Paddy: We’re one mistake away from war in Ukraine

Paddy AshdownWhenever there’s a horrible international situation, I always want to hear what Paddy Ashdown has to say. He’s very wise on all the intricate web of international relations, agendas and history. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s worth listening to because he’ll tell it exactly like he sees it. He makes it all so much more real.

He’s just been on Murnaghan talking about the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he confirmed my feeling that the world is a very much more scary place this weekend.

He was very clear that one foolish mistake could tip a volatile situation into war. That, he said, could be one “trigger-happy” Russian soldier opening fire, a Ukrainian misjudgement of a situation. Something that could very easily happen in the heat of a tense moment.

He said that it wasn’t clear what the Russians were up to. He said it was possible, but unlikely, that their ambitions were limited to securing their international treaty defined rights of access to the port of Sevastopol rather than wider territorial gain. He likened Putin’s stance to Hitler’s over Sudetenland as opposed to the modern Western view that the fate of nations is subject to the view of its people.

But what to do? Two points from Paddy:

  • It would not be sensible for the west to retaliate with force, so diplomacy must be as powerful as possible;
  • Not sure that it’s wise for Hague to be going to Kiev unless he brings a single, united message from international community. Most important diplomatic move would be Chancellor Merkel going to Moscow which might restrain Russia.

He said:

Well, President Putin has taken the view that if he uses the military card we will not out-trump him and he’s right, we will not respond in a military fashion, these are not the circumstances in which it is possible to do that I imagine. I mean I’m not privy to all the information here but one has to presume that, in which case the only option left is the diplomatic option and we have to make that as powerful as possible and the quintessential element of that is to look for the West to be utterly united, utterly decided and to show the will to take action together, not individually. If we want to go travelling across the world let’s do so but when we do that we speak as a united voice. Only if we do that I think can we create circumstances in which we may pull this thing back. Look, this is not alone, the Russians tried this in Kosovo when they tried to unilaterally take over the airport, I don’t think this is going to end so happily. They tried it in Georgia, by the way this has always played out to their long term disadvantage and this will too, but we’re not considering the long term here, we’re considering the short. We have to know what to do now and what Russia seems to be doing is lining up, setting up the Sudetenland excuse, the excuse of Hitler which was if anybody of a nationality which is the same as ours, in this case Russian, suffers then we reserve the right to intervene. Here is the bottom line misunderstanding, or if you like cultural clash, whereas the whole of the West has moved towards a new standard that the fate of nations is decided by the will of their people, Russia seems to be regenerating and bringing back the old standard, which is the standard of the 19th century which is great powers have the right to subjugate the wishes of their neighbours in order to preserve their spheres of influence. That way lies catastrophe I’m afraid but it is only diplomacy now, if we will not use force and I can’t see that that would be a sensible thing to do, which can pull us back from this and this diplomacy will only work if it is united and powerful.

You can read the full transcript here.

None of this gives much cause for optimism.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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52 Comments

  • Sadie Smith 2nd Mar '14 - 10:59am

    I was reassured to hear someone talking about the significance of Sevastopol. Too many commentators and reporters only talk change in politics rather than ask about the significance of having a defence base in an adjacent country.
    Both Russia and Ukraine politicians have overstated parts of what is a fairly logical case.
    Paddy is right about diplomacy and the dangers.

  • Paul In Twickenham 2nd Mar '14 - 11:44am

    I was in Kiev a few years ago for The Eurovision Song Contest. Russian speakers had created a huge protest camp in the city’s main park to express their anger at what they perceived was anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine (this was shortly after the Orange Revolution). Their protests were peaceful – we wandered around the camp and it felt perfectly safe. And when we were in Latvia for Eurovision there was a huge, peaceful march in Riga by Russian speakers protesting against a law that would forbid teaching in Russian in state schools. We in the west must avoid falling into the trap of thinking that this is a clear cut issue of the good guys versus the bad guys.

  • This is all down to the Russians. They are the aggressors here, the ones who have violated the borders of Ukraine in violation of their treaty commitments, on a frivolous pretext. Regardless of how you feel about any of the different political players within Ukraine, there is absolutely no excuse for Russia to send troops across Ukrainian borders or put military planes into Ukrainian airspace. This is a clear and flagrant breach of the peace. If it were only the hypocrisy of a nation that screeches “no interference in internal affairs!” with regard to places like Syria, it would be merely a ghastly joke; as it is, thousands of Ukrainian lives are directly at risk, as is the peace of Europe and of the world more generally.

