War in Europe and the role of the UK

The Big Lie of the Russian position regarding the war in Ukraine is that they had no choice than to invade. They did have choices, and furthermore they should see the events of 2014 onwards in Ukraine as a Russian policy failure, rather pleading mere victimhood. The harsh reality is that all deaths in the war were and are avoidable.

This is Step One in the doctrine of ‘know your enemy’. But to go beyond Step One it is necessary to reject the Western Big Lie; that the war was unprovoked. The ‘retail’ position of the UK is that Russia invaded because Putin, and the Russian government, are irrational and mad. This is quite the opposite of ‘know your enemy’, and an attempt to mask the role of US neo-conservatives in Ukraine, especially since 2014. This is the same group of individuals behind the 2003 Iraq war, the extended war in Afghanistan, Western involvement in the Syria, Somalia and Libya conflicts, and other adventures. They all resulted in relatively negative net outcomes for the US, UK and Western Allies.

The UK position for the public domain is however understandable in times of war; to show resolve and maintain public support. The point made is that Russia must be removed from all de-jure Ukrainian territory, President Putin must step down, and all efforts covert and overt, kinetic and cyber must be made to bring this about. Weapon supplies must be stepped up to support the ‘regime change’ doctrine that Russia will eventually be comprehensively defeated. Few might fully realise that this is likely unachievable without nuclear war.

For UK parliamentarians and political parties, the future path of the war may require ‘heads above the parapet’, the absence of which resulted in the Afghan war dragging on for at least 15 years longer than necessary. At least the UK Liberal Democrats objected to the Iraq war project.

However, there are two reasons why the UK position on Ukraine is very difficult for UK parliamentarians.

First, all wars end in negotiations, even total victories. But the current UK position is very difficult to walk back from. It implies no negotiation until Russia collapses, and entertains no concept of varying Western negotiating strengths, over time. In the meantime politicians have to consider the extent to which Russia is being given incentives to control the whole of Ukraine, given the Russian perception that the Minsk accords were just a ploy to give time to rearm Ukraine, and that Russian collapse is the aim. If a rump Ukraine remains, it goes, it will be de facto NATO occupied.

The second reason might be called “Afghanistanitis”.

When I first agreed to go to Afghanistan the war was already lost. By 2009 travel involved circuitous routes around Taleb-held areas. Even the road from the NATO compound to the airport was Taleb controlled. However, to perpetuate the fiction that victory was near, the war continued for more than a dozen years until Western forces were summarily expelled. Politicians did not want to put their heads above the parapet.

Ukraine forces are widely thought of as the ‘second best in Europe’. The bravery and tenaciousness of Ukrainian forces has been breathtaking. But NATO/Allied weaponry, and micro-target acquisition, may not be sufficient or timely enough even to bring the war to a stalemate. NATO-backed Ukraine may yet still pull off a victory but this is a heart-wrenching call. The current ‘Kremlin is losing badly’ narrative in the UK tabloids can be a dangerous thing for the UK political community.

No doubt there is Western contingency planning underway behind the scenes, and back channel discussions still going on. But political support is required when the time comes for some kind of difficult negotiated approach; facing highly imperfect potential outcomes. If not, Afghanistanitis may result in another two-decade war… or a nuclear conflict.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance.

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41 Comments

  • Richard Kay 11th Feb '23 - 2:43pm

    The striking difference between Ukraine and Afghanistan is that it is Ukranians doing the fighting and putting their lives on the line for their own freedom. Despite decades of expensive nation building efforts, when western occupying militaries gave notice of a withdrawal deadline, Afghanis were unwilling to fight for women’s employment rights or girl’s education, their own civic society or democratic rights.

