 

The Conservatives are clearly unfit for government and must be removed from office as fast as can be arranged. 

Sure, some may say "But, but... Corbyn". I make no bones about my fervent opposition to his brand of neo-Marxism.  However this is not a case of "better the devil you know"... We know that the Tories are leading us to disaster, any outcome is now likely to be better than the continuance in office of this discredited, incompetent and sleazy crew of Conservatives.The fact that Corbyn now supports at least a customs union has been recognized by such unlikely cheer leaders as the CBI as a massively more moderate position that the Conservatives witless "Brexit must mean Brexit".

The country deserves more moderate choices, including my own preferred choice of a second referendum, without the presence of questionable, Russian-flavoured money.  The Tories will not offer that- they only offer the narrow extremism of Rees Mogg and other public school bigots.  From the local elections in May, the Tories must be kicked out bag-and-baggage, and ultimately driven from power at every level. The "strong-and-stable" guff that was such an insult to the intelligence at the last election must now receive a payback.

Tories OUT!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Trump and Brexit are the Pearl Harbor and the Fall of Singapore in Russia's Hybrid war against the West.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. After the subsequent declaration of war, within three days, the Japanese had sunk the British warships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and the rapid Japanese attack led to the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 and the fall of Singapore only two months after Pearl Harbor. These were the opening blows in the long war of the Pacific that cost over 30,000,000 lives and was only ended with the detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"History doesn't often repeat itself, but it rhymes" is an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain, and in a way it seems quite appropriate when we survey the current scene. 

In 1941, Imperial Japan, knowing its own weakness, chose a non-conventional form of war, the surprise attack. Since the end of his first Presidential term, Vladimir Putin, knowing Russia's weakness, has also chosen non-conventional ways to promote his domestic power- standing down as President to re-emerge as Prime Minister- as well as projecting Russian power overseas. Russia continues military occupations in Moldova and Georgia that predate Putin's accession, and has launched new ones in Ukraine and Syria. Moreover, the scope of operations of Russia's hybrid command has grown ever more ambitious. suborning former Western leaders to promote Russian interests proved surprisingly easy. Cyberattacks have grown more damaging and more numerous. On a daily basis Russia marks out Western interests as inimical to its own and seeks to subvert and damage, wherever and whenever it can.

It is now a matter of public indictment that Russian leaders have been conspiring to subvert democracy in the United States. It is a matter of public investigation that Russia has interfered, through illegal finance, blackmail and other means in the democratic process in Europe, including the United Kingdom. In particular the financing of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum is now under serious investigation, although sadly not in the UK itself, but in the United States.

Many, including this blog, have warned about Russian subversion in increasingly blunt terms. There is now substantial evidence of Russian involvement in the election of Donald Trump, and equally compelling evidence of Russian intervention in the Brexit vote.

The problem in fighting back is that we cannot use the Russian methods against their work in our own societies. Disinformatsya is a Russian tactic of lies, yet the only way to confront the Russians, and other corrupt governments that wish to subvert Liberal Democracy is to fight with truth and the rule of law. This is why Robert Mueller is now the most important man in the world. His commitment to the rule of law and legal ways to confront the attack that has been launched on American democracy is the only way the West can defeat the hybrid war without being itself corrupted and therefore defeated. It is a moral battle as much as a legal one. Morally compromised figures, such as Donald Trump, can only be removed in legal and moral ways. Robert Mueller has given every sign that he understands that his country must be a country of law and due process if it is to overcome the hybrid attack of corruption that has launched against it.

What then of the United Kingdom?

As evidence mounts that the Leave campaign received illegal funding, money laundered from Russian sources, there has been a steady rise in those who would challenge both the disastrous extremist polices that the Conservatives have adopted in response to the vote and indeed the legitimacy of the vote itself. Public supporters of Vladimir Putin, such as Arron Banks were also the largest donors to Leave, and in the world of Russian hybrid war, suspicion is itself suspicious. The judicial investigation that is now said to be under consideration, must now be launched

If there are any doubts about the referendum then the UK must do what the US cannot do with its Presidential election: that is to re-run it. Meanwhile as public understanding of the Russian attack on the West grows, then we must strengthen our own institutions, challenge the media that not only failed to warn, but was itself corrupted by the hybrid attack, and hold the political system to higher standards. This is not to insist on perfection, in fact the exact reverse. Western liberalism is built on the idea that human beings are weak and corruptible and provides checks and balances to make sure that even if it is attacked that rule of law and due process will prevail.