    Hitler analogies are mostly unhelpful, as by this time most people dismiss them reflexively as hyperbole; but a more specific Russian analogy is the 1772-1795 partitions of Poland, by which Russia (in concert with Prussia and Austria) nibbled away at chunks of Poland’s eastern border, until there was nothing left. All the same excuses for Russia’s behaviour could be made (e.g., Poland being an “unnatural” agglomeration of Poles and non-Poles) but in the end it was a colossal violation of Polish national sovereignty for which there is no excuse.

  • It’s no good the Russians saying to the Ukrainians, “well, we gave you the Crimea back in 1954, but we didn’t really mean it, so now we are unilaterally taking it back.” That is not how international law works. Or do you think that David Cameron could declare a “do-over” with regard to the Anglo-Irish treaty, and make a grab for Dublin? Perhaps there’s a case to be made for Calais, since that was English for several centuries? The English originally came from South Jutland, maybe there’s a claim on that too.

  • jedibeeftrix 2nd Mar '14 - 4:42pm
  • Always interesting to see a reference to Prof. Lindley-French. I had to check, I am no expert on NATO academics, but he was the man who published a report after UK troops had been in Afghanistan for six years. That was in 2007. His key thoughts included —
    ” Central Message—-The successful re-building of Afghanistan is achievable given the mission of creating a relatively stable, functioning and legitimate state. However, such an objective will not be achievable prior to 2015 at the earliest. ”

    What has that got to do with the Ukraine? Well some might say that the worldview of a NATO academic has to be seen in context. His views are not necessarily those of an independent academic.

  • David Allen 2nd Mar '14 - 5:41pm

    To quote the Professor:

    “Offering Ukraine an EU rather than a Russian future will cost billions of euros and Europeans must recognise that. Belarus will be next.”

    This is how to start WW3.

    Putin is an unpleasant macho autocrat and bully, but he didn’t start this fight. It was started by Ukrainian rebels, by Yanukovych’s murderous provocation, and by an expansionist EU which wasn’t content with absorbing the old USSR’s satellites in Czechia and Poland, but made a play for the ex-USSR heartland itself.

    How might we suppose the US would have reacted, if Mexico had gone Communist and become a USSR puppet, and the USSR had then invaded Texas to defend the Hispanics? Well, that’s how Putin is reacting. To do otherwise would be to show weakness, which isn’t what macho bullies can be relied upon to do.

    Now the West needs to get out of the mess it has helped to create. Let’s hope it can see the need to give Putin an honourable way out of the corner he has been backed into.

  • Putin’s honourable way out is to withdraw his troops, withdraw his threats, recognise the Ukrainian government, and leave the Ukrainians to settle their internal disputes themselves. That would be honourable.
    Putin is not, however, known for his interest in honour.

  • jedibeeftrix 2nd Mar '14 - 6:02pm

    John, you mention Afghanistan and then question its relevance, colour me confused!

    who else would you want to comment on strategic matters?

    julian Lindley-French is Senior Fellow of the Institute of Statecraft and Director of Europa Analytica. An internationally-recognised strategic analyst, advisor and author he was formerly Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy,and Special Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of Leiden. He is a Fellow of Respublica in London, and a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington. Latest book: The Oxford Handbook on War (2012; 709 pages)

  • Well, Jedi, you answer your own question. ResPublica.
    Any Liberal Democrat unfamiliar with this “think tank turned private company ” might draw their own conclusions from the fact that Zac Goldsmith MP and John Hayes MP are key players. Hardly fellow thinkers or natural allies of LDV.

    And in case you didn’t read to the end of my earlier comment – I pointed out that Prof. Lindley-French is hardly an objective or independent commentator.
    If you read too much of the works of this Professor I am not surprised you colour yourself confused.

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Mar '14 - 7:54pm

    Nuff said!

    It seems to me that the West should do a deal with Putin (not easy because he is not a trustworthy man nor a natural democrat) on the lines of “Crimea and no further, with a face-saving special status for Crimea, and we will lean on the new Ukrainian regime to accept that if you do and keep out of the rest of the Ukraine”.

    Putin can get away with occupying Crimea. If he tries any of the rest of the country there will be bloodshed. If he tries to impose a new pro-Russian regime in Kiev there will be civil war.