  • nigel hunter 11th Feb '23 - 2:59pm

    Ukrainians are fighting for their OWN country not ‘others’ imposing on their way of life.WW2 showed that superior tech did not help Hitler. Mass production of the necessity of war materials and larger manpower won the day.Therefore Ukraine needs BOTH tech quality AND mass production of cheap effective weaponry as manpower wise they are fewer than Russia.Russia is well known for using ‘cannon fodder’ forces to wear down the enemy that is why as much weaponry as possible has to be sent to Ukraine.

  • Martin Gray 11th Feb '23 - 3:10pm

    @Richard…
    Afghan army & security losses since 2001 were 92,000+ ..From 2015 to 2019 it’s losses accelerated because of the US drawdown – some 45,000 in total.
    Once the US air cover was lost , & it’s coordination of military resources within the Afghan army – it collapsed very rapidly against a battle hardened insurgency. Assurances from the Afghan President at the time as regards it strength were proven to be false…
    Ultimately AA losses far outstripped the coalition forces by a significant amount..

  • Ed Shepherd 11th Feb '23 - 5:56pm

    World War Two did not end in negotiation. The Axis powers abjectly surrendered. Japan was allowed to keep the emperor because that made life easier for the Allies.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 11th Feb '23 - 7:13pm

    Articles like this focus much on Western “misleading” narratives on this conflict. We seem to more readily talk about this than the gaping moral and factual flaws in Russia’s narrative.

    Russia claims it is invading to stop Ukraine joining NATO. Yet that is in violation of the UN Charter which upholds the right of individual nation-states to determine their own foreign policy. It is factually incorrect that Ukraine is controlled by Nazis. In fact there are more Far Right people in the Russian Government.

    At best estimate less than an estimated 10% of the population of the annexed territories want to be Russian. Yet we can’t verify that because Putin has started to label the OSCE, which Russia supported to create, a Western trojan horse. But Putin just wants the world to take his word on it. Like Hitler unifying his ‘lost’ Germans from the Sudetenland and elsewhere.

    But we focus more on our position, why? Frankly because we are scared of Russia and so bend the truth or quiet inconvenient ones to push for a softening of our position.

    Yet what reason do we have to believe that this would even be successful? We were not involved in the Normandy Process over the Minsk Agreements and they were violated by Russia anyway.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 11th Feb '23 - 7:16pm

    The fact is that this party and other similar minded idealogues have used the Iraq War as an excuse to draw in our foreign policy footprint, encouraging predators like Putin to push against us again and again.

    Putin’s behaviour over Ukraine is entirely rational since everything we have done (or more to the point haven’t done) has escalated his behaviour. Such is what happen when you appease bullies who zero in on weakness.

    Our message to Putin and the Russian people should be frank. Our only objective is to get Russian forces out of Ukraine, not to harm Russia. As long as Russian Forces are in Ukraine, they will receive the military aid necessary to get them out. If Ukraine’s conventional forces are routed, than Russia will yet again face suspiciously well equipped guerrillas. His nuclear blackmail is bogus since the West too has nuclear weapons.

  • Mel Borthwaite 12th Feb '23 - 12:56pm

    @Zachary Adam Barker
    “Putin’s behaviour over Ukraine is entirely rational since everything we have done….has escalated his behaviour”
    Agreed. Putin has watched how the USA, NATO have acted over the years and has concluded that Russia has the right to act in similar ways. He watched how NATO chose to unleash a huge bombing campaign against Serbia until it succeeded in forcing it to withdraw from part of its internationally recognised territory – and then recognised that part of Serbia’s territory as an independent country. So much for the world’s rules-based order not allowing internationally recognised borders to be changed by force. He also watch as a US led coalition of countries invaded a sovereign country (Iraq) on a fabricated excuse to secure regime change, and all without UN authority. Yes, Putin will have learned from our behaviour and felt emboldened to adopt similar actions.

  • @Paul Reynolds – you state “an attempt to mask the role of US neo-conservatives in Ukraine, especially since 2014”. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this, but since it was 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine, are you perhaps mistaking cause for effect?