This requires a less shrill media and a more discerning attitude towards both political parties and political people. Nationalism and a closed society, like the Russian model, can only be weaker than globalism and an open society, but for globalism to prevail, it must be built on strict foundations of the rule of law.

If the moral fight for freedom is built on justice, not on greed, then globalism, so long under attack, can still prevail against the corrupt and the closed societies that are ranged against the West.

The Hybrid war is a battle of lies versus truth and of corruption versus justice.

It is a war that we can win by making the right moral, ethical and political choices.

It is a war as significant and as dangerous as the War in the Pacific launched nearly 80 years ago.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating the US Treasury with his outrageous, self interested tax bill. Robbing the average American to benefit the corporate interest is the settled will of the Republican party, and at present they have every right to enact the legislation, however unjust, however economically wrong headed, however loathsome. It will continue to undermine American democracy by making it ever more impossible for the poor to get on the ladder to a better life. The American dream is being crushed by greed and selfishness: the perfect metaphor for the catastrophic Trump Presidency.

Yet even this act of economic and political vandalism is not the low for this vile administration. Defying the studied ambiguity of the past fifty years, Trump unilaterally decided to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. It is a potentially very dangerous move, resisted for decades by all previous administrations. As always Trump rushes in where angels fear to tread. Yet having committed this act, he then turns on those who criticised the move in the United Nations general assembly, saying that aid would be suspended to those who voted against the move. Since the United States was forced to veto the Security Council resolution, it is clear that the US has very few friends on this issue.

Trump's threat is the end of the United States as a force for good in the world. It is an abdication of a policy of freedom and seeks to place the US as a hegemonic power without consent. Nothing could reduce the influence of America more quickly that to attempt to impose Trumps bullying and injustice on the international order. It turns willing allies into sullen satraps, and it will fail.

The problem now is that Putin's puppet can still cause immense damage before he is removed from office. Every day this thug remains in the White House is a national humiliation for the United States. The image of the US is being trashed, and the reality of alliances formed to support freedom and justice in the face of Soviet tyranny is being undermined- perhaps fatally.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The American national nightmare

On August 9th 1974 Gerald Ford took the oath of office to become president of the United States. In his brief speech he said:

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over... Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men."

43 years later, the American Republic is being tested in a way it has never been tested in the 241 years since the declaration of independence. 

It is not just that Donald Trump is a vulgar, boorish, lecher. It is not just that he has consistently lied about his businesses and has consistently used mafia levels of intimidation and fraudulent promises in order to cheat his way out of trouble. It is not just that his absurd self-regard renders him utterly unfit for any public office. It is not even that Trump was over three million votes behind in the popular vote.

There are three intersecting crises in America today. They are economic, political, and constitutional.

The United States is no longer the engine of global prosperity.  From being a global leader in a huge range of educational and business endeavour, The country has long ago lost its leadership in school education. American cities are often squalid and dangerous. Millions have lost the sense of aspiration that drove previous generations forward. The American Dream of material wealth and progress is challenged from within and without. China is set to overtake the USA as the world largest economy, while questions of sustainability and diversity now hedge American economy progress with doubt and uncertainty as to whether the goals of previous generations can be maintained, or even whether they should be. Although the American economy continues to innovate at a brisk pace, the innovators- whether in Silicon Valley or elsewhere- are often not themselves Americans. Meanwhile in manufacturing the US has continued its steady decline- outpaced only by the UK.

The sense of economic malaise has leaked into the politics of the United States. Divisive and confrontational politics are now the norm, fuelled by gerrymandering and a partisan media that routinely ignores objective truth in order to promote a biased and partial narrative. The result has been populist "uprisings" promoted by sinister and unpleasant figures such as Steve Bannon. The media manipulation is overt, but it supports covert and dangerous agendas. From the promotion of Russia to a populist view of taxation, information and arguments, whether these are legitimate or even criminal are simply not examined in any detail. The result is a media landscape which is an agora of lies, where any opinion counters any fact. The growing extremism of American politics has culminated in the ultimate wrong headed candidacy- the media creature Donald Trump.