    It seems to me that the Russians still see things in their part of the world in terms of the Russian empire rather than sovereign states. Putin is the genuine heir of the Tsars and Stalin and Brezhnev (amongst many others) – he just has to operate in a pseudo-democratic framework (in Russia and in the wider world) that he obviously hates.

    The Soviets (ie the Russians) sent the tanks into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Can they get away with it in the Ukraine in 2014? Only if Putin cares more for his international status, influence and trade relations than he does about controlling his own backyard in a country he considers to be a legitimate part of Russia. We will see. But don’t imagine we we can do anything to stop it, if that is what he wants to do.

    Tony

  • jedibeeftrix 2nd Mar '14 - 8:28pm

    Putin (is) occupying Crimea, there are 25000 there under treaty, and allegedly another 6000 who popped over on helicopters.

  • Why should Merkel go to Moscow and do a “Chamberlain”? Economic sanctions please. Freeze all the stolen Russian money in UK for a start. This situation demonstrates that unfortunately the EU is in many unforseen situations entirely useless.

  • David Allen 2nd Mar '14 - 11:18pm

    Tony Greaves, you probably won’t appreciate this particular compliment, but clearly you are a natural diplomat. Sadly there aren’t many others around. Your suggestion does look like a plausible compromise, though not the only one. Let’s hope the West can grow enough maturity to accept a reasonable compromise.

    Sure, Russia behaves like an old-fashioned empire, and do so in a blatant, primitive kind of way which looks like a throw-back to pre-twentieth century attitudes. But how unique is that? Didn’t the US, over Cuba, display much the same kind of attitude against foreigners violating their back yard (or “personal space”)?

    What should we make of the EU, blithely talking to Ukraine about partnership and democracy? Would EU leaders be delighted to see Russia building a special new economic alliance with (say) Switzerland, or Greece? Didn’t it occur to anybody in Brussels that – with all the sophistication and discreet charm that we civilised Europeans can exude – we were parking our tanks on the Russian lawn?

    Don’t anybody kid themselves they can just whup Putin and make him slink away. They can’t. He won’t. He needs to be offered a halfway decent deal, or he will make the world pay for this.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 2nd Mar '14 - 11:55pm

    I agree with David Allen.

  • Ukraine is not Russia’s “lawn,” or its doormat, or any other piece of furniture. Ukraine is an independent country. We should be long past the age of “spheres of influence” and other imperialist nonsense. We don’t need feeble excuses for Russian misbehaviour; we need a clear statement, especially from the Prime Minister, the DPM, and other members of the Government, of both the facts and the moral principles at stake.

  • Passing through 3rd Mar '14 - 3:48am

    @ David-1

    The follow-up question to statements like that is always “And then …?”

  • The EU has reached the limit of its expansion. David Cameron was wrong to express the wish to expand it eastwards including Turkey. The EU needs a period of consolidation of the territories that it already has. It is no wonder that Russia is feeling angry, who can blame them?

  • Paul in Twickenham 3rd Mar '14 - 7:52am

    I agree with David Allen. For obvious historical reasons there are lots of people of Russian heritage in the former Soviet states, although the numbers are variable. For example 26% of people in Latvia are Russian speakers but the number for Lithuania is only 6%. If you look at the wiki article on languages in Ukraine you will see that in the area that the Russians have invaded over 90% of people are Russian speakers. What can we say? Putin is a macho, posturing bully. History has left us some messy ethnic situations. The oppressed can easily become the oppressors.

    Of course Putin must be held to account but surely we aren’t going to make specious comparisons with Sudetenland?

  • Fiona White 3rd Mar '14 - 8:11am

    I think Tony Greaves has a valid point about negotiating over the Crimea on the basis of this far and no farther. It pains me to say that as it looks like rewarding the unacceptable but I doubt if we have any choice. The Crimea is a special case. It has never been naturally a part of Ukraine. I have no idea why Kruschev decided to take it out of Russia decades ago but it is not sensible, especially as Russia has serious military interests in Crimea as well. We must make sure that the penalties for trying it anywhere else will be serious. They have to be economic and diplomatic as the consequences of military conflict just do not bear thinking about. It will be a difficult few years until everything calms down. No doubt Putin will use energy supplied as a tool in the negotiations and we will all have to deal with the outcome. To digress slightly, that is another very good reason to make serious efforts at reducing our reliance on outside energy sources.

