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Nigel Farage Is Right About Ukraine

State of the Union: But his opinions suffer from a structural disadvantage.
Farage wearing drip (linen suit)
Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

“It’s clear that Farage’s assessment of the Ukraine situation has long been premised on a currently unfashionable realist understanding of geopolitics, while Robinson’s hews to the liberal internationalism currently dominant in American officialdom and its global outposts,” Mary Harrington wrote for Unherd. 

She’s right. Farage earlier partially blamed the expansion of NATO and the EU in a BBC interview as a causal variable that led to the war in Ukraine (among others) and has since been under fire from the British press. Farage is, of course, also right. The statement and the theory are neither controversial nor new. Only imbeciles who don’t understand the concept of a “security dilemma” will reject NATO and EU expansion as a causal factor. The evidence is practically undeniable


No one, who for the first time in their life both voted for Brexit and then Boris Johnson, from broken middle England towns such as Mansfield and Chesterfield, cares enough about Mariupol or Chernigov in Ukraine, much less be animated to die for them. England shares no land border with Russia. The Russian tanks don’t threaten the English meadows. They cannot even cross Kiev, or Poland, or Germany, or France, Belgium and Netherlands, to threaten a sea-borne invasion of the sceptered isles. The Russian navy chugs smoke denser than that of a Manchester chimney during the industrial revolution. There’s no strategic threat to Britain from Russia. 

The British opposition to Russia can be neatly divided into two instincts. First, a masturbatory liberal internationalism that cares more about faraway borders and people than about their own. Second, a narrow realpolitik which sees this war as a way to tie America in as a power enhancer and keep the EU divided and the Germans down. The second instinct is laudable but shortsighted. True realism would dictate an understanding of whither the money and power is shifting. Eastern Europe is out; Asia in. And yet Britain keeps bizarrely focused on “seeking monsters to destroy” in Europe, much more than the American realist right itself. Imagine a hundred or so years back, if England monomaniacally concentrated on a weak France because of their historical rivalry and ignored the rise of imperial Germany. This would be similar. 

Nevertheless, Farage took a beating in public opinion. Matt Goodwin tweeted, “Reform have averaged 13 percent in all polls with fieldwork since Nigel Farage's comments on Ukraine vs an average of nearly 19 percent last week. Too early to know for sure, & what’s behind it, but looks like Reform has taken a knock.”

The simple reason for that would be the lack of genuine debate in Britain. There’s no real right-realist news outlet in Britain. None. Not a single think tank or magazine exists to give voice to an alternative, historically informed realpolitik in Britain—ironic for a country that once elevated realism to a diplomatic art form. It is a land where the echo chamber is dominated by a total liberal informational hegemony. For all its problems, the U.S. is truly free and big enough to have differing viewpoints and platforms despite the censorious instincts of its liberal cognoscenti. Britain isn’t. 

Realism always was incompatible with mass-democracy and a volatile public opinion that can be easily swayed. It has been at a structural disadvantage since the time of Castlereagh and Byron. Realism more than anything, is an instinct that is cold, unforgiving, cynical, narrow, and elite. Most people don’t possess that, and are in turn, easily persuaded by radicals who appeal to public emotions towards their pet causes. It is especially fatal in a mid-sized country where there are no media to elaborate on a true narrow realist foreign policy. Farage and his people might want to think about remedying that and bringing some long term balance to the conversation before anything else.