Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Russia: A new Cold War?

You don't have to be a warmonger to be worried by Russia's behaviour in the Ukraine. Its seizure of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine are contrary to international law and various agreements.

Critically, this is not the first time that Russia has used its army to reclaim parts of the old Soviet Union - think of Georgia. Putin is well known to resent the loss of Russia's 'near abroad' after the fall of the Wall so there's an obvious pattern here. And its very reminiscent, especially in the claim to be protecting Russian-speaking minorities, of Hitler's expansionism in the 1930s.

To ignore these acts would set a bad precedent and would encourage further military adventures which might ultimately affect countries, such as the Baltic states, to which the UK has direct treaty obligations. A policy response is needed. But what?

Greens always start with diplomacy and that must be right. But we have diplomacy and it's not achieving much. We also have sanctions against Russia which have also achieved little - still they give our diplomats something to bargain with so I would maintain them.

Happily no-one is talking about war - a lunatic choice against a nuclear state.

So here's what should our diplomacy be trying to achieve:
  1. Acceptance of the right for territories to secede from countries according to an internationally agreed AND SUPERVISED democratic protocol and subject to protection of minority rights. If we can let Scotland make its own decision about independence then others can do likewise.
  2. Subject to (1) respect of existing borders with clear penalties for offenders.
  3. More controversially - legitimise Russia's absorption of Crimea which should probably never have been part of Ukraine.
In parallel, since our diplomacy may not succeed, we need clarity about the military defence of EU members and West-looking non-EU countries. This is probably happening in secret anyway.

'Good fences make good neighbours.'

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