  • John Whitney 3rd Mar '14 - 8:12am

    Dear Lib Dems,
    Where are the Democrats? The illegitimate take over of Kiev by thugs gangsters and extreme right wing Nazis! What a disgrace to witness our foreign secretary visiting this illegal administration and then to hear him spouting moralistic trash about the Russians who rightly defend their fellow Russians against the thugs in Kiev.
    The protection will not end in the Crimea but will include all the Eastern part of the country where the Russian majority, and lets be in no doubt it is a vast majority of ethnic Russians live will require protection from the ultra Nationalist in the west. The EU must not support these gangsters! Wake up and cut the propaganda coming out of Washington and Brussels .
    Regards
    John Whitney
    Norwich

  • Julian Tisi 3rd Mar '14 - 9:38am

    @ Tony Greaves “It seems to me that the West should do a deal with Putin (not easy because he is not a trustworthy man nor a natural democrat) on the lines of “Crimea and no further, with a face-saving special status for Crimea”
    NO, NO, NO! This is appeasement and that way lies war. Quite simply, this isn’t the 19th Century and we can’t go carving up countries at the whim of the great powers. If we do, two things will happen. The first is that the significant non-Russian minority in Crimea will refuse to accept Russian enforced domination. The next is that a boldened Putin will eye up many other regions, both in Ukraine and beyond, and try to do the same. The analogy with Hitler and his Sudetenland demand is entirely relevant, even if people are offended by it.

    Can we do anything about it? Militarily, of course we’re not going to line up our troops in the Black Sea. Putin has invaded Crimea and we’re not going to push him out that way. But there’s a lot we can do and Paddy’s right that the West needs to act together and firmly. For example, freezing of Russian assets, expulsion from the G8, withdrawing of diplomats, economic sanctions. The only face-saving I can see for Putin here is that if he’s clear what the West will do he could get some guarantees for – the use of the Russian base in Sevastopol and the continued autonomy of Crimea, in return for pulling out, then claim that it was his main intention all along. And these are things that the new government in Kiev should be offering.

  • To my mind this is not 1939, and Putin is no Hitler. His strategic aim is to protect Russian interests in the Black Sea, and ensure that the Russian navy (such as it is) is not compromised.

    Crimea is in fact really neither Russian nor Ukrainian territory, having been invaded by the Russian’s first, and then gifted to the SSR Ukrainians much later; but without a thought that Kievan Rus and Mother Ukraine would ever be separate entities.

    I’m no sage, but I would hazard a prediction that the ‘invasion’ will stop at Crimea, and negotiations will leave it as an autonomous space, aligned to Russia but not Russian as such, perhaps a little like Kaliningrad in the Baltic sea. Putin cares little for the ‘ethnic Russians’ but they are a useful screen to cover the real concern, loss of military and naval access; his lack of action about those in the Baltic states demonstrates this only too well.

    Putin is too canny to think that fighting a war in Ukraine will do any favours for him or his cronys, and I’m sure the tumbling Moscow stock market will have set nerves on edge at the Kremlin this morning.

    For historical analysis, I would say that this is the last gasp of the USSR, which in turn is the finale of WW2, which is itself the completion of WW1. Putin may well be a 21st century Czar, but he’s no fool.

  • In the 20th century we discovered that there is one alternative to allowing force or the threat of force to determine borders – to let the people on the ground have the final say. This is a principle that the UK government, much to its credit, has applied with relative consistency, whether it be in Kosovo, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Gibraltar (allowing the Scottish referendum is something of which we can be proud in comparison to other countries). The same principle applies in Crimea, let the people on the ground decide. If it were to split off from Ukraine then there would be a more coherent (and pro-EU) Ukrainian demos in the rest of country anyway.

    The fact that Russia is inconsistent (for example as regards Chechnya or Kosovo) is much to its discredit and is one of the rarely mentioned reasons why it has lost its previous influence. It no longer represents values that can inspire anybody outside its own population.

    On another point, a poster mentions segregated Russian language education in the Baltic states. At the same time the Baltics are being criticized by westerners for not having segregated schooling, the Czech Republic is being criticised by westerners for having seperate schools for Roma speakers. From outside this can look as if the only idea that westerners believe in is that whatever the eastern countries are doing must be wrong.