Lets state it clearly: Donald Trump should not be the President of the United States. This is a judgement based on his flawed character, his dubious business interests and his connection with Russia. It also recognises that when a plurality of votes by a margin of over three million votes is overruled by the electoral college, then the will of the American people, which is supposed to be sovereign under the constitution, has in fact been ignored. The technicality that over-rules the will of the people must be corrected by early amendment.  However, even before this, there is a more egregious fault in the American constitutional arrangement: gerrymandering.  Gerrymandering is nothing more than the subversion of the democratic will. The Supreme Court is now hearing two cases concerning gerrymandering, and should they fail to deliver a remedy for the problem, then the future outlook is very bleak indeed. In the end, the Congress is the check on the President, and a deeply flawed President demands a deeply responsible Senate and House.  

The multiple crises in the United States are deep and probably long lasting. However the immediate delirium is the ongoing process against Mr Trump.  The Mueller investigation is clearly entering a critical phase, and appears to be confirming the suspicion of Russian direct involvement in the Trump campaign and in the early days of the administration. The indictment of several senior figures, including Gen. Flynn, Mr.Trump's first National Security Adviser, would in some other countries- Willy Brandt in 1974 Germany, for example- have driven Mr. Trump himself from office, irrespective of whether there was direct wrong doing on his part or not. In the next few weeks, we will see if Robert Mueller has sufficient evidence to prosecute Mike Pence or Donald Trump or both for "high crimes and misdemeanours". 

The American Republic is being tested as it has never been.  Over the course of 2018, we shall see whether the government is of laws or of men.  It could be a very bumpy and very dangerous ride.

Friday, December 08, 2017

No island is an island entire unto itself...

OK so there has been a breakthrough apparently...

But the breakthrough is not that a framework agreement to start substantive talks is kinda, sorta, done, maybe...

It is that now the UK public knows that the leaders of the "Leave" campaign were a bunch of charlatans. 

David Davis took "hapless" to new lows with his "my dog ate my homework" explanation of why -in fact- no impact assessments of the single most important economic policy change in 60 years, were made. Whether you choose to believe or disbelieve the shifty excrescence is a matter for you, because its all the same to the Secretary of State as to whether you believe him or not.

Meanwhile the refusal of the Conservatives to recognise that Ireland is a separate and sovereign state, and that therefore of course the UK has a land border with the EU, nearly brought the whole process to a shuddering halt. In fact that actions of the DUP have now, for the first time brought the departure of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the point of being more likely than not, but that is not a breakthrough either.

The breakthrough is that there is no way to avoid a national humiliation. A humiliation that the Conservatives are wholly responsible for and which is the result of their arrogance and ignorance.

The disaster will continue to unfold until either the UK, probably shorn of territory as well as billions of pounds and vastly diminished international standing, emerges into the cold world of a post EU economy; or the British people revolts against their incompetent and dishonest government. At the moment either is possible in the short term, with a slight edge towards revolt. 

In the medium-to-long term a major reset in the UK is now looking very likely indeed.  

The anti-modern Imperial measurement, Imperial mindset of the Conservatives is growing ever more absurd. Clinging to their vision of a better yesterday, the Tories refuse to face up to the fact that their vision of the country is deluded.  Socially more divided than ever, the public realm, from the Houses of Parliament to the underfunded infrastructure, is increasingly squalid. The moth eaten relics of Empire now simply look absurd in the increasingly cold light of Brexit day.