    Also you state that regime change and the collapse of Russia are the aims of UK support to Ukraine. Defeat of Russia may well lead to the end of Putin’s rule, but when has this been stated as an explicit aim by anyone in Government? Between the initial invasion of 2014 and early 2022, the British Government remained remarkably relaxed about London providing to a home for the wealth of Putin’s cronies…

  • Nato never has been a threat to Russian territorial integrity. It is what is was originally intended to be. An alliance to maintain peace in Europe, aimed at keeping the Americans in, the Russian out and the Germans down.
    In November 2013, Viktor Yanukovych attended a EU summit in Lithuania where he was expected to conclude the signing an EU association agreement that had been negotiated over a period of seven years and that has been the centre piece of his re-election campaign in 2010. He refused at the last minute. It soon became clear that the Kremlin would not allow Ukraine to go down the path of closer relations with Europe. The Maidan ensued. Yanukovych abandoned his post, subsequently being impeached by the Ukrainian parliament.
    Putin began his invasion and seizure of Crimea soon after and supported separatist unrest in the Donbas. This invasion and its continuation in February 2022 is all about the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. It may succeed. As the Ancient historian Thucydides, stated “right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
    Whether Ukraine (with the backing of Western weapons) can match Russian military might remains to be seen. If Ukraine is defeated and subjugated,they will be condemned to the role of vassal state just as Thucydides wrote of in his Melian dialogue. That will not bode well for the defence of democracy, liberty and human rights in a world of growing autocratic threats.

  • William Wallace 12th Feb '23 - 3:46pm

    Paul should not have left out the broader pattern of Russian behaviour towards its neighbours (and former possessions within the USSR) since Putin took Power -towards Georgia and Moldova in particular, with similar support for breakaway regions and subversion of elected governments. Nor the record of Russian interference in other European states, including the UK. Nor the aims that Putin set out in his ‘historical’essay, to re-establish the Russian empire.

  • Paul Reynolds 12th Feb '23 - 7:25pm

    I agree with William Wallace about the Russian deliberate strategy of creating pro-Russian enclaves; eg in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and making parallel trouble in the Baltic States. However, did this not contain clues as to the Russian reaction to Ukrainian shelling of the Don Basin from 2015 to 2022, (14,000 deaths reportedly) which led to the Minsk Accords ?

  • Paul Reynolds 12th Feb '23 - 7:27pm

    In the early 1990’s, linked to my work with opposition (ie anti-communist) political parties in Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Croatia and Serbia from 1989, I co-organised a post-Soviet ‘coordinating’ political conference at Lake Bled. This provides some useful context.

    I was in contact with Rukh in Ukraine but on balance we decided to omit them due to alleged links with Neo-Nazis.

    At the time there was no fear of a Russian military resurgence, but deep mistrust remained. The main fear was that those in the US and UK security sector who didn’t accept the idea of a ‘Peace Dividend’, would try to humiliate Russia; leading to leadership by a ‘strong man’ Russian nationalist leader; drawing parallels with Germany in the 1930s. This was a deeply feared eventuality, expressed most astutely by Mart Laar and Andrius Kubilius, if I recall correctly.

  • Paul Reynolds 12th Feb '23 - 7:28pm

    The key point about Russia’s policy failure in 2014 onwards, is that they made things easier for Victoria Nuland et al, by failing to deal with the unpopular politico-economic dominance in Ukraine by Russia-linked internationalised oligarchs, a barrier to EU accession. The alleged ‘F*** the EU’ comments of Nuland masked the truth; that having seen the economic success of next door Poland, even those that didn’t speak Ukranian wanted to join the EU. The Russians would have been better off keeping Nuland out by promoting Ukrainian EU membership and dealing with the oligarch problem.