  • John Whitneys comment is the closest and most accurate report of what has happened in the last three weeks.
    Whatever distaste we may hold for Yanukovytch, it seems to have been conveniently forgotten, that he was a democratically elected leader of an already sovereign Ukraine. So why did the US and UK once again purposely destabilise yet another democratic country? And the bigger question is why the West keeps facilitating ‘regime change’, in democratic sovereign countries, when every example has shown to blow up in their face spectacularly, whilst simultaneously turning a blind eye to the likes of Saudi Arabia in their dictatorial oppression of Bahrain?

  • nvelope2003 3rd Mar '14 - 12:28pm

    Does the fact that many Ukrainians speak Russian necessarily make them Russian ? Most Scots, Irish and Welsh people speak English but they do not consider themselves English. English people living in Scotland, Ireland and Wales do not consider themselves and are not considered to be Scottish, Irish or Welsh.
    By supporting Ukrainian nationalists and the extension of the EU the West has been provocative. Russia’s interest in the Crimea has been known about for years. Maps in newspapers make it look as though it has a long land border with Ukraine but in fact it is only connected by 2 very narrow strips and the Russian Federation is just a short distance away by sea.

    The West has put itself in a very bad position by its obsession with EU expansion in areas which Russia can legitimately regard as its sphere of influence. Putin might not be a very nice man but he seems to represent Russian interests. I wonder what people would think if he went to Belfast with the President of Ireland and advocated a united Ireland ?

  • David Allen 3rd Mar '14 - 12:53pm

    “We should be long past the age of “spheres of influence” and other imperialist nonsense.”

    The trouble comes when we use such jibes to attack others, while simultaneously defending or expanding our own spheres of influence. That’s hypocrisy.

    The US has always been fiercely protective of its own “back yard”. The EU, under the guise of economic co-operation, has vigorously expanded its sphere of influence. Where Soviet governments held an iron military grip on Eastern Europe through repeated invasions, Putin has watched uncomplainingly as countries like Poland and Hungary join the EU. Putin has done some dreadful things, but they have been essentially defensive activities to retain territories and influence, not expansionist activities to create a stronger empire. In that sense, Putin is indeed “no Hitler”.

    All empires are skilled at self-serving propaganda which disguises naked territorial ambition behind some supposed noble goal. Rome created an empowered citizenry and the Pax Romanus. The British Empire brought civilisation to savages, or so it was claimed. Soviet communism sought to carry forward Marxist revolution and the overthrow of exploitative capitalism throughout the world. US imperialism in the Middle East poses as a fight for freedom and democracy. The EU offers economic friendship, collaboration, democracy and free movement to bring its neighbours inside its fold. All these propaganda statements contain an element of truth, just enough to be credible, especially if one desperately wants to believe. First and foremost however, they are self-deluding hypocrisy.

  • It is worth remembering that there were large numbers of Ukrainians fighting for Hitler in WW2. Memories are long., surely this is a factor. Good Guy/Bad Guy is too simplistic in this case hence diplomacy.

  • Some people seem to imagine that this was a reactive move by Putin, but it should be obvious from the skill with which this was carried out that it’s only the execution of a plan which has been worked on for years and was only waiting for an excuse. In which case, you might want to ask which other plans are sitting in Putin’s desk drawer? Invasion of Crimea now, then takeover of all of Ukraine? Invasion of Moldova? Reoccupation of the Baltic countries? Poland? Where does it stop? Aggression needs to be halted when its first signs are seen, or the aggressor keeps coming — and there is no such thing as sating or appeasing his appetite. At most he will pause a little to digest.

  • Julian Tisi 3rd Mar '14 - 4:55pm

    @ John Whitney, @ John Dunn
    You seem to think that it was either “thugs gangsters and extreme right wing Nazis” (John Whitney) or “the US and UK” who brought about the removal of Yanukovytch in Ukraine. In actual fact it was ordinary Ukranians themselves. There may well have ben extreme elements within the protesters but the majority were ordinary people. And it was Yanukovytch who started killing the protesters, not the other way round.

    @ David Allen
    “The EU, under the guise of economic co-operation, has vigorously expanded its sphere of influence. Putin has watched uncomplainingly as countries like Poland and Hungary join the EU. Putin has done some dreadful things, but they have been essentially defensive activities to retain territories and influence, not expansionist activities to create a stronger empire”
    I find it amazing that some commentators here can’t see the difference between countries freely, of their own choosing, deciding to join the EU and a forced armed invasion as is happening in Crimea.

