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I Don’t Think We Should Go to War With Russia, That Doesn’t Make Me Putin’s Best Mate

The evidence for my “fraternal bond” with the Russian President is that I once attended a Christian conference at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

As the now disgraced Tatler Tory crew tried to push me out of the political debate, they cajoled the Mirror newspaper and Pink News to make false claims that I had been to the Kremlin and attended a Vladimir Putin summit. They were later forced to retract their statements, and what happened to the Tatler Tory crew is now a matter of Westminster legend.

All I had done was speak at a Christian conference in a church in Moscow which was organised by an American foundation. I’ve recently done the same thing in Washington, so I’m not looking forward to my godless Christmas card from my new best friends, the Obamas.

Yesterday I received a call from Andrew Gilligan, who in his younger years bravely went after the Blair government for the 45 minute claims, pursuing the same line. “Have you ever been to Russia Mr Harris-Quinney?”, I was asked, “because I have read you were there in 2014, and weren’t you recently also on Russian TV suggesting WW3 wouldn’t be in the interests of Russia or Britain?”

Of these charges I am guilty, but supporting Christian values and a realist stance on foreign policy is as unremarkable in conservative circles as a gender neutral cake shop in San Francisco.

The Sunday Times article he ran today makes the same false claims conjured up by the Tatler Tory cabal. I have never received any money for speaking at events that have anything to do with Vladimir Putin. In fact I almost never receive any money for any speaking events (I suppose you get what you pay for).I happen to have spent time with former heads of state of Spain, the UK, the US and a number of Latin America countries, but I remain nothing other than a patriot to my nation, which is more than I can say for many members of our own government and media.

I did ask Gilligan if he was aware of the extremely close links that do exist between his colleagues and major Conservative Party donors, and the Kremlin. He said that he was, but strangely these far more interesting (not to mention true) details don’t seem to have made it into his investigation. I wonder why? Perhaps he has gone off picking fights with the big guys and his paymasters, and sees an easier future for himself taking the establishment dollar to carry out fake hit pieces.

I have never met Putin or even played Xbox online with him.

Honestly, as a student of international affairs the chance to knock around with him at the Kremlin and get into his head would be a fine thing (it is one only reserved for the Etonian chumocracy however), but collating a conspiratorial friendship and allegiance to a President on the basis of having visited his country is as intellectually sound as the assumption that every Brit knows the Queen.

Gilligan’s accusation that the Bow Group is “pro Russia”, based upon two articles that have been written for the Bow Group in the past two years, neglects the many articles that have been written with contrary perspectives. Last month a speaker at one of our events called for the EU to unite against Russia. The Bow Group is a conservative forum open to all strands of conservative thinking, and a non-warmongering constructive approach to relations with Russia is surely a reasonable strand to include, among others.

All this could be dismissed as the usual inane pontification of the establishment media chattering classes, who have no doubt rightly concluded that my travel plans are a matter of searing national interest and for some reason are still paid to investigate them.

Therefore dismiss it I would, if there wasn’t something far more dangerous going on. The real traitors to British interests are genuinely dangerously close to pushing us into WW3 with their ironically Stalinist approach to the topic of Russia, and anyone who is willing to acknowledge the existence of the world’s largest nation, or sin of sins: question the desire to declare all-out war on it.

From Farage to Trump, anyone who queries why we are hell bent on going to war with Russia and Syria is immediately branded as a traitor and personal puppet of Putin. A Conservative MP told me recently that in expressing concern about Britain’s growing tensions with Russia he was dismissed by George Osborne as “comrade”.

It’s a line the establishment media loved to push during the Brexit vote, just as they are during the US Presidential elections. But I was heavily involved in the Brexit campaign, and the only whiff of foreign money and backing I ever detected was from the EU, George Soros, and massive corporations backing remain, not from the Kremlin.

All polls suggest this establishment line that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is on Putin’s top table is bankrupt, because the public largely agree with a realist conservative perspective – Putin poses no immediate threat to us unless we continue to ceaselessly poke the Russian bear over matters that have no relevance to the British citizenry.

I argue that the normal Brit is a realist. I have never walked into a pub to hear chatter turn to how essential it is for Britain to oust Assad, or effect regime change in Russia. These are not the concerns of your average citizen, they are the concerns of the globalists that have come to exert a death-like grip over our politics and media, and therefore claim to speak for us all.

The British realist’s crime is not that we care deeply about promoting our mate Putin’s interests in Russia, Syria, or Ukraine – it’s that we don’t care that much. To a civic nationalist Briton, what happens in these nations is their own business (unless they pose us a real threat), and there are far too many willing to risk other people’s skin and money to signal their virtue by sending us all into foreign conflicts they know nothing about (see the last 20 years of British foreign policy for all the evidence you need).

