SHAMELESS APPEASEMENT OF A THUG AND A BULLY; Ex-Defence Secretary Blasts at Putin - and Says It's Time to Send Fighter Jets to Vulnerable Baltic States
Byline: LIAM FOX CONSERVATIVE MP FOR NORTH SOMERSET
APPEASEMENT has a bad track record. This is something Western leaders seem to forget on a cyclical basis. For too long, the serial bad behaviour
of Putin's Russia has been ignored - a combination of naivety, wishful thinking, poor analysis or a simple lack of willingness to enforce our international duty.
What we are witnessing in Ukraine today is not a new Russian pattern of behaviour. We have seen a former KGB officer, who views the world in the same way the old Soviet Union did, biding his time until he perceived the balance of power tip his way.
Putin watched the reaction of the West while he bullied Ukraine over gas prices and supply and saw that we did nothing. He sent his troops into Georgia, where he now has a force of 10,000 occupying 20 per cent of the country. Again we did nothing. Russia launched a major cyber attack on Estonia, a Nato member, and still we did not act.
When the Russian-backed Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people, and President Obama's 'red lines' over Syria evaporated overnight, Putin drew the obvious conclusions.
Putin's government is a thuggish and bullying regime. Russia has ruthlessly deployed its gas exports as a strategic weapon. Just as a drug dealer gets their addict hooked and can then demand any price they like, Putin had no qualms about exploiting the weakness of neighbouring energy-dependent states.
In the aftermath of the Euro crisis, Russia has been quick to distribute cash to countries 'in need', seeking to influence and corrupt their newly democratic institutions in the hope of creating sympathetic, if not client states. He has issued Russian passports, on the most spurious grounds, to enable 'ethnic Russians' to become Russian citizens, and so create the perfect pretext to defend them against any perceived, imaginary or invented threats.
Make no mistake, this is an expansionist Russia echoing its imperialist past.
This pattern of behaviour is already being played out in the Balkans. In Bosnia, Russia is treating the smaller entity of Republika Srpska as a separate country by feeding it with money and hopes of secession.
It is typical of a pattern of behaviour where Putin seeks to create a small but significant foothold in areas where Nato has influence and interest, such as it now has in Kaliningrad and Georgia. All these elements are present in the crisis in Ukraine.
Putin has observed weak US leadership and a fragmented Europe, neglecting its outside space, too focused on its own short-term interests.
Unsurprisingly then, amid the political upheaval in Ukraine, and on the spurious pretext of protecting ethnic Russians (against no perceivable threat), Russian forces have occupied Crimea and an illegal referendum has resulted in annexation, reminiscent of Hitler's Sudetenland adventure.
Putin's pretext lacks credibility and legality. The responsibility for protecting any ethnic minority lies with the constitution, the courts and democratic bodies of a sovereign state. The referendum was illegal, as only Kiev can call such a plebiscite under its constitution. The only electoral register in effect was in Kiev and never used.
We must not accept the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation when legal processes have been ignored.
If we do, we will accept the principle of unlawful annexation with all the horrors of historical parallels.
So, what is the most effective way to deal with the crisis? First, we need a solid dose of realism. Too many politicians have allowed themselves to become drunk on an optimistic view of Putin and their wish to believe in a democratic Russia. …