  • As a firm supporter of the EU I am beginning to question the extent to which efforts are being made to enlarge it well beyond anything that its founders could have envisaged. In the case of Ukraine, much more than other former members of the Soviet Union, Russian sensitivities must have been obvious. The Russian need for a warm water port and access to the Mediterranean and Suez Canal make it hardly surprising that their main fleet is on the Crimean coast with a lease now extended to 2042. The main pipelines for export of Russian gas go through Ukraine. Surely any talks with Ukraine about co-operation with the EU – possibly leading towards future membership – should have involved Russia from the beginning. It should have been possible to build in reassurances for Russian interests. Indeed if it became clear that the degree of EU co-operation suggested was a complete no-no for Russia it would have been far better for the EU to back off at this stage. Surely to goodness there are enough problems to sort out within the existing membership right now.

  • @ David-1
    “Where does it stop?”
    Invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya,……. Indeed,… where does the aggression stop?

  • I have started watching the “Russia Today” TV channel on Freeview 85. Propaganda no doubt but a very useful way of seeing what the Russians are saying. For example they have just announced a denial of the “3am tomorrow” deadline for surrender of Ukrainian forces in Crimea.

  • @ Julian Tisi
    I think US Diplomat Victoria Nuland’s leaked phone call shows clear signs of US interference and the intentional destabilising of Ukraine some weeks ago.
    And how do you explain the “forced armed invasion as is happening in Crimea.”, with the reality that the Crimea authority picked up the phone and asked Putin for military protection for their mainly Russian speaking citizens?

  • Tony Greaves 3rd Mar '14 - 5:31pm

    “Tony Greaves, you probably won’t appreciate this particular compliment, but clearly you are a natural diplomat. ”

    Of course. [I would insert a smiley here if I knew how to do it].

    @Julian Tisi. What is your alternative? A new Cold War with Russia?

    Putin’s claim to have a right to protect “Russians” and “Russian interests” in the Ukraine is pure imperialism. Everyone can play the ethnic game and the logical result is ethnic cleansing everywhere. But many of the Russian speakers in the Ukraine are ethnically Ukrainian – and should be distinguished from people who think they are actually Russians. A lot speak a mixed dialect.

    You can never carve up countries in a way that makes everywhere ethnically pure even if you wanted such an illiberal concept of states. However you do it, it’s always about the rights and representation of minorities as well as majorities and indeed the fundamental principle that all citizens are equal.

    But sometimes you have to accept “where we are now” in order to achieve an acceptable future. If you don’t the future may be much worse and your principled stand won’t then mean a thing.

    By the way I believe that the West should pull out of the Sochi paralympics now and take as many others as possible with them.

    Tony

  • The suggestion that everybody who has been demonstrating in Kiev since October is some sort of 1940s Nazi is ridiculous.
    Everyone here in LDV has the computer capacity to at least read some background to the subject before they make themselves look stupid.

    For those people who think the Crimea is a natural part of Russia can I suggest they simply go to wiki and read about the recent history of the Crimea Tatar ( or Tartar ).

    In particular read about Mustafa Abdülcemil Qırımoğlu the Crimea Tatar leader who is still a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. He has spent almost as long in Russian prisons as Nelson Mandela spent in the prisons of the Apartheid Regime. His story gives an angle to the present conflict that shows that it is not a replay of 1944 Soviets against Nazis.

    And to those people who claim that the people who we’re demonstrating in Kiev were the same people who fought with Hitler against the Soviets, just look at the date of the end of the second world war. A 15 year old in 1945 would be 84 years old in 2014.

  • Speaking of short memories, here’s what Russia’s foreign minister was saying just six days ago: “We confirmed our principled position of non-intervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect that everyone follows similar logic.”

    And a few days earlier: “”The main principle consists of not interfering in what is going on in Kiev. This has been said many times, and the Kremlin is adhering to this line.”

    And in January: “Moscow calls for non-interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Moreover, no one should threaten Ukraine with sanctions. . .”

    Moscow’s line on this has been a pack of blatant lies. I suggest considering this before blandly accepting the version of events put forward by Russia’s hypernationalistic government-controlled media.

