So, I have listened to Clint Flores’ podcast with Jon Mallia and it is basically a summary of Flores’ thoughts and writings which lately have become regular in the press. He is a government diplomat at Malta’s High Commission in Brussels, an economist at Bank of Valletta and an aspiring Labour politician. The podcast was about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Jon Mallia presented his guest as an expert on the subject, but the narrative of Flores is not only made with gross mistakes in history but is also decorated with conspiracy theories and talking points from Russian propaganda.
However, the main principles of Flores on this subject are also the ones shared by Emmanuel Macron, which our Labour Party has adopted very enthusiastically in its self-interested policy to appease Russia. Macron’s position and historical narrative is also made up of gross empirical errors.
Firstly, let’s put some context to the story. Clint Flores is a diplomat who believes that Europe and Ukraine should make a negotiated settlement with Putin and live with him – this is basically Macron’s appeasement policy which is a minority in Europe and the EU, and also Malta’s policy. Secondly, the Labour government’s policy of appeasement to Russia is opportunistic and self-interested, and it is not born out of a naive and misguided principled idea that Malta should meditate for peace (that’s Varist, maybe). The Labour Party is currently waging a war against the free press, journalists and critics and its leader has purged the Party of his critics while he doesn’t even trust his deputies. This is a party which has also taken absolute control of all state institutions and has a total disregard to rule-of-law. There is nothing which Robert Abela’s Labour Party is doing in principle. If anything they are imposing on the press a series of totalitarian laws without even attempting to dialogue and converse with the press itself. Robert Abela has total contempt for the press and refuses to even meet them, yet he is preaching about diplomacy abroad.
Secondly, Flores gets most of his history wrong and his simplistic views on affairs betray his university textbook perspective. Most specifically, Clint Flores’ history is based on the most famous textbook called A History of Modern Europe 1789 – 1981 by Herbert Leonard Peacock which dilutes complex historical problems such as the rise of Nazism in Germany with very simplistic causative answers such as the cause of World War 2 was the Versailles Treaty. These simplistic historical narratives have been elaborated and countered for years on end, yet Flores doesn’t seem to be aware of a very basic historiographic principle which is that in determining causation it can never be exclusively a single event and in fact, more advanced theories such as those by Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt reveal much larger complexities than the simple German victimization myth of the Treaty of Versailles.
Flores’ ideas are based on many empirical untruths such as that Vietnam War ended with a negotiated settlement when in reality the Vietnamese communists had won the war unilaterally and united the country on their own terms. And thirdly, this is the main basic principle that Flores gets wrong in diplomacy and history, that war and conflict can always be solved with mediation and diplomacy and this idea is also empirically incorrect. He seems to have this naive idea that if everyone says the word “peace” enough times, violence would eventually end – that is not how the world works and violence is necessary for peace and security on a very basic level as upheld by a monopoly under a state. The very reason that we have prisons is that we can’t co-exist with people who are a violent threat to society and applying the same principle to global affairs means that we need a global-ruled-based order and that Europe also needs a security and defensive force which defends its borders (NATO). Negating the concept of the monopoly of violence is literally negating the existence of the state itself and promoting anarchic ideology. The result of a lack of an international-rules-based order would be the return of imperialist wars.
Flores comes out as very cynical to this international-rules-based order as he claims incorrectly, that war crimes and invasions happen on a regular basis in the world and therefore Russia’s war crimes and wars should be tolerated. His logic basically, is a Russian propaganda talking point which says that given that many countries including the USA itself have waged wars in the past, Russia should be given a pass to conduct its own war. This is insanity and a gross misunderstanding of how the world works. Statistically, and historically, the result of an international-rules-based order did contribute to the leveling down of war casualties.
First of all, our international-rules-based order is already mediatory in nature and also has strong deterrents against violent behaviour such as sanctions, which yes do work because without being connected to the Dollar you risk having a foreign currency crisis. So, despite the fact that most often the US takes the leading role in the world to enforce the international-rules-based-order, the world is not run like a state and the US doesn’t have a practical monopoly on violence. There are good trade and economic incentives if nation-states act according to international rules, but the reality is that it is virtually impossible to police the world, but this doesn’t mean we should throw out the rules-based-order.
There are obvious reasons why the West is singling out Putin and not some unknown dictator in a small landlocked African country whose conflict has no impact on the world. Putin’s war is in Europe: not our backyard, but proper geographical Europe and this should be a red line for European nation-states. We may not be able to prevent an African dictator from invading his neighbor but for the sake of our own security we should definitely be able to counter an attack which happens against out continental borders. This is not hypocrisy but common sense.
Flores’ nonsensical argument about justifying the appeasement of Putin is that Putin is not Hitler because he has not committed genocide to the extent that Hitler did. This is an incredibly ridiculous argument. If military intervention by a rules-based-order is set so low as to a genocide of more than 6 million people then there isn’t a rule-based-order – it’s insanity. Hitler wasn’t attacked because he was committing genocide against the Jews and the Allies didn’t know about the extent of the holocaust only at a later stage in the War. There is another important historical being missed in the stupid argument that Putin is not Hitler. Of course he isn’t, he is a different person with a different empire. In reality the risks and the potential damage in allowing Putin to stay in power can be much higher Hitler’s. Putin is the first leader of a nuclear power who is making constant and active threats to use nuclear weapons in an ongoing conflict which he himself has started. This is a first in history and it’s implications have been shocking. If we are to allow Putin to stay in power the interational-rules-based-order will no longer be effective because it would have been compromised by nuclear threats – this would be the equivalent of giving in to terrorism.
Flores betrays his Russian bias by propagating a Russian propaganda lie that the West has foiled diplomatic efforts between Ukraine and Russia. This is an absurd lie which has no basis to the truth and the history of events. In fact the White House had called on President Zelenskyy to evacuate Kiev on the first day of the invasion. The decision of Ukraine to fight the genocidal Russian invasion which has the aim exclusively of wikipin Ukraine off the map and destroying it as a nation, was a decision taken solely by Ukrainians themselves. The idea that Russia was provoked into this war is also a myth.
Russia could have had it all. A friendly Ukraine, a prosperous economic and trade relationship with the West, easy Visa travel, a strong international reputation for culture and science. Instead, it has chosen the part of genocidal imperialism, a past which is no longer accepted under today’s rules and we should especially not tolerate it in Europe. Securing peace and stability in Europe would mean that Russia gets an equivalent treatment to Germany at the end of the Second World War: war crimes trails, no weapons of mass destruction and no military capabilities to invade and conquer other countries and anything short of this will be a compromise with our peace and security.