I think, as usual, this moderate and respectable Tory, is speaking some sense. I have grown increasingly uneasy as Chancellors, Foreign Secretaries and Defence Ministers have beaten a path to the Kremlin. There never seems to be a question of the leader of Russia coming to Brussels or Paris. It is exactly what the Russian leader wants, attention and respect. He certainly is not entitled to the latter.
Preston MP and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has had some criticism for detecting the whiff of Munich in the negotiations over the Ukraine crisis.
I know the Russian people felt they lost prestige after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was in St Petersburg when Boris Yeltsin was in charge and opined that his predecessor Mikhail Gorbachev would go down in history for ending the Cold War. The look I got came right from Siberia. However, they can hardly be proud in trying to reclaim their place on the world stage by the crude bullying of Ukraine.
Putin’s claim that he is threatened by NATO is based on a self-fulfilling prophesy. The major expansion of NATO took place nearly twenty years ago. It is a defensive alliance. Countries like Estonia, Poland and Rumania have never threatened Russia. It is Putin who began this with his seizure of Crimea and backing of rebels in the Donbas. NATO had to react to that. Putin reacted to that reaction, and we are where we are today.
There was never a likelihood that Ukraine was going to be accepted for NATO membership, particularly after the partial invasion of its territory in 2014. The idea of taking on a country where there was a strong possibility of needing to implement the principle of an attack on one is an attack on all is not attractive to those members who would have to do the main fighting, The USA, UK, and France.
However, Putin’s demand that he be guaranteed that Ukraine could not be a member is unacceptable.
It is to be hoped that a settlement can be reached but the world picture has been changed by this. China and Russia are drawing closer together. They have much in common, a contempt for democracy and a desire to push their weight around be it in Eastern Europe or the South China Sea.
The West is not in best shape to stand up to these powers. The United States could be heading for a major crisis between Trumpians and Democrats. Britain has a leader that has alienated his Western European friends because of Brexit. Macron is facing an election and the new German Chancellor is burdened by his dependence on Russian gas.
When the Cold War ended it was hoped that liberal democracy would increasingly be the form of government enjoyed around the world.
It was not to be. The financial crash, terrorism, poor decision making, and social media have all contributed to a feeling that democracy is on the defensive against its enemies.