  • Joseph Gerald Bourke 12th Feb '23 - 8:50pm

    Paul,

    you write “did this not contain clues as to the Russian reaction to Ukrainian shelling of the Don Basin from 2015 to 2022, (14,000 deaths reportedly) which led to the Minsk Accords ?”
    OHCHR estimates the total number of conflict-related casualties in Ukraine from 14 April 2014 to 31 December 2021 to be […] 14,200–14,400 killed (at least 3,404 civilians, estimated 4,400 Ukrainian forces, and estimated 6,500 members of armed groups)…

    By armed groups report means pro-Russian separatists. In another place the same reports describes what the 3404 civilians include the 298 deaths on board of a MH17 flight, so the number of actual Donbas civilian death toll is even lower — about 3100. And these were not deliberately killed by Ukrainian military. Unfortunately civilians die during the war if they are in the middle of a conflict.

    Most of the civilian deaths (3039, which is 89% of total civilian casualties) happened during the first two years of a conflict. Death toll of 2020 or 2021 are much lower — 51 civilian deaths in total, 15 of which were caused by active hostilities (shelling, explosives drops etc) and other are usually the mines incidents.
    The numbers are very clear that the hot phase of a conflict was in the past. By all the logic if indeed Russia wanted to protect their civilians they should have done it in 2014, not in 2022. However, in reality, it was Russian actions which sparked the conflict initially. Have they not organised and supported Donbas separatist movement, there would be no deaths at all.” Did Ukrainians kill 14000 Russian civilians in Donbas?
    Ukrainian soldiers have reported being repeatedly fired upon after agreeing ceasefires or humanitarian corridors with separatist forces. Hundreds were reportedly massacred in the 2015 retreat from Debaltseve during a ceasefire.

  • Peter Martin 12th Feb '23 - 9:37pm

    @ Joe Bourke,

    “Nato never has been a threat to Russian territorial integrity”.

    You may be right but unfortunately the Russians don’t see it this way. NATO missiles can now be sited right on the Russian border in Estonia, for example, and well within striking range of Moscow. It could also be argued that Soviet missiles once situated in Cuba, neither were any threat to the USA. However, as I remember, the Americans took the same view then as the Russians do now.

    NATO: “An alliance to maintain peace in Europe, aimed at keeping the Americans in, the Russian out and the Germans down”.

    It hasn’t been totally successful then! Europe, of which both the most populated regions of Russia and Ukraine are a part, isn’t “at peace”, and hasn’t been since before the Yugoslav wars; or before the Turks invaded Cyprus if we are including that conflict. The Russians may have gone home, but so have most of the Americans who would now like to see the Germans step up to the plate and spend a few more of their accumulated and surplus euros to help pay for European military security.

  • @Zachary Adam Barker
    “But we focus more on our position, why? Frankly because we are scared of Russia and so bend the truth or quiet inconvenient ones to push for a softening of our position.”

    I’m not so sure that we are scared of ‘Russia’ but are probably scared of our own shadow and capabilities. Also doing anything risks us getting involved and that will impact our comfortable lives.

    I think the time is drawing very close to when we are going to have to decide: do we stand and watch from the sidelines or get involved.
    As we can see from WWII there is only so long you can stand on the sidelines before events move closer to home and the recovery job becomes so much large and more difficult. So really the only question now is: what do we need to do to discourage Russia sending any of the troops it is massing on the border into Ukraine in the coming weeks.

    We also need to get real about our defense supply chains, our modern tech is impressive, but we need to be able to build their replacements a lot quicker than the years it has taken to build them. Likewise with respect to our other armaments – Ukraine is consuming a lot of ordinance and bullets and the holes in our reserves are starting to become noticeable.

    Dangerous times, but if we are weak, we risk them becoming even more dangerous.

