Russia and Ukraine

There are reports of further tensions in the eastern parts of Ukraine where fighting continues between pro Russian rebel forces and the Ukrainian government military. There are also reports of concentrations of Russia power along the border and in Crimea.

This provides a difficult background to Theresa May’s stated intention to improve UK-Russian relations. I still think she is right to wish to do so. Having better communications, and striking deals or agreements with Russia as an important power does not mean the UK has to be a soft touch or let down NATO. I am quite sure the Prime Minister will uphold the security of NATO countries territory and will not send any misleading signals  about NATO’s commitment to protect all member states. NATO has taken recent action to demonstrate that the Baltic Republics near Russia are NATO members which NATO wishes to support.

The truth is there can be  no peaceful settlement in Ukraine without the engagement and agreement of Russia. Nor can there be a peaceful settlement in Syria without the involvement of Russia. Ukraine and the Middle East are much closer to Russia than to us. Russia has long standing alliances in these areas, and has an ability to project military power there at speed and on a large scale.

The West cannot easily accept the transfer of Crimea to Russia,  but nor is it going to seek to reverse that by military means. Neither the EU nor NATO has any known plan to intervene militarily in the eastern parts of Ukraine where the Ukraine government is finding it difficult to re establish its full and peaceful authority over the territory. It is be hoped that Russia does not herself seek to occupy or force the conflict in favour of the rebels,  but western involvement is about diplomacy. There is clearly  no military plan to protect eastern Ukraine in the way there is for NATO territories.

Given the need for some Russian goodwill to see a quicker and peaceful settlement in both the Middle East and Ukraine it would seem necessary to pursue diplomatic solutions, whilst demonstrating firmness of purpose over all those places and areas where NATO has the approval of national governments, a duty to protect, and the capability to intervene militarily if necessary. In Syria and Ukraine not all of these factors apply, meaning we need to take other steps.

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35 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    You say:- Having better communications, and striking deals or agreements with Russia as an important power does not mean the UK has to be a soft touch or let down NATO.

    Well we shall see, I think you are right and certainly very much hope you are right.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      I see Theresa is finally back from her holiday in Switzerland and is now urging people to take their holidays in the UK. Does she think this, do as I say & not as I do/Prince Charles type of approach is an attractive stance to take?

      Anyway now she is back can she finally do something sensible and announce a proper sense of direction for this Government. A move to cheap energy, a bonfire of red tape, lower taxes, getting out of the EU and halving the size of the state.

      Oh and the way to help the UK tourist industry is to lower vat, lower taxes, get rid of Osborne’s absurd central wage controls & have far less regulation. I see Theresa is finally back from her holiday in Switzerland and is now urging people to take their holidays in the UK. Does she think this, do as I say not as I do/Prince Charles type of approach is an attractive stance to take.

      Anyway now she is back can she finally do something sensible and announce a proper sense of direction, cheaper energy, a bonfire of red tape, lower taxes, get out of the EU and give use far less government.

      It seems that she announced a £40 million fund to help Britain out-compete other major tourism destinations around the world and encourage families to holiday at home. This is not the way to assist them. Taking money of them and mainly wasting it in the George Osborne manner.

      Get government out of their way for a change.

      It seems that she announced a £40 million fund to help Britain out-compete other major tourism destinations around the world and encourage families to holiday at home. This is not the way to assist them.

      • getahead
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Are you alright there Lifelogic?

  2. formula57
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    We should certainly aim to obtain a good relationship with Russia before the EU gets its own army (as called for afresh yesterday by the Czech leader (who seems not to know “that will never happen” per N. Clegg)) to rampage with across the continent.

    But the highly commendable goal of improving UK-Russian relations could surely be assisted by the UK ignoring the EU sanctions regime against Russia.

    Whilst Mrs May is content to continue to spend c.£200 million a week so we remain bound by rules that say we cannot freely trade with Russia, I suppose that assistance will have to wait.

  3. zorro
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Well said John, why can’t more of your colleagues have the courage to pursue diplomacy and sensible cooperation instead of displayng kneejerk neocon numptiness!

    zorro

  4. Mark B
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    I largely agree with or kind host on many of the points he raises. But I would like to add one thing.

    Here he says; “The West cannot easily accept the transfer of Crimea to Russia . . . “ But Serbia, a Russian ally, had to accept the situation over Kosovo.

    • rose
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      That policy of Blair and Clinton’s was a criminal abuse of NATO. They got away with it because Clinton was a Democrat, so above criticism by the media. It didn’t work the nesx time Blair tried it – in Iraq with a Republican president.

      • rose
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        sorry, next.

    • Mitchel
      Posted August 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      @Mark B
      And just as Kosovo was the historic heart of Serbia,so Crimea was the place where Vladimir the Great converted the Rus to Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century-long before the arrival of the Crimean Tartars who some try to claim were the indigenous population.

  5. Richard Butler
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Given the sanctions, banning of Olympians, support of dissidents (some of whom robbed the nation) and general demonising of Putin and thereby the people of Russia in their collective minds, I would think we’ve reached the stage of impotent diplomacy.

    Putin will do what Putin will do, we’ve wrecked his economy as far as he’s concerned, he’s conditioned to western distain and punishment, in the way a child becomes accustomed to his father’s daily beatings.

    We’d better get used to his expansionist intentions.

    Brexit will take the blame no doubt.

    • getahead
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      Putin’s expansionist intentions are figment of USA propaganda.

    • Mitchel
      Posted August 27, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      The Russian economy is not wrecked and he does not blame “us”.Whilst he would like the sanctions removed they have not done significant damage.

  6. Ian Wragg
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    By repeatedly emasculating our armed forces we are in no position to do anything about Russian expansionist tendencies.
    The rest of the EU is woefully militarily weak and only equipped for posturing.
    Putin sees the weakness and will slowly reclaim as much of the old Soviet Union as possible.
    With the mendacios behaviour of Brussels who can blame him

    The UK armed forces are little more than a local defence force.
    We can’t even secure our borders.

    • getahead
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Ian, if Putin is going to reclaim as much of the old Soviet Union as possible, he is taking an awful long time in doing it. As I said above, Putin’s expansionist intentions are figment of USA propaganda. I believe Putin’s Russia would prefer to be a happy European.

      • Mitchel
        Posted August 27, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Why would Russia want the western fringe of the Tsarist/Soviet empire back?Look at the economies and demographics of the Baltic States,Moldova and Ukraine.They have no resources to speak of,declining populations and the centuries old strategic importance of the Baltic ports has diminished considerably since WWII.They were a drain on the Soviet Union in it’s later years and they are a drain on the EU now.And whilst there is a historic sentimentality about Ukraine-together with Belarus-one of the three Russias that comprised the first Russian state,the Kievan Rus’,Russia hardly needs any more land!

        Russia’s main concern is the siting of NATO forces and missiles on it’s doorstep.

    • DaveM
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Ian, I usually agree with everything you write, but your penultimate sentence is way off the mark. Nearly everything the AF do is expeditionary and DE provides not only global security to trade links and paves the way for diplomatic trade relations, but secures billions of dollars worth of trade. Whether or not I approve of the countries we engage with is moot.

      However, regarding your final sentence, my view is that border security should be the responsibility of a NEW and professional, well equipped border force, and that border security and internal security should be bolstered by the expensive lame duck which is now known as the Army Reserve.

  7. Myles
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Is the official position of the British government that East Ukraine us for the Russians?

  8. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I’m trying to think of the countries: four, where millions of English speakers were born and raised. Are regarded by many in the countries as being British. Think of themselves as British. All go to an Anglican Church and recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as their Father. Yet despite their residency and birthright are forbidden in the main from standing for election as a local Councillor; have no say even when their bins are emptied ( we can all appreciate that ); are regarded socially and officially as Foreign; are denied the right of citizenship irrespective of being born there and, with older Brits who under different regimes had automatic citizenship; yet, had that citizenship abrogated without appeal. And, without the supporting intervention of the United Nations, the International Court of Human Rights, nor the EU. But have those organisations and bodies actually supporting the oppression and the practice of evil against we British.

    Russian speakers of the Russian Orthodox Church born and bred in Estonia and Lithuania have faced and still face a proportion of like-evil but Russians born and bred in their millions n Latvia and Ukraine face such evil daily. Much worse, deathly worse in Ukraine.

    Mrs May, irrespective of some aggressive Norwegian guy speaking for NATO appearing nastily on our TV screens threatening war against people throughout Europe, should look at things through Russian eyes momentarily and wonder why the Red Army has not massive battalions on Europe’s borders and will be invading,once it puts the cat out for the night, for sure a week on Tuesday if not before.

    • getahead
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Well said, Christopher.

  9. LondonBob
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    How credible are those reports in light of the revelations that General Breedlove was consistently falsifying reports? Listening to an interview with Alastair Crooke the other day what is concerning is not even that such things are propagandised but that the people doing it actually believe their own propaganda.

    Anyway it is clear to see that people in Europe are less than enthusiastic about a new cold war, French and German politicians are clearly moving in that direction, as are the Italians, to say nothing if Mr Trump becomes President. We should be looking to get a settlement in the Ukraine and Syria plus looking to improve our economic ties with Russia, a country that offers fantastic opportunities for us and where we still have a good reputation.

  10. Chris S
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Nothing is going to be possible on the world stage until the disastrous Obama administration is consigned to history. The only reason criticism of Obama has been so muted is because of race. Whoever takes over in Washington is going to have a tough job reasserting the West’s influence.

    On the international front at least, Hilary Clinton has the necessary experience at first hand and one can only hope she makes a better job of diplomacy than when she was hamstrung by her boss in the White House.

    Could we please have a piece outlining your view on what needs to be done about Scotland and its economy ?

    We cannot go on with one part of the UK totally ignoring the need to bring spending under control while everywhere else follows a more or less sensible financial policy, especially when it’s the rest of us who are taking on the debt to pay for it all and being regularly insulted to boot !

    Resentment is building throughout England and probably Wales as well at this obvious inequality. If something isn’t done about Sturgeon and her policies, it will not end well The inevitable result will be a majority of English voters wanting Scotland to be ejected from the Union.

    A simple bill requiring that the Scottish Deficit be pegged at the level of that in England but with Scotland able to raise taxes on their own citizens for any excess spending, is all that is required.

    Because the financial circumstances are now so totally different to those that were prevalent at the time of the first Scottish referendum, action is justified outside that of the discredited Barnett formula.

    Our shoulders are broad enough to handle all the insults and bile that will come our way as a result of the move.

    Given that the percentage of GDP of the deficit in Scotland is almost three times higher than that of England, a reduction in spending in the order of £10bn pa will be required. A period of adjustment would therefore be necessary – say over five or ten years.

    Bringing Scottish spending under control will not ferment further calls for Independence, quite the opposite. If presented fairly and properly it will make it very clear to Scottish voters that their country is being led up a garden path and that Independence would reduce the economy of their country to the level of Greece or a third world country.

    Should Sturgeon decide to call another referendum and her electorate were foolish enough to vote for Independence, it should be made clear that the actual deficit run up in Scotland from now on should be added to the share of the UK National debt the country takes on.

  11. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, I like this reference to:

    “The Bratislava summit of the 27 EU leaders on 16 September … ”

    https://euobserver.com/news/134769

    I presume the 28th EU leader has consented to the use of EU facilities for this purpose.

    • ChrisS
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      If they want to wallow in their own collective misery, Mrs May might as well let them.

      These days the 27 can’t agree on anything so the whole organisation is paralysed by indecision. The more often they meet, the more fractious relationships will get.

      We really are better off out of it !!!

      PS The proverbial will really hit the fan when the first really right wing leader is elected !

    • Margaret
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      I wonder what she exactly means by security. large scale. Migrants, Russia , Crimea/ EU?

  12. Stephen Berry
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    After BREXIT some hard thinking will have to be done about Russia in British government circles. It’s a fact that after Britain has left the EU, British policy will occasionally come into conflict with EU wishes and we should not ignore any potential allies in this regard. Also, we will now have to make our way in the world as an independent trading nation, not part of any trading bloc. Russia has access to vast natural resources and British-Russian cooperation to exploit them will go more smoothly if we can finally leave the Cold War thinking behind.

    When we look at present day Russia, we need stop thinking of the Bolshevik propagandist for international communism of 1917-1991. Instead, think of the Tsarist autocracy of pre-1917. This was hardly a political model for 19th century thinkers, but it was certainly a country with which British governments could do business.

    Now, I happen to think that Russia is more nearly in the right than in the wrong on the question of the Ukraine. The Western media will not tell you that in 2014 a legitimately elected Ukrainian government sympathetic to Russia was overthrown in a coup d’etat back by the West. The Western media will not tell you that NATO would then have dearly liked to get its hands on the major Russian naval base in the Crimea. And the Western media will not tell you that the plebiscite in the Crimea organised by Russia was fully in accord with the one organised in Kosovo, supported by the West, which detached that province from Serbia.

    But, in the final analysis, how much does this count? Does the value of Saudi Arabia as a UK ally depend upon its internal arrangements or whether it is in the right or wrong in its war in the Yemen? Of course not and the UK government realises this. Time to think again about Russia.

  13. Bert Young
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Democracy in the Ukraine is the