Written by Christopher J. Wilkinson
Our globalist leaders are simply not up to the challenge of combating post-Cold War mavericks such as President Putin, placing European peace in the greatest peril since the Second World War.
The Russian military build-up seen in recent weeks appears to be following the same blueprint as the annexation of the Crimea some eight years ago. As of February 13, 2022, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has advised against all travel to Ukraine and has encouraged British nationals to leave via commercial flights due to an accumulation of Russian forces on the border with some Embassy staff having already been withdrawn. The FCDO has also advised against all but essential travel to the Ukrainian Kharkiv Oblast border, North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria as well as advising against all travel to the borders of the Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky.
President Putin’s long-term strategy is one of ethno-nationalism; reuniting the peoples of the former USSR, whom he considers to be at one with the Russians, by force and against international law. Ukraine is irreconcilably within the Russian sphere of geopolitical influence. As a former member of the USSR, the internal political and institutional resistance to a Russian invasion will founder as Ukrainians have remained inherently divided on the issue of transitioning to capitalism and democracy. The Minsk agreements, which sought to establish a ceasefire between the opposing factions via diplomatic means, suffer in their effectiveness due to differences of interpretation between the Ukrainian government and the Kremlin.
Economic sanctions have come to be seen as a form of appeasement. The sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union in the wake of the annexation of the Crimea in 2014 had the astonishing effect of failing to stem economic damage to the latter, putting €100 billion of potential export revenues and two million jobs at risk. The lacklustre sanctions, which primarily targeted Russia’s financial, defence and energy sectors, were effective until July 31, 2021. Now, at a time of soaring wholesale fuel costs and demand-side inflation, such an approach would undoubtedly hurt our own energy consumers most. The Ukraine situation will not be resolved by such reactionary policies. Economic sanctions must not take the place of stronger and more durable diplomatic efforts. Conflict always has been and continues to be a last resort.
Our Prime Minister, a backer of the economic sanctions, is reasonably inexperienced in confronting deteriorating foreign relations and his actions pertaining to Brexit prove he is not the most suitable diplomat Britain could hope for at this time. Perhaps he should perhaps be prompted by his own words uttered as Foreign Secretary on February 22, 2018 – ‘we should remind ourselves of the enormity of what happened and redouble our determination to stand up for our values and uphold international law. We all have an obligation to stand up to Russia in a measured and resolute way’. The damp squib of previous attempts do not fill me with hope in this respect. Regardless of whether the actions of the next few days produce bloodshed, as undeserved and upsetting as that would be, they shall set a precedent for further similar events which may occur in future. If we are to learn anything from twentieth century history, it’s that the barbarities of Nazi Germany could have been avoided by early, firm action against aggressors that threaten the peace and stability of ourselves and our allies. There is every reason to consider Putin an enemy, and there is very little reason to consider him an ally. I fear we’re already too late, and it’s all the fault of our blameless leaders.