  • Paul Reynolds 13th Feb '23 - 12:03pm

    Thanks for all the well-infored comments. The political problem on both sides of the Atlantic is that both governments made it clear from April 2022 that the US aim is to weaken Russia, and ensure that Russian forces are ‘fully defeated’. In April Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said ‘We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine’ and ‘Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here’. At the end of the previous month the US President called for the removal of President Putin from power. These statements followed three months of negotiations in which an outline ceasefire deal was agreed, with the support of former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and later by President Erdogan in Turkey. Bennet said French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz initially supported the deal, but UK PM Johnson opposed it, and Biden sat on the fence. In Feb 2023 Bennet said ‘They blocked it, and I thought they were wrong’. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu complained that ‘some NATO countries’ blocked the deal. The danger now is that the ‘we are about to win’ thing will go on for years (as it did in Afghanistan) until Western political parties stick their heads above the parapet and force a re-start of negotiations.

  • Joseph Gerald Bourke 13th Feb '23 - 3:51pm

    Paddy Ashdown, shortly before his death, was crystal clear on what a can of worms the redrawing borders on ethnic lines could be Ashdown: Kosovo-Serbia Border Changes Would Please Bosnian Serbs, Putin
    “The one person who would be rubbing his hands with approval if this were to happen [a proposed land swap between Serbia and Kosovo] is President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, because this is exactly what he would like to see happen in the Ukraine: solve the Ukrainian problem by handing over a chunk of the Ukraine to Russia,” he said. “And here’s a precedent established that [would help] him do that.”
    The UK position, as a permanent member of the security council, has to stand for the observance and upholding of the principles of the UN Charter with any International negotiations being conducted under the auspices of the UN secretary general.

  • Mel Borthwaite 13th Feb '23 - 10:37pm

    @Joseph Gerald Bourke
    “The UK position, as a permanent member of the security council, has to stand for the observance and upholding of the principles of the UN Charter…”
    I assume that includes Article 2.4 which addresses ‘the use of force against the territorial integrity…of any state’? Serbia being bombed until withdrawing from that part of its territory called Kosovo comes to mind…

  • Mel,

    the Kosovo intervention (unlike Iraq). was actually strongly supported by LibDem members https://www.libdemvoice.org/syria-lib-dem-members-poll-35939.html, as was the action taken in Libya that had the backing of a security council resolution. The House of Commons briefing discusses the position of Kosovo vis a vis the UN Charter and International Law https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmfaff/28/2813.htm
    “There is a procedure at the United Nations known as “Uniting for Peace”. This can help a blockage in the Security Council to be bypassed by reference to the General Assembly. Uniting for Peace is relevant only when a peace-and-security issue is on the Security Council agenda and the Council is prevented from exercising its “primary responsibility” to deal with it by veto of one of its permanent members. Though Article 12 of the UN Charter bars the General Assembly from making any recommendation in respect of any dispute or situation where the Security Council is exercising its functions, except at Security Council request, a procedural vote to refer a matter to the General Assembly requires the affirmative vote of nine members of the Security Council and is not subject to veto” There was a majority (of 12 to three) actually secured in the Security Council on 26 March 1999.
    Contrast that with the utter rejection of Russia’s intervention by members of the security council and the UN general assembly.

  • Martin Gray 15th Feb '23 - 6:06am

    @ Joe Bourke ….Behind that meaningless political speak . Is the deaths of some 520+ Serbian civilians – many of them children, killed in that NATO bombing campaign..
    As for the Libyan intervention – where do we start !

  • Peter Hirst 15th Feb '23 - 2:37pm

    Unless Ukraine gains a significant break through in its spring offensive, at some stage it is going to have to be forced to seek a cease fire. With Russia increasingly mobilising its economy, otherwise this conflict could continue for years. Painful as it is a smaller Ukraine is preferable to no Ukraine.

  • I agree with Peter Hirst. Despite some ebb and flow, this conflict is going to result in a stalemate with combat that lasts for years. A negotiation with Russia over the status of the Donnbass region is the only long term solution.

  • A negotiation with Russia over the status of the Donnbass region is the only long term solution...