This starts with the system of government that has delivered a government of incompetence and an opposition of fools. The government gets away with lies because they face no opposition from a House of Commons which they can whip to their service and an essentially toothless House of Lords. Neither can the Monarchy control the evil nor the idiocy.  In the name of the venerable Queen Elizabeth II baubles called the "Order of the British Empire" are still handed out to the great and the good- irrespective that the Dutch, let alone the French, have empires rather more impressive than the speckle of rocks that is the last inheritance of the moth eaten Land of Hope and Glory. The flummery of orders of the Bath or the Garter should fill any modern democrat with amusement, but for the fact that people take this dross seriously. The pageant of Monarchy "brings in the tourists", but fails to protect the rights of British citizens- it serves no useful purpose, unless you are a London hotelier. Yet still Prince Andrew and other highly intellectual, charming, and modest members of the Royal family are appointed counsellors of state with significant political power, on the clear understanding that if they use this power in public they will be swept away. The answer is clear: the substantial reserve powers of the Crown should be placed under public, not personal, control. As with the accession of King Karl Gustav XVI of Sweden in 1973, the accession of the heir of Elizabeth II should be marked by the end of the political power of the Monarchy.

The modernisation of Britain- with or without Northern Ireland- should then proceed. Not merely the long overdue constitutional reform, but economic reform. Burn the current tax code and start again. This is the only way we can then begin to tackle the catastrophic public finances of the country. Promote savings over consumption- and yes that means a prolonged and deep restructuring of the entire economy. Times will be really tough, but instead of trying to save the outdated tax-and-borrow-for-current-consumption-and-forget-about-the-future model we have now, we can start to think long term and strategically. Infrastructure spending must increase and pensions and welfare made sustainable.

So let us hope this "breakthrough" finally causes the British voters to understand the fact that the government system is broken beyond repair. Any government that has been so reckless as the Conservatives with their wealth and well being should be eviscerated and the political party responsible should be liquidated.

For the fact is that unless we punish the guilty at the next election we will continue be complicit in our own decline. A radical change of direction is not merely desirable, it is essential, and understanding that is the only way to make any kind of breakthrough and ultimate recovery.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are shown to wealthy, which may not be such a surprise, and to hold assets in places like the Cayman islands or Bermuda, which might be more of a surprise.

The UK press, in one of the more spectacular episodes of hypocrisy to which they are regularly prone, affects to be shocked and appalled by the fact that so many people "avoid tax" by holding assets in multiple off-shore and international jurisdictions. Just to remind the public at large: Rupert Murdoch, an Australian who naturalised American for tax purposes, holds assets in multiple off-shore jurisdictions. Lord Rothermere, living in Wiltshire, but legally domiciled in France for tax purposes, holds the Daily Mail and General Trust through off-shore holdings in Bermuda.  The owners of the Daily Telegraph, the rather sinister Barclay Brothers, domiciled off-shore in Sark, control their empire though the Channel Islands. The pornographer Richard Desmond controls the Express group through a series of off-shore holdings, as does the Russian Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Evening Standard and the Independent. Bluntly, the off-shore ownership of media assets is quite legitimately a matter of public concern, especially given the occasionally important business relationships that their owners have with anti-democratic regimes, such as Russia or China.

Neither is there any doubt that off-shore holdings are routinely used by criminal organisations to hide the sources of wealth acquired by crime. Mind you the fact is that all jurisdictions are used by criminals- there is no single crime-free jurisdiction in the world, not even the Vatican. There is no doubt that some of the tax avoidance schemes operated in certain jurisdictions, even if they may be perfectly legal, are nevertheless extremely questionable on ethical grounds.

The fact is that the overwhelming amount of money and the overwhelming proportion of transactions are undertaken in off-shore tax jurisdictions for entirely legitimate reasons. These could, for example, include the establishment of a single neutral jurisdiction for a corporation which has conflicting tax or compliance requirements in different countries where they operate, or to hold assets that are involved in international M&A.

Nevertheless there is no doubt that the off-shore world exists because of tax, and that is a scandal. However it is not the scandal that the public imagination believes.  The scandal, especially in the UK, is not the off-shore tax code but the on-shore one.

The United Kingdom now has a tax code that is 27,000 pages long.  In the past two decades the standard political solution has been to promote certain policies through tax incentives. The result is a massive and unwieldy tax code which is literally impossible to understand, let alone to comply with. Last night I had a small dinner with a UK government Minister and the subject of export support came up, and with it the suggestion of... you guessed it... tax incentives. Yet at every further release of off-shore data the asinine politicians demand tougher regulation and more tax inspectors.

The result is not merely the longest tax code in the world: as a result HMRC is one of the largest tax bureaucracies in the world with over 120,000 employees. The cost of administration of the Revenue is over 3% per annum, which is over  £21 billion every year, and that does not count the tax credit system, which is a further cost. Neither does it count the cost of compliance in the economy at large: the massive number of tax accountants that are needed to submit a return for even the most basic tax matter. The fact is that tax collection and administration is one of the biggest businesses in Britain and it adds exactly nothing to our national wealth. The annual budget never simplifies, it only complicates.

The scale of this failure is what has created the need for off shore holdings. The fact is that the very offices that  HMRC works from are owned by funds who are legally based in off-shore jurisdictions. The HM in HMRC also invests using off-shore holdings: she, like most of the rest of us, is compelled to do so by the drastic negative effect on investment returns if she does not.

So when you see more blazingly hypocritical headlines in our off-shore owned press about the iniquity of holding assets off-shore, spare a thought for the real scandal. The fact that politicians have given up any idea of real tax reform. This utter failure of leadership is yet another example of the UK at its very worst. Off course it is "difficult", but unless it is tackled, all value-added businesses will end up off-shore and all that will be left will be estate agents and tax inspectors: not a recipe for the dynamic post-Brexit future that the off-shore, hypocritical, extreme right-wing, verminous British press insists is the coming future, against all evidence to the contrary.           

Monday, November 13, 2017

Putin over reaches himself- but the West must respond.

In espionage the standard of proof is a variable measure. There are very few times that information can be said to be "beyond reasonable doubt". Nuances and circumstances acquire great significance and it requires an analyst with a deep sense of intuition to piece together an accurate narrative from small pieces of partial information. There may be much data, but to find the information it contains is like putting together a shattered mirror, where you do not know whether you have all the pieces. Thus intelligence can be a double-edged sword, and it is dangerous to rely purely on secret intelligence without bringing one's own sceptical biases into the equation.  Spies are much given to using two quotes from Sherlock Holmes: the first dictum is about positive truth: "once you eliminate the impossible, what ever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth". The second is "the curious incident of the dog in the night time" "the dog did nothing in the night time" "that was the curious incident". This second refers to how positive information can be determined by things missing or absent.

I point these things out because the growing awareness of Russian subversion and propaganda in the democratic world is being played out against a very strong background of secret services involvement.  Yet the Russian secret services are rather different from their rivals in the West. As we have seen from the Steele dossier, the primary purpose of MI6 is to acquire secret information from a variety of sources in order to build up an understanding of the direction of Russian actions. The document is written in the fairly standard format of MI6 reports, with as much cross referencing as may be available. By definition it is not a document intended to prove beyond reasonable doubt. Nevertheless the emergence of other source material has substantially corroborated the dossier. By the standards of secret intelligence the dossier is very strong evidence indeed. Where there are faults, they have tended to be the result of caution. For example, Steele writes of a five year business relationship between the Trump organisation and Russian money, the evidence now suggests that the relationship is both deeper and longer -as long as fifteen years- than first alleged.

The Russian security apperat: Internal FSB, external SVR, military GRU and SigInt SSSR, has two mandates. The first is the gathering of secret intelligence. The second is the active disruption and subversion of critical targets. Of course, Western agencies have attempted to disrupt certain targets: terrorist cells, for example, but the difference is that Russia has devoted substantial resources to the disruption of western democracy. This is no longer a matter of opinion: as the evidence grows of Russian government support for an army or information trolls, including millions for false Facebook posts, and the direct financial support for far-right political parties, this is not even a matter of reasonable doubt, it is a matter of fact. Russia is actively campaigning to undermine Western democratic values and norms.

There is now substantial evidence of Russian support for the election of Donald Trump. The fact that Donald Trump says that Vladimir Putin told him that there was no such collusion can be safely put into the "he would say that, wouldn't he" box of political scandals. In intelligence terms the evidence is extremely strong that Donald Trump's campaign self consciously accepted substantial Russian support and that he did this because a large part of his supposed wealth is in fact Russian money and the Russian intelligence services hold kompromat including personally and sexually compromising material on Mr Trump himself.

Meanwhile, it grows increasingly clear that the election of Donald Trump was not the only campaign waged from the Kremlin in the last two years. It is a matter of proven public record that Russian finance supported the election campaign of the far right Marine LePen in France.  The other, far more successful, Russian intervention in European politics was the British referendum vote of June 23rd 2016. Although there is some evidence that Russian money was involved in the Scottish referendum vote of September 2014, the evidence for the EU vote is much stronger. As with the US Presidential election an army or twitter-bots and Facebook propaganda was deployed in support of the Leave campaign. 

Nor was the support simply external to the UK. As we now beginning to understand about the Russian subversion campaign against the US, there were several agents of influence who provided secret back channels of communication and of finance. One of the leading financial backers of the Leave campaign, Arron Banks, has a Russian wife and has publicly praised the Putinist government in Moscow. More to the point, the sources of his apparent  wealth are not transparent. Insurance is a business where changing actuarial assumptions can allow significant changes in the financial position of the company.  Were Russia to wish to launder large sums into British politics, it could be a fairly easy way to do it. 

Although poo-pooed by the Brexit camp, the connections between Nigel Farage and Julian Assange, and his partner, suspected Russian agent, Edward Snowdon, are clearly suspicious in intelligence terms.  The inquiries now underway on both sides of the Atlantic have already proven the intent of the Kremlin to subvert the US and the UK. There is substantial circumstantial evidence that suggests they succeeded in their attempts.

So what now?  Putin played and he won.

Not so fast.

There are material differences between the shallow and weak rule of law in Russia and the entrenched strength of wealthy and powerful western democracies. The appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the Presidential election not only brings one of the world's leading figures in counter espionage to the inquiry; it also brings one of the straightest arrows in US law enforcement.  Mr. Mueller believes in the government of law, not of men, and he clearly considers it is patriotic duty to uncover the whole plot and clean the stables, no matter what. Although Mr. Mueller is working to the highest standards of proof: "beyond reasonable doubt",  it is becoming clear that, as with the substantial corroboration of the Steele dossier, such proofs do indeed exist, as the guilty plea by George Papadopoulos indicates.

The wheels of justice may grind slow, but they do grind fine and eventually, if Bob Mueller has his way, the truth will prevail.

What then?  Russia is already exposed as a hostile power, attacking the West directly or by proxy in Ukraine, Georgia, Syria and any other place they can. Russia has been waging a war directly on Western democracy, largely without the notice of all but those most closely involved.  However, as with Japan in 1941, it is very dangerous to launch a surprise attack. The election of Donald Trump and the subversion of the British referendum are, in my view, the equivalent of the burning battleships of Pearl Harbor. However, Russia is weak and poor, and getting poorer.  Even China is cautious about accepting such an unstable and disruptive ally. In Chinese eyes the model is not the Second World War, but the First, with Russia playing the role of Austria Hungary. 

Putin will not survive a determined push back from the West. He has drastically overplayed the hand of a weak, corrupt, poor and divided country: Nigeria with nuclear weapons.

The recent release of the Kennedy papers has shown one critical thing. That Lee Harvey Oswald kept in touch with his KGB handlers, and that the CIA hid this information in order to avoid emotional demands that the Soviet Union be punished, which in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis could have led to nuclear confrontation. It maybe that certain circles in Washington would like to avoid revealing the full scale of the possible involvement of the Trump organisation in what is, after all the most heinous of crimes: treason. This could be for reasons of national prestige or to avoid the threat of a similar nuclear confrontation as might have occurred in 1963.Nevertheless, it is clear that the much of America now clearly understands the direct threat of Putinism to Democracy.

The United Kingdom must now also understand what has been done to them and to respond accordingly.  Ben Bradshaw's request for an enquiry is only the beginning of a process that needs to clean the British stables of corrupt money and Russian influence. 

The circumstantial evidence that secret intelligence relies on already points to something a lot bigger than covert Russian funding of the Leave campaign.  There are significant issues of intelligence interest that demand answers even from serving ministers.  We cannot exclude collusion by figures well beyond the names that are in the public domain.