  • Everybody remembers Chernobyl. But do people know that Europe’s biggest nuclear power

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Ukraine

  • It was a serious mistake for Baroness Ashton and Hilary Clinton to try to annexe Ukraine into the EU:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/opinion/hillary-clinton-catherine-ashton-ukraines-election.html?_r=0

    We are now seeing how the people of the Ukraine are paying the price for EU meddling.

    The world needs buffer states between super powers or between dissimilar regions. Tibet used to be a buffer between China and India. Once annexed by China, there was then a conflict between India and China.

    This attempt by the EU to annexe Ukraine now puts the EU right up against Russia. This is a huge mistake. I wish that our politicians would learn the lessons of history, unfortunately they are too egotistical or ignorant to pay heed.

    It may be too late now to step back from the inevitable eyeballing of the EU and Russia across a wide no man’s land strewn with landmines and barbed wire.

  • Joe King,
    As any Sarah Palin might tell you the Soviet Union and Alaska (which is a state in the USA) are right next door to each other. Your buffer state theory seems to fall down on minimal examination.

    Maybe it is you who needs to learn a lesson from history and also from geography?

  • I cant believe there are people claiming to be Lib Dems supporting a Russian puppet who used snipers against civilians.

  • Simon Banks 3rd Mar '14 - 9:30pm

    What has happened is horribly predictable. We know how Putin plays it. He was never likely to accept the Crimea, housing a Russian fleet, coming under the control of a government he’d see as anti-Russian because pro-Western. He’s acted with utter cynicism and brutality, but nothing new there. Paddy is right: military intervention by the West is not an option. Just possibly Putin could be persuaded the disbenefits of seizing the Crimea outright would outweigh the benefits, but I wouldn’t bet on it. As for the artificiality of the Ukraine’s borders, that’s a fair comment, but the great majority of national borders were artificial when they were drawn. Holland/Belgium is simply a ceasefire line, for example, and much the same is true of England/Scotland. The boundaries of Hungary/Romania, Finland/Russia and Greece/Bulgaria are fixed by treaty to reward a winner in war and punish a loser – but most people seem to have decided it’s better not to go on fighting over such boundaries. One effect of Putin’s action, whatever the fate of the Crimea, could well be to cement and spread the Ukraininian sense of national identity – conceivably an argument that might be put to him.

    I hope to God he doesn’t dream of military intervention outside the Crimea.

  • Putin panicked. Then most everyone else did too. A normal human shambles. Paddy writes wisely, Greaves wants to reward aggression, and Hague just likes to be a bovver boy. The Ukrainian economy crashed drastically since nominal independence from Russia in 1991 – even the CIA agree so it must be true! The few Ukrainians who want to be part of Russia are likely to create as many problems for Russia as the few who look West and the many who don’t know – and far more problems than the West can create. Let’s try supporting the people for a change.
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/up.html

  • Jonathan Brown 4th Mar '14 - 2:48am

    I don’t know if anyone’s beaten me to it, but I’ve submitted an emergency motion on Ukraine for the conference. It doesn’t currently have enough support, so if you’d like to, can you please? You can read it here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lib-Dem-New-European-Network/286591058157286?ref=ts&fref=ts

    Clearly some of the commenters here will disagree with it, but others may be in favour of it.

    As this is in danger of being considered an off-topic post, I won’t go into any more detail here.

  • Paul In Twickenham 4th Mar '14 - 6:46am

    As an example of how Putin operates consider this story which despite being in The Daily Mail is (according to a Norwegian geologist I was talking with) completely true : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-464921/Putins-Arctic-invasion-Russia-lays-claim-North-Pole–gas-oil-diamonds.html

    Essentially Putin is claiming that Russia own a vast tract of polar territory on the grounds that it is geologically similar to Siberia, and so would have been part of Russia during the jurassic era. I kid you not. The consequences if such a ridiculous claim were asserted (it would be equally valid for India to lay claim to Antarctica) would be Russian ownership of an oil reserve estimated to be twice the total oil in Saudi Arabia.

  • David-1 says “Moscow’s line on this has been a pack of blatant lies. I suggest considering this before blandly accepting the version of events put forward by Russia’s hypernationalistic government-controlled media.”

