IF we needed conclusive evidence of the appalling priorities of the Tory government at Westminster, we got it on Thursday when Boris Johnson announced his intention to increase the UK’s military spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030.

The new policy – which will require at least £55.1 billion in extra military expenditure over the next seven-and-a-half years – is a sop to right-wing Tory MPs who might otherwise choose to topple the lame-duck Prime Minister.

The consequences of these new fiscal priorities will be devastating for the people of the constituent nations of the UK, who are already reeling from the cost of living crisis and the underfunding of the NHS. The extra £55.1bn Johnson wants to sink into the military is equivalent to the cost of more than 300 new hospitals.

Ironically, the Tories’ planned hike in military spending comes at a time when it has been revealed that Johnson’s promise to build 40 new hospitals by – you guessed it – 2030 is another extravagant lie (in reality, he is on course to build just five).

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Make no mistake about it, what is being proposed is a decisive reversal of the post-Second World War “peace dividend”, whereby the welfare state was financed by a decrease in military spending. The consequences will be devastating.

Unless this policy is stopped, expect to see a further increase in poverty across the UK, leading to more food banks, more children going to school hungry and millions more people waiting longer for essential medical treatment. As the NHS crumbles, those who can afford it will look increasingly to medical insurance, leading to the inevitable Americanisation of our healthcare system.

This is not a fatalistic worst-case scenario. It will be the unavoidable outcome of a policy that will turbo-charge the existing inequalities in the UK economy. There will be beneficiaries, of course. The merchants of death, such as arms manufacturer BAE Systems (whose operating profit increased by £459 million to £2389m between 2020 and 2021), must be rubbing their hands with glee.

The Tory hawks – including warmongering Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (below) – insist the increase in defence spending is an essential response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This presupposes that the military forces of the UK and its Western allies constitute a force for good in the world. Try telling that to the long-suffering people of Afghanistan, whose “liberation” by such leading Nato powers as the US and the UK has delivered them back into the hands of the pseudo-Islamic barbarians of the Taliban.

Try telling it to the people of Iraq, for whom western “freedom” has meant as many as 1.5 million people (at least 500,000 of them children) killed by western sanctions prior to the US-led invasion in 2003 (source: Geneva International Centre for Justice) and, by the most conservative estimate, at least 184,000 civilian deaths at the hands of Western military forces since 2003 (source: Brown University, USA).

Western military action in Syria has entrenched an already horrible conflict, while Nato intervention in Libya has turned the once oil-rich nation into a fractious and violent basket case. In Yemen, British weapons and military technicians are crucial to a Saudi war machine that heaps ever-increasing misery upon a civilian population whose suffering has been much longer and far greater even than that of the war-stricken people of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the blind eye that is turned in Washington and London to Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians gives the lie to Western claims to humanitarianism.

GIVEN this record, it would be naive in the extreme to consider a stronger Nato – including a ruinously expensive increase in UK militarism – to be the answer to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. It would be like telling someone with tuberculosis that the best cure you can offer them is cancer. Nato is not a solution to the conflict in Ukraine, but rather an aggravating factor.

As the people of Chechnya and Georgia can attest, Putin has been an aggressive regional imperialist long before his various military interventions in Ukraine.

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When he was massacring the predominantly Muslim people of Chechnya and reducing their capital city, Grozny, to rubble, the Western powers could not have cared less.

Indeed, in 2000, during Putin’s second war in Chechnya, then UK prime minister Tony Blair was in St Petersburg, enjoying a night at the opera with the blood-soaked Russian leader.

There is no justification for Russia’s outrageous and brutal invasion of Ukraine, and its forces should be withdrawn immediately. However, there is no question that Nato’s efforts to encircle Russia (against US assurances to Mikhail Gorbachev during the dismantling of the Soviet Union) contributed to Putin’s fateful decision to invade his neighbour.

Nato’s arming of Ukraine and its further expansion in northern Europe are in no way aimed at creating peace. Instead, its objective is to turn the conflict in Ukraine into a protracted proxy war between the West and Russia, in which Nato leaders such as Joe Biden and Boris Johnson are prepared to fight to the last drop of the Ukrainian people’s blood.