    Appeasement doesn’t work.
    The experts predict this concession which would effectively mean Russia gets to keep the parts of Ukraine it currently occupies, will only result in Russia (and others) seeing this as a green flag to them annexing other territories (including more of Ukraine) they perceive as being useful to them…

    Much as I don’t like it, I suggest the first steps in securing a peaceful long-term solution to the problems in Ukraine is for the European nations to put equipment and men on the ground in time to rebuff Russia’s anticipated spring offensive. Because if the reports of Russian preparation are right, our military aid will be too little too late to save Ukraine, as Russia will push their advantage – whilst we wring our hands and are fearful of our own shadows – and take more of Ukraine.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Feb '23 - 1:26pm

    I am a little weary of the continued misuse of the term appeasement. Appeasement was a policy pursued by interwar UK governments, who mistakenly sacrificed whole countries in the hope of persuading the Germans under Hitler to stop expanding.
    No-one on this site has ever suggested that this sort of policy would be desirable or productive.
    What I and others have pointed out is that in the end wars are concluded by negotiation, despite what Ed Shepherd had to say about WW2. Even there there were negotiations leading to a peace treaty and the creation of a deNazified West Germany and a longtime occupied East Germany and many of the countries that had been occupied regained their status as independent countries, albeit in too many cases under Russian domination.
    Why should this conflict be any different? I have no idea what a negotiated settlement might look like and I am fully aware of the likely refusal of Ukraine to agree to any loss of territory, but the alternative to negotiation is continued war with huge loss of life on both sides, possibly dragging on for years.
    As Liberal Democrats we surely support efforts to get both sides to the table so that this brutal war can be brought to an end.

  • There is an argument that Neville Chamberlain had good reason to pursue a policy of appeasement. It was certainly popular with a British public only 20 years after the Great War.
    The then British and French empires were facing totalitarian regimes in Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union and were not well prepared for war in 1938.
    On paper, France had a stronger military than Germany and should have been able to hold the Wermacht at the Maginot line in 1940. The Allies wrongly considered the Ardennes Forest impassable to armored formations and the defences at Sedan were incomplete. The German army was able to cross the Meuse in force with the benefit of several big advantages in this sector – surprise, air superiority and superior armored formations under the leadership of two highly competent generals – Guderian and Rommel.
    By early June 1940 Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands had fallen, the British had been driven to Dunkirk, and the Germans had taken more than one million Allied prisoners in the space of three weeks. Italy also then declared war on Britain and France.
    Such are the fortunes of war. Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement had unexpectedly failed at Sedan and five years of total war ensued, followed by half a century of a cold war standoff.
    This is why we have the United Nations and a rules based International order for peaceful resolution of disputes among nations. It is also a key reason why a coherent and workable defense policy is a top priority for any aspiring government.

  • Martin Gray,

    Paddy Ashdown was at the helm for the LibDems at the time of the in 1999. This is summary of his televised address at the time where he wrestles with the dilemma Ashdown backs Nato action
    In 2011, Nick Clegg was the party spokesman when the UN Security Council resolution, passed a resolution fora no-fly zone to be implemented over Libya This is not Iraq

  • Mick Taylor 17th Feb '23 - 2:36pm

    Joe Burke totally misses the point. I was not commenting on the success or otherwise of Chamberlain’s policies, but on the continued misuse of the word appeasement whenever someone suggests that the current war between Russia and Ukraine should be resolved at the negotiating table. None of us advocating a peace conference are advocating a policy of appeasement, just trying desperately to stop the carnage in Ukraine and get all troops back to their barracks. I repeat that I have no idea what sort of peace treaty might resolve this dreadful war. That is up to the negotiators and their respective governments with the possible assistance of the UN. The longer negotiations are delayed, the more people, on both sides, will be slaughtered unnecessarily. War is never the answer, diplomacy is.

