You want to know how we are perceived in the world? Read the following report from England. Not good
PUBLISHED: 21:05 EST, 18 March 2014 | UPDATED: 21:05 EST, 18 March 2014
The West’s outrage at Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimea found full expression at Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
It was announced that 21 Russian and Crimean politicians and officials face a travel ban and asset freeze, a sanction matched by America. Thus, a tiny number of Moscow’s elite and their puppets find their Harrods cards suspended.
And in case you are wondering, it is as likely that President Vladimir Putin’s £25billion personal fortune will be discovered sitting in a current account at the Kensington branch of NatWest as that Sevastapol will win the 2014 Holiday Destination of the Year prize.
Armed aggression: Putin’s actions in Ukraine rely on exactly the same arguments that Hitler once deployed
Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind yesterday dismissed this pea-shoot gesture as ‘pathetic’, and he is right.
Whatever the historic arguments for Crimean secession from Ukraine – and some exist – Putin’s act of armed aggression, with threats of more to come, relies on exactly the same arguments that Hitler deployed to justify his 1938-39 lunges into Czechoslovakia and Poland.
Russia’s brutish president plays golf abroad with only one club in his bag — force, or the threat of it.
Nothing that has been said or done by the West since the Ukrainian crisis began will have caused him a moment’s discomfort.
Russia cannot impress the world by social or industrial achievements, because it boasts none. It can gain our attention only by inspiring fear or sponsoring mayhem, whether in Crimea, Iran or Syria, and Putin is content that this should be so.
The United States yesterday warned of further sanctions against Russia, including expulsion from the G8.
But it remains unlikely that the leading Continental nations will support convincing economic action.
Half of Europe cooks on Russian gas, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes a display of real defiance against Putin, or indeed any foreign enemy.
Rally: Putin speaks at an event in front of a background reading ‘Crimea, we are together’
Unafraid: Kremlin supporters flood Red Square in celebration of the incorporation of Crimea into Russia
Thus the master of the Kremlin has concluded that the West is weak, jelly weak. The evidence of almost three decades since the Cold War’s ending suggests he is right.
Europe’s major powers have largely dismantled their armed forces. NATO is more dependent on the Americans than ever in its history for any display of military power.
U.S. radar surveillance aircraft and U.S. fighters yesterday patrolled the skies over Eastern Europe, and mighty sick the American people are becoming of paying the bill for our defences.
And where in all this is Britain? The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have talked bravely since the crisis began.
Yesterday in the Commons, William Hague deplored Russia’s ‘land grab’, the manner in which Moscow has rejected ‘respect for the law of that country, or for international law’.
He asserts that Putin has made ‘a big miscalculation’; that Russia will face ‘costs and consequences’ for its military intervention in Ukraine.
Brave talk: Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned Putin, but Britain now commands little respect internationally.
But why should Moscow be impressed? This British Government, for all its pretensions since 2010 to play a heroic lead, has conducted its affairs in a fashion that leaves us singing falsetto on the international stage.
A friend who recently accompanied a national delegation to the Middle East told me how depressed he was to discover how respect for Britain has slumped.
We have lost two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, albeit as junior partners to the Americans; then made an almighty mess of policy towards Syria.
There, David Cameron and William Hague marched to the top of the hill, then had to come scuttling down again when they found nobody else following. Libya is now a shambles.
Defence cuts have made a sorry impression. We can no longer posture in Washington as a credible partner in military operations, and the Government lies through its teeth about the state of our Armed Forces.
Stuck with two absurd giant aircraft-carriers under construction, it refuses to admit a truth well known in Whitehall – that it can afford only a handful of American-built F-35 jets to fly off them.
Ministers pretend they can make good their drastic reduction in Army strength by recruiting more reservists. Yet every man, woman and sniffer dog in the services knows the reserves scheme is dead in the water.
Moreover, in the secrecy of the Ministry of Defence, discussions have already started about prospective Army cuts below the planned 82,000 establishment, on the assumption that even this will soon be unaffordable.
David Cameron has placed Britain’s security in the hands of an accountant, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who displays as much understanding of strategy as Davina McCall.
It is welcome that a British Government should recognise our diminished place in the world. It is sad, however, that respect for this country should be so drastically reduced.
Accountant: Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has overseen plans to slash the Armed Forces
Britain commands enthusiasm among the rich and mighty as a great destination for shopping, country week-ending and Michelin-starred dinners.
But William Hague’s stern remarks about Ukraine impress foes and friends alike no more than the same lines delivered by Winnie the Pooh.
The lessons of the Ukraine crisis are written in neon lights. First, after decades in which the Left has denounced American ‘meddling’ in the affairs of other nations, here we see what happens when the greatest democracy on earth renounces its historic leadership role.
Barack Obama’s presidency is a failure for many reasons, rooted in the weird detachment of the man himself.
But it is scary indeed to see what happens when a big, ugly state such as Russia, ruled by a gangster elite, decides that the United States and its leader are no longer capable of resisting its thuggery.
Beyond this, it has been plain for decades that the U.S. is unwilling much longer to bankroll and spearhead our defence – and why should it, when Europe is a rich continent? Now, we see Germany refusing even to use its vast economic muscle to deter Moscow.
We must keep a sense of historical perspective. The Ukrainian crisis is grave, but it is not 1914 nor 1939. Nonetheless, it should provide a giant wake-up call to Europeans.
History did not end with the conclusion of the Cold War. There are still very bad people out there, willing to do very bad things unless they are deterred or stopped.
It is indispensable for NATO to warn Moscow, and mean it, that any act of aggression towards the Baltic states would provoke a major showdown.
Instead of imposing personal sanctions on a mere 21 Russians and Crimeans, every member of the Russian parliament who voted for invasion and annexation should be denied entry to the U.S. and EU.
Germany must recognise that its place as the richest and most powerful nation in Europe demands that it should start to do its share towards protecting our common security, as it has not done since 1990.
The British Government must find the money to rebuild our crumbling Armed Forces. We need a credible strategy for the 21st century, instead of a mere defence balance sheet.
Crumbling forces: Reductions in Armed Forces spending has left us less able to act
It is a misfortune for the world that Russia, a great nation, should have fallen into the hands of brutes. Putin reveres Stalin, one of the most successful mass murderers of the 20th century.
Freedom and dissent are, in the Russian president’s eyes, unacceptable in his new czardom.
Yesterday, a Ukrainian servicemen was shot and killed at a base that came under attack in Crimea’s main town of Simferopol.
The acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called it a war crime and said the Crimean conflict has now entered a ‘military phase’. These are chilling words indeed.
We neither need nor wish to fight Russia, but the West must abandon its dismally failed attempt to appease its leader.
The bear will continue to claw victims unless we display the will to drive him back into his lair – before he comes hunting closer to our own door.