Britain must lead from the front on Russia

Putin is testing the West. The UK should seize this opportunity to galvanise Europe into action.

. 1 January 2022 •

President Putin has conjured up a crisis in Ukraine which presents the West with only bad choices. Thus far we’ve avoided the worst outcomes, but the British Government can’t afford to turn a blind eye to events on Europe’s eastern border.

Putin has mobilised the military on a scale previously unseen, with 75 per cent of Russia’s total battalion tactical groups now situated on Ukraine’s borders. His ultimatums to NATO are unserious attempts at diplomacy, designed to provoke a rebuff from the West and feed into a coordinated disinformation campaign being pushed by the Kremlin that somehow NATO is on the attack.

From Putin’s perspective, there are incentives to make a move now. The US is fixated on China, which makes their military support seem unlikely. Meanwhile, much of Europe is now heavily dependent on Russian gas – the result of decades of ill-conceived energy policy – so cannot afford to impose the most costly sanctions.

This is not to say an invasion is certain. It could be an elaborate bluff, designed to extract concessions from NATO. After all, any invasion would inflict considerable damage to Putin’s goals. Beyond the bloody, costly and protracted conflict that would ensue in Ukraine, it would surely prompt NATO to strengthen our presence in eastern Europe – states Putin considers to be Russia’s rightful possession.

As Putin ponders his next course of action he will be considering the rather vague, “massive consequences” promised by the G7 if he were to invade. Putin takes such language with a pinch of salt. It’s going to take demonstrated resolve – not just words, but deeds.

And the truth is that this united rhetoric belies a divided Europe. Thus far the UK has been Ukraine’s staunchest European partner, deepening our economic partnership and providing military training to 21,000 Ukrainian troops under Operation Orbital.

To deter Russia we must convince our more sceptical European friends to collectively implement a series of robust, specific measures should Putin escalate the situation. The coordinated response to the Skripal poisonings demonstrates how effective the UK can be as a convening power. A package of water-tight sanctions that could inflict serious economic damage to the Russian economy, set out clearly for all to see, coupled with the sale of defensive weapons to Ukraine – so far blocked by Germany – should act as the two pillars on which any package is based.

Berlin must be the focus of our diplomatic efforts. A change in the German government provides an opportunity to break from the disastrous energy policies which have contributed to the deterioration of Ukraine’s security. Nord Stream 2 has ended Ukraine’s status as a transit state (making an invasion easier), enriched the Kremlin and, by making Europe dependent on Russian energy, constrained our ability to act. Preventing the operationalisation of NS2 is the single biggest move Europe could make to strengthen its – our – collective security. In foreign minister Anna Baerbock, and Economic Affairs Minister, Robert Habeck, the coalition has two influential individuals who share the UK’s outlook – it is the more sceptical German Challencelor, Olaf Scholz, that we must convince.

As we reflect on a tumultuous 2021, it is clear that the events in Afghanistan will be one of the defining moments remembered by future generations. A time when Western resolve was tested and found deeply wanting. Russia, China, Iran and our other adversaries saw the US and its allies falter. Let it serve as a sobering reminder of how rapidly a situation can deteriorate and the tragic consequences that follow when we take our eye off the ball. If we are to pursue a positive, proactive foreign policy – the crux of ‘Global Britain’ – we must be able to deal with domestic and international crises simultaneously.

This is a test of will, and our ability to work with our allies. We will soon see if we are up to the challenge.

Robert Jenrick is MP for Newark, the former Communities Secretary. He lived and worked in Russia in the late 2000s.

10 comments

  1. “Thus far the UK has been Ukraine’s staunchest European partner, deepening our economic partnership and providing military training to 21,000 Ukrainian troops under Operation Orbital.”
    This is true. But no great achievement, since virtually all of Europe is either indifferent to Ukraine or pro-Russia. The only exceptions being Poland and Pribaltika.
    At the time of Minsk, Poroshenko genuinely thought that France and Germany were negotiating in good faith as allies of Ukraine. We now know that they were nothing of the kind. Germany’s evil and treacherous Merkel was stretching every sinew to help Russia murder Ukrainians and steal their land. The Stasi skank must face justice in The Hague and the new regime must pay full reparations to Ukraine. Starting with the final cancellation of NS2.
    Britain faces an uphill task; most of the EU hates us and supports our enemies. Our ancient ally Portugal has recently reiterated that support, but such countries are few and far between.
    Our future, as well as that of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, lies with the Five Eyes, plus a few European nations that might become more reliable, such as Finland, Sweden and Norway.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m afraid the above article has attracted some real fucking arseholes to comment. Check out this sewage slurry:

    Dmitry Pluzhnikov
    “Mr Jenrick lived in Russia in the late 2000s, no doubt, in a privileged circumstances. I was born there and lived there for about half of my life. At the time that young man was born, I was half way through a Uni. Basically, Mr Jenrick has not experienced the Cold War. Therefore, it is very surprising and annoying that he indulges himself in the Cold War style rhetoric. May be his endeavors in Russia were not successful and he has got a personal grudge, I do not know. But what I do know is that modern Russia is not a Soviet Union. It is a very pragmatic capitalist Country with a very strong moral attitude and world-view. I am not a member of Mr Putin’s Fan Club, but I have got an idea of why the so-called West is so hateful of Russia. Russia is the bulwark of the true Western values: it is unashamedly Christian Country, it opposes to same sex marriages, it encourages individual entrepreneurship and the list goes on and on. It was the Russian intervention in Syria, which finished off ISIS.
    As for the Ukraine, and I am saying this as a Brit: what are our interest in there? Can an average Joe Public spot the Ukraine on the map? Why our political Class is so wound up about the Ukraine?
    Mark my word: Russia is not going to invade the Ukraine. That artificial creation of comrades Lenin and Stalin will eventually disappear on its own volition.
    The UK should not be involved!
    P.S. Do not tell me “go back to Russia” – I am a Brit.”

    The same commenter:

    “Before the WWI the Ukraine was a small bit of what it is now: a few governorships/provinces east of Kiev. Then after the Russian Civil War comrades Lenin and Stalin added huge chunks of Russia to the newly created Ukrainian Soviet Republic.”

    Patricia Masters
    “This constant demonisation of Putin really is both very stupid and very dangerous. Unless it wants to deploy nuclear weapons, Britain is in no position to threaten Russia with anything and, if he’s pushed, Putin’s military is capable of sweeping through Europe much like the Germans did in the 1940s. This is especially true considering the appalling weakness of the imbecile currently residing in the White House. Mr Jenrick would be better advised to concentrate on improving his probity and, if he has any time left afterwards, to settle back in his armchair and have harmless daydreams of personal derring-do.”

    John Gough
    “IIf we we out of Europe we are out of Europe. That means all of Europe including Ukraine.”

    Iain Hunter
    “We don’t care about Russia and Ukraine, Jenrick. We care about our own ancestral homeland, our own people, our own culture and our own history. We care about getting all that back from the forces intent on destroying them. You should too or you are no Conservative. But we already know that, don’t we.”

    Martin Docherty
    “I’m sure the Ukrainian forces would welcome Private Jenrick as a volunteer fighter with open arms in the front line trenches.
    Or maybe he has seen his way to a knighthood is to get UK Forces personnel killed pointlessly a la Blair.”

    Terence Courtnadge
    “Britain together with France should be in the forefront – the two nations can face down Putin’s Russia, Britain and France have a formidable nuclear arsenal that none of the other nations in Europe do.”

    Dmitry Pluzhnikov
    “Reply to Terence Courtnadge
    Russia, on nukes, is on par with the US. Britain and France can go an f themselves. And their “arsenal” is not formidable at all.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • These guys often talk down the USSR but then turn around and speak about it with nostalgia too. I remain surprised that SO many people buy in to the sick theme that Putin deserves a “sphere of influence.” He is literally Hitler 2.0 and history is repeating itself. Fucking Germany continues to block weapons for Ukraine to put a little icing on top.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I replied to Pluzhnikov: “Go back to Russia. You are not a Brit. You are a troll; working as part of your tiny fuhrer’s hybrid war effort against democratic countries.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • If being a nationalist is “far right” then the vast majority of Ukrainians are far right. 2/3 said they’d fight the Moskali in their neighborhood with what ever they could gather up. I think that’s realistic too. Shame on those that consider nationalism a bad word. Its the one world government that is the ultimate enemy in the future. Imagine no Olympics?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My comment was banned :

    Reply to Maggie Lavan
    “There is no “crisis in Ukraine”. There is a crisis in Russia, which is ruled by a murderous ruler for life who has created his own crisis to protect his foul regime. He has already killed 15,000 Ukrainians; most of them innocent civilians. The equivalent of five 9/11’s.
    As for your Soros claim: Russia paid Paul Manafort to manipulate a naive electorate to elect a dictator on the Putin business model. When he; Yanukovich, started thieving $billions off his own people and living in a palace like Putin, the citizens decided they had had enough. Since 2014, they have had democracy. Which the little poisoner does not like.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Berlin must be the focus of our diplomatic efforts.”
    Why?
    Let the naive nestlings in Berlin play in their sandbox. Germanystan might have the largest economy in Europe, but, like children with a toy too complex for them, they don’t really know how to utilize their position on the world stage. Britain has more and better experience in this. I say move on without the krauts. They can continue doing more important things for themselves, like Islamization of the country, destroy their energy sector, financially rape their population, turn the country gay and so on. Ukraine doesn’t need any of that, it needs friends who will stand by them in these hard times. Britain, send weapons to Ukraine and screw the krauts. I’m sure it can do so outside of NATO shackles.

    Liked by 2 people

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