'FOOLISH FOOT'

Spectator – 20 February 1999

Michael Foot shows by his response (Letters, 6 February) to Oleg Gordievsky (Books, 23 January) that he has learnt nothing and forgotten several things.

He claims that a Labour victory in 1983, when the party was committed to unilateral British nuclear disarmament and the rejection of our contingent of NATO cruise missiles, would have amounted to "the same step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament soon to be advocated by Mikhail Gorbachev". Really?

The nuclear disarmament that was achieved in Europe was based on the Zero Option put forward by President Reagan in late 1981 and rubbished by CND and the one-sided disarmers in Mr Foot's Labour Party. Without the deployment of cruise – which Foot would have blocked – there would have been no basis for the deal reached by Gorbachev with the West in 1987, and all the beneficial consequences which flowed from it. If any Soviet leader had proposed eliminating all 2,000 SS-20 warheads without a quid pro quo from the West, he would have paid a one-way visit to the Lubyanka.

More to the point, as Gordievsky suggested, Gorbachev would probably never have become leader in the first place. The NATO alliance, by failing to counter the threat of the SS-20s, would have handed victory to the Kremlin hardliners, just as Carter did over the neutron warhead in the 1970s. With NATO in disarray and in danger of unravelling, those like Gorbachev who were minded to be flexible would have had the ground cut from beneath their feet.

This country and the newly expanded Free World have every reason to be grateful to Oleg Gordievsky who risked his life for years to undermine Soviet tyranny. We have little to be grateful to Michael Foot whose latest resurrection shows that the Holy Fool syndrome on the British Left remains as lethal as it is ridiculous.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons
London SW1