In 2010, Lord Forsyth produced a report that met a chorus of strong support in the Conservative Party. Members of our armed forces have, for centuries, willingly volunteered to place their lives in harm’s way in defence of the United Kingdom and her interests. It is the job of the British government, in return, to ensure that those men and women are only deployed to the theatre of war in defence of British interests, and never toward the ideological designs of one leader, or to the folly of vanity. The primary tenet of Forsyth’s proposed military covenant was therefore that “British troops should not be sent into any theatre where British interests are not demonstrably at stake.”

We are now at a point where senior journalists are suggesting that you can’t have ever been to Russia without being roundly considered as a longstanding member of the KGB. Truth has already passed away, and we are thusly in a de-facto state of cold-war with the Russians.

It’s hard to envisage how relations with Russia could get any worse from here, but assuming Hillary Clinton manages to dodge justice long enough to slide into the Oval Office, they will.

If it comes to it, and Russia or any other nation is posing a threat to the UK, I will head straight to the draft office to sign up. I’m sure I’ll find Gilligan and all the Westminster villagers down there saddled up and ready to put their money where their mouth is too, but I ask them three questions before we come to that: what is your plan for victory? What is your exit strategy? And how does Britain stand to gain? These three questions went unanswered in going into Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – to the immeasurable detriment of the United Kingdom, and the world.

You can read my full correspondence with Mr Gilligan below:

From: Gilligan, Andrew
Date: 28 October 2016 at 16:18
Subject: Today’s conversation
To: chairmman@bowgroup.org

Dear Ben,

Thanks for speaking today. I think we have dealt with everything in our phone conversation and the Bow Group is not the main focus of our interest. But please do let me know if you want to add anything on the following issues:

Documents leaked to a Russian website show that your attendance at the September 2014 conference was paid for by the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Called, a Swiss charity with close links to Putin. See spreadsheet here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/emails-show-pro-family-activists-feeding-contacts-to-russian?utm_term=.ofOX1vnOK#.hbWVYoDdN

The foundation’s deputy chair, who spoke at the Moscow conference, is Vladimir Yakunin, a key Putin ally, former Soviet diplomat and Russian government minister who is under US sanctions and a travel ban for his involvement in the illegal annexation of Crimea. The chair is Yakunin’s wife, who presided over the Moscow conference.

http://www.st-andrew-foundation.org/en/management/ and https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl23331.aspx

The Bow Group’s website started publishing material favourable to Russia’s position, including a report calling for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine and stating that “Ukraine is, and always has been, within Russia’s ambit.” [https://www.bowgroup.org/sites/bowgroup.uat.pleasetest.co.uk/files/Bow%20Group%20-%20Sanctions%20on%20Russia%20-%20Adriel%20Kasonta.pdf]

The author, Adriel Kasonta, then chairman of the Bow Group’s international affairs committee, is a writer for the London-based, Russian government-funded Russia Beyond the Headlines newspaper and Russia Direct website. http://www.russia-direct.org/profile/adriel-kasonta

Earlier this year, the Bow Group argued for a “cooperation agreement with Russian intelligence.”

https://www.bowgroup.org/policy/could-uk-russia-relations-take-positive-turn

You told RT television last week that “very dangerous” Western media coverage was promoting a “sleepwalk towards war or conflict with Russia” from which the West needed to “row back.” https://www.rt.com/news/363571-russia-dominate-western-headlines/

Thanks,

Andrew

 

Dear Andrew,

I see what you are getting at, but at best it’s a distortion of the reality.

I don’t know anything about a Swiss charity, but I was invited to speak at Christ the Savior Cathedral by the “World Congress of Families”, which as far as I knew or know is based in Chicago USA and made up predominantly of Americans. I haven’t had much involvement with them, but I had previously spoken at their conference in Madrid and I didn’t see any difference with this event because it was in Russia. The organisers were American for both conferences and I’m not aware of any change of ownership or how they are funded.

This contact came via the “Coalition for Marriage”. As with the recent Brexit campaign, during the Same Sex Marriage Bill process I spoke against the proposals at a large number of conferences and events which were sometimes passed to me by other campaign groups. The only outside funding for that campaign I was aware of came from organisations linked to George Soros supporting SSM. I tended to ask for my expenses to be covered in attending these events and debates, but never received any payment beyond that (frankly it cost me money).

The binding element to these things is not a pro-Russian stance, but a global Christian coalition (personal not Bow Group). I attend a lot of conferences generally and speak with representatives from many foreign governments as well as travelling a lot.

I understand the way the media tend to spin things, but to me speaking in or visiting Russia is no more significant than visiting any other country. I was in Spain 10 times last year, but it hasn’t changed my position on Gibraltar.

We are running events with representatives from Israel and the Hizmet movement this month and in a few weeks we have a delegation coming to speak to the Bow Group from China, but we aren’t about to switch to Maoism.