  • @ Roland I agree with Mick Taylors critique of the overuse of “appeasement”. What we are talking about is a negotiated settlement just as was done in Bosnia and Northern Ireland- do you think that was “appeasement”?
    There is no evidence that Russia would want to expand further than the Donbass and Crimea – most of the people there are Russian speaking and the Black Sea fleet is in Sevastopol so its obvious why Russia wants that to be part of their territory.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Feb '23 - 9:07pm

    Martin. The end of every war ends up at peace talks where negotiations take place to find a solution that both sides can at least live with. Please tell me where I have suggested that Ukraine gives up territory? The peace that will eventually emerge may well be more about reducing Russia’s (read Putin’s) fear of Nato or other security issues rather than territory.
    Marco, you seem to be justifying Russia’s desire to occupy parts of Ukraine ‘because there are Russian speakers’. Let me be clear. Although I abhor all war and don’t think it ever solves problems, I don’t believe that Russia has any justification whatsoever for seizing any Ukraine territory, including Crimea. What I want is unconditional peace talks where both sides seek a negotiated settlement that ends this barbaric war. It is not for me or anyone else outside of Ukraine to seek to dictate what form the inevitable peace talks should take or the conclusions they might reach.

  • Marco,

    most of the people in the American Colonies were English speaking (many quite loyal to the Crown) and the British fleet was ensconced in Boston Harbour at the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, so its obvious why Lord North wanted that to remain part of British territory. Ditto South Africa in 1910 with Cape Town and Durban important ports to the Royal Navy. So too Ireland in 1922 where most of the people were also English speaking. As a part of the overall Anglo-Irish settlement, three treaty ports were actually retained for use by the Royal Navy in the Irish free state until 1938.
    Speaking Russian as a 1st language does not make Ukrainian citizens any less Ukrainian than their fellow countrymen who speak Ukrainian as their 1st language. President Zelenskyy’s and many other members of the government and military speak Russian as their 1st language.
    The European Union on Wednesday circulated a resolution to be voted on by the U.N. General Assembly on the eve of next week’s first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling for a cessation of hostilities and a peace that ensures Ukraine’s “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.” UN draft resolution calls for ceasefire in Ukraine and peace. “Ukraine asked the EU to draft the resolution in consultation with U.N. member states, with the aim of gathering strong support from the international community for peace in Ukraine in line with the U.N. Charter.”

  • @Marco
    What we are talking about is a negotiated settlement just as was done in Bosnia and Northern Ireland- do you think that was “appeasement”?
    What we are talking about is unquestionably accepting Russia’s forced annexation of the Donbas and thinking that that this will appease/sate Russia’s wider interests in Ukraine. The unspoken part is this would mean we don’t have to send arms etc. and get our hands dirty, so seems like appeasing to me. It hasn’t worked with Israel, so what makes you think it would work with Russia?

    There is no evidence that Russia would want to expand further than the Donbass and Crimea
    There is, Putin does not see Ukraine as being separate to Russia, his original stated intent was to take all of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnipro river, gaining control of the Ukrainian “bread basket” and mineral reserves.
    Additionally, if you accept Russia takes control of the Donbas you have to accept that it will then effectively have control over Ukraine’s Black Sea shipping lanes. There is no simple solution that will be satisfactory.

  • @ Roland, Joe, Mick – I am not saying what Putin is doing is justified, it is wrong but also predictable as Russia feels their security interests are threatened.
    The oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk are not just Russian speaking but historically a part of Russia unlike Western parts of Ukraine. The Ukrainian state is quite a modern creation, their borders have changed before and it is not unthinkable that they could change again.

