Sometimes the world changes

Let me take you back to 2004. It is just a staging post in our journey in time, but it will do for the moment. I was visiting Plymouth with my wife, who had never been there before. For her - she is American - it was an opportunity to see the Mayflower steps. For me it was an opportunity to revisit a city that had been my home for five years, almost 20 years before.

We took a boat trip around Plymouth Sound, and saw the NATO warships on exercise. And then I saw it, and I saw how much the world had changed. One of the ships was Polish.

I began to imagine what would have happened if a Polish warship had turned up in Plymouth Sound when I had live in Devon. It would have been a major international crisis - the biggest since Cuba, at least.

Sir Geoffrey Howe and George Schultz would have flown to Warsaw, demanding that it should be removed. Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon would have been interviewed by every broadcaster in the world. Caspar Weinberger would have been in London, or maybe in Plymouth itself. Perhaps even standing on the prow of that American warship. Vice President George Bush would probably have been in China. In a crisis with the Soviet Union, you wanted China on your side.

The whole US Fleet would have been mobilised. Britain's Polaris subs would have been on their highest alert. Their locaations would have been secret, but one would have been in the Baltic and one in the Black Sea, no doubt. The armies on the Rhine would have been ready. The air forces of every NATO country would have been standing by.

And how would the crisis have been resolved? Would Thatcher and Reagan have personally flown to Moscow (certainly not to Warsaw) to demand the withdrawal of the Polish ship? Who knows?

But I do know that when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid tell us that we cannot face down our enemies, they are wrong. We can. We did. We can do it again.

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