    If this is a reference to my advocating keeping an eye on “Russia Today” on TV, please do not confuse this with “accepting the version of events put forward by Russia.” In no way would I do this any more than I accept the version of events put forward by (for example) the Daily Mail. However it is useful to see what all sides are saying.

    At least (thank goodness) it appears this morning that there was no 3 a.m. ultimatum. With Putin standing down his massive “exercises” near the Ukrainian border perhaps there is the faintest whiff of de-escalation. It is of course crucial that the anti-Russian Ukrainians continue their commendable restraint.

  • I agree with Denis that it is useful to see and hear what all sides say. I sometimes even read the Daily Telegraph.
    But having listened to a spokesperson from The Voice of Russia a couple of days running I think we have to treat much of the Russian media as little more than propaganda services for the tyrant Putin.

    For all the references here in LDV and the UK media to the 19th century and the second world war, there seems to be little analysis of Putin’s behaviour over the last fifteen years.
    I would guess that we could draw some conclusions from his crackdown on any real democratic opposition at home ; his attitude to gays; the state sponsored public horse-whipping of young femail singers at the Olympics (against a pathetic background of the BBC’s so-called sports people saying they do not want politics in sport).
    On the international front Putin’s open support and arming of the Syrian regime, his invasion of Georgia, and the direct interference in Ukraine elections and eceonmic affairs which have gone far beyond anything the EU could be caused of.
    Putin’s personal behaviour as he poses like some z-list celebrity desperate for publicity bare chested on a horse, or with Hells Angels. His behaviour towards his sometime wife. His “adjustment”of the Russian constitution to get round the two term limitation so that he can flip back and forth between the titles of President and Prime Minister to maintain the powers of an autocrat.

    Putin is a tyrant.

    What is to be done about him and Russia should be informed by the evidence of his actions during the last fifteen years. I do not think EU or US armies should be sent in. The German government’s statement that diplomacy should not be mistaken for weakness is a powerful one. Military action often just inserts a delay or diversion away from a solution. It is seldom a solution. Even a minor military conflict in a country which is littered with nuclear power stations is a threat to us all. just north of the Crimean peninsular is the latest nuclear power station in Europe.
    According to the official website it took over 500,000 firefighters more than two years to damp down the initial disaster at Chernobyl, and more than twenty years later they are trying to build a second ‘sarcophagus’ to try to prevent further large scale leaks of radiation. Radiation from Chernobyl spread as far as Welsh sheep farms and Cumbria. The impact many thousands of miles from Chernobyl were felt for more than twenty years. One hopes we have learned that lesson, but I am not sure.
    One hopes that there are some sane voices in the UK government who have not been completely brainwashed by the lobbying and the cash of the nuclear industry; one hopes that even the sponsors of Hinkley C might see the dangers of a miitary conflict within reach of a nuclear power station.

  • nvelope2003 4th Mar '14 - 12:45pm

    One aspect of this issue which has not been given much prominence is that by a treaty between Russia and the Ukraine Russia has troops in Crimea to protect their Naval bases which have been theirs since Tsarist times. This morning Putin ordered troops who have been carrying out manoeuvres on Ukraine’s eastern border to return to their barracks. The impression that is left is that this has all been staged so that certain people will show their true colours but the actual parties, Ukraine and Russia have been very careful not to engage in actual warfare or military provocation. I have not heard anyone suggesting Western military intervention because the leaders probably know this has all been staged for propaganda reasons in Russia and the Ukraine.
    Of course Putin would like to see the USSR restored just as Liberal Democrats would like to see a LD victory at the next election but that does not mean it is going to happen. Nevertheless we should not be complacent but appeasement is not always wrong. It all depends on the circumstances. I there is justice in a certain cause it would be wrong to deny it.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '19 - 7:21pm

    Kruschev was in charge of Ukraine under Stalin, undoubtedly with blood on his hands. When he reached the top of the greasy pole he called in lots of documentary information and destroyed anything which incriminated himself. He then announced a list of Stalin’s crimes.
    The independence of Ukraine happened because of the defeat of Tsarist Russia in World War One, the Menshevik revolution and the Bolshevik revolution. Stalin exported Ukrainian agricultural production in order to raise hard currency. Western customers presumed that the Ukraine had had a good harvest (useful idiots) whereas the people of the Ukraine were being starved.
    A deal between the Russian Federation (Yeltsin) Belorussia and Ukraine triggered the disintegration of the USSR with other republics losing their subsidies.

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