  • The Minsk Accords were a classic case of the use of appeasement according to former German chancellor Angela Merkel . The 2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to give Ukraine time. It also used this time to become stronger, as you can see today.It was clear to all of us that this was a frozen conflict, that the problem had not been solved, but that is precisely what gave Ukraine valuable time,” Merkel told Die Zeit Putin disappointed by Merkel’s words about Minsk agreements
    The UN security council can and does resolve to authorise military action by states to prevent aggression and human rights violations. That is not possible when a permanent member is the aggressor state. That leaves a coalition of the willing as the only recourse when UN sponsored negotiations fail to address serious war crimes and/or genocide.
    Ukraine is outmanned and outgunned across the board and would have been forced into a surrender and its government replaced months ago without the support of the collective west. That is still the most likely outcome for this beleaguered country, as it faces the military might that Russia ,with four times the population of Ukraine and a vastly superior capacity for production of artillery munitions, can muster.
    The national interest of the UK and other democracies in Ukraine, lies in protecting the rules based system of International law as enshrined in the UN Charter. Without that system holding, we are going back to the balance of power international system of geopolitics where International disputes are decided by arms races rather than right or wrong.

  • Marco,

    an ultra-nationalist English politician could just as easily say that the UK’s security interests are threatened by the Northern Ireland protocol or Scottish independence movement. The Irish republic is not just English speaking, but historically a part of the UK. The Irish state is quite a modern creation, their borders have changed before and it is not unthinkable that they could change again. Ditto virtually any modern state in the world There is no justification for a war aggression in any circumstances.
    The war in Ukraine is all about Russian domestic politics and Putin’s ambitions to leave a legacy as the ruler who restored Russian power and prestige. Unfortunately, great swathes of the Russian public appear to have bought into the rhetoric and those that don’t have been jailed, emigrated or otherwise cowed into silence.
    The prospect of a defensive war is an unpleasant business, but an issue that any party aspiring to govern has to face as Paddy Ashdown well understood.
    The old Roman dictum “if you want peace, prepare for war” applies just as much today as it did when the Roman general Vegetius was writing his treatise . Today we might call it “peace through strength.” or deterrence.
    The national security of UK citizens is underpinned by its alliance with NATO members. Without that alliance, we might well have seen doodlebugs (in the form of Iranian made drones with ranges of up to 7,000km) once again in the skies over London and other UK cities.

  • @ Joe Bourke – I dont accept a comparison between Ukraine and Ireland, historically the island of Ireland was a complete entity with its own language and culture quite different from Ukraine which did not exist until the creation of the USSR. You could argue that the right of NI unionists to be British citizens is analogous to Russian nationals in the Donbass.

    Some people thought that the Northern Ireland peace process involved rewarding the IRA for its campaign of violence but most people would say it was the right thing to do.

  • Marco,

    After the Norman invasion, much of Ireland came under the control of the Lordship of Ireland, although some parts remained under the control of Gaelic dynasties. Henry VIII was the first English King to take the title of King of Ireland when he established the Kingdom of Ireland in 1541. Ireland remained a separate Kingdom until it was incorporated into the UK following the 1798 Irish rebellion. It gained independence for 26 of its 32 counties in 1922 with six counties in Ulster remaining part of the UK. There never has been an independent United Ireland under a single Irish government.
    Ukraine likewise has a history of invasion and conquest How Ukraine became Ukraine dating back to the Kievan Rus of the middle-ages. Successive invasions by the Mongols, Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, Bolsheviks and Nazis have redrawn borders over the years. But was has remained a constant is a Ukrainian language, culture and history distinct from that of Russia.
    NI unionists (and Ulster Irish nationalists) are born British citizens and have an automatic right to dual Irish citizenship under the various Anglo-Irish treaties concluded since 1922. The NI peace process was the right thing to do just as a devolved administration for Crimea was the right thing to do before it was upended by Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of the peninsula.
    The right thing to do now is for Russia to get out of Ukraine and let its people and government sort out their own affairs.

  • @ Joe Bourke – The Donbass and Crimea were never part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, they were historically part of Russia – not occupied by Russia but culturally and linguistically Russian and that strong identity still exists today. That is not the case in Western Ukraine which does have its own distinctive identity (and linguistically has a lot in common with Belarus). The boundaries of modern Ukraine could have been drawn very differently.

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