In the case of Adriel and Guillierme they both approached the Bow Group to write for us, rather than vice versa. As far as I know we’ve published articles also advocating a limited interventionalist stance, but the way the Bow Group works is chiefly as a conservative forum. Sometimes the Bow Group board will agree to a collective stance, but that is not the case with the articles from Adriel and Guillierme. Therefore someone writing for the Bow Group does not mean it represents the collective view of the Bow Group. I know the press don’t always accept this nuance, but for example we have recently published articles arguing for and against the renewal of the Royal Yacht for trade missions. Adriel hasn’t been involved in the Bow Group for over a year, and moved on for unrelated reasons.

It is certainly true that there is strong feeling in traditional conservative circles that we should return to a more realist view of global affairs, as can be seen in many of the positions held by Donald Trump and the wider GOP and Farage and much of the Conservative Party and UKIP in the UK. That this is being reflected in the Bow Group forum is unsurprising to me, though I agree it is an interesting global shift.

To suggest that this has occurred on the Bow Group website because I spoke at a conference in Russia on Christian values however, is simply untrue. After I crossed swords with Mark Clarke and Grant Shapps in the run up to the 2015 general election there was a sustained attempt run from CCHQ to smear me, and I have been a key witness in the Clifford Chance Inquiry since then: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3356909/Party-bullies-forced-says-critic-Tatler-Tory-branded-vile-homophobe-menace-suspended-Conservatives.html

It included claims that I’d been a regular guest of Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and that we were close friends. It’s a go to smear line that was also used during the Brexit campaign and currently in the US election.

It riled me particularly because many of the people behind the campaign were seemingly actually in the pay of the Kremlin.

I think the Bow Group will hold an event on UK relations with Russia which will include all sides of the debate – its reached a point now where it’s a pressing issue. You’d be welcome to attend.

My personal view on foreign policy towards Russia is outlined in these pieces:

http://www.bowgroup.org/policy/good-intentions-arent-enough

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/08/15/russia-sanctions-cost-to-west-could-exceed-700bn-warns-think-tank/

Bow Group Chairman Ben Harris-Quinney said: “Like most papers we publish not everyone in the Bow Group agrees, and I disagree with many of the conclusions this paper draws.

“It’s important to consider foreign perspectives,  but Britain must maintain a position of strength in perception and reality. Just as we are currently seeing in Cuba and Iran, détente without conditionality is defeat.

“However, after a decade of ill-advised diplomatic and military misadventure it has to be acknowledged that the theory of neo-liberal interventionism is bankrupt.

“It is therefore important to acknowledge the massive potential cost of sanctions to the UK and wider West, at over $700 billion, and explore other options.

“The strategy that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher advocated – peace through strength – must be a better answer. If, in partnership with other NATO powers we spent a proportion of that $700 billion on strengthening our military at home and abroad, it’s highly unlikely that NATO borders would be challenged by Russia or any other opportunist expansionism. That’s something that sanctions have not and will never achieve.

“For a Conservative Prime Minister the last 5 years has been a disappointment in terms of defence and care of our armed forces.

The Bow Group is challenging the government to now take a more detailed and long term approach to the Strategic Defence and Security Review, commit to 2 per cent GDP spending on defence, and a more pragmatic approach to using our resources to achieve this.”

The think tank has also pressured for the government to extend the Strategic Defence and Security view after many criticised the government’s new approach: consultations in no more than 300 words from stakeholders.”

We tend to accept most media requests, last week we did RT, the BBC, the Islam Channel and a Japanese newspaper. RT have never edited anything I have said or attempted to twist my meaning, even when I’ve been critical, which is frankly more than I can say for the BBC, the Independent & the Daily Mirror. I don’t like most of the stuff they do, the radical left stuff etc, but I’m actually glad they exist for balance.

The angle you present in your email is a totally inaccurate picture of the reality in the Bow Group where you seem to have cherry picked some unrelated things to fit your narrative, but if you want to run a statement on my personal views on Russia I include it below:

“The Bow Group is not a pro-Putin organisation, we are a pro-British interests organisation.

“A Conservative MP told me recently that in expressing concern about Britain’s growing tensions with Russia he was dismissed by George Osborne as “comrade.

“Those that believe Britain and its military should focus on defence of the realm as opposed to military intervention in areas which we have no interest or do not stand to gain are not rabid traitors in Putin’s favour, but patriots acting in our national interest. We need to focus on ensuring we have a strong defence in Britain against any foe, not concern ourselves with regime change abroad while blindly marching into WW3.

“For those that advocate conflict with Putin & regime change in Russia I ask three questions: What is your plan for victory, what is your exit strategy and how does Britain stand to gain?. These are three questions that went unanswered in going into Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – to the immeasurable detriment of the United Kingdom.”

I hope that covers everything, but I could go into more depth about all of the above.

I’ve just realised who you are and the work you did during the Iraq war. I wrote my undergrad thesis on the decision-making process that lead to the Iraq War. Regardless of the line you take on this, I really appreciated the stance you took there.

Best,

Ben

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