March 4, 2014
Some foolish commentators have been suggesting that the West has no interest in provoking another major conflagration in the Crimea. Have we not learned the lessons of the disastrous conflict 160 years ago which saw the deaths of 25,000 British troops, 100,000 French and as many as a million Russians?
Yes we have! No one is pretending that a new Crimean War wouldn’t be terrible for all concerned. But let’s not dwell on the negativity. Think of the potential benefits!
1. A more realistic foreign policy, born of bitter experience.
No one in the West really wanted a Crimean war in the 1850s. Britain, France and Austria were sucked into it by a mix of Russian expansionism (Czar Nicholas I in the Putin role) and treaty obligations (Budapest Memorandum, anyone?).
Or, as one historian of the war, Shepard Clough magisterially put it:
“It was not the result of a calculated plan, nor even of hasty last-minute decisions made under stress. It was the consequence of more than two years of fatal blundering in slow-motion by inept statesmen who had months to reflect upon the actions they took.
“It arose from Napoleon’s search for prestige; Nicholas’s quest for control over the Straits; his naïve miscalculation of the probable reactions of the European powers; the failure of those powers to make their positions clear; and the pressure of public opinion in Britain and Constantinople at crucial moments.”