Why is it that governments tend to ignore public opinion when it comes to foreign and defence policy? We’ve seen that tendency in Britain over the past few years, over war and nuclear weapons. But it’s not just the preserve of British politicians.
Today, NATO leaders at a summit in Romania, have agreed to back US plans to site missile defence bases in central Europe. Yet at the same time, a new opinion poll, conducted across Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, shows net opposition in those countries. On average, 20% more people oppose the plans than support them.
In the Czech Republic, where the US plans to site a radar base for the system, popular opposition has been consistent around 70%. Yet today it was also revealed that US and Czech officials had reached a deal to host the radar. Widespread demands for a referendum on the issue were turned down by the Czech government.
Here in Britain, even our parliamentarians have been deprived of a say in whether or not Britain hosts missile defence facilities. Last summer, Des Browne announced that RAF Menwith Hill was to be used for the system, without any parliamentary consultation. And despite serious criticism from the Defence Select Committee and pressure from MPs across Parliament, no minister has yet come up with an adequate explanation of why we are going along with another destabilising US project.
Is NATO, with its nuclear first-strike policy and its expansionist goals, going to make the world a more dangerous place? Sadly, it is looking likely, and it is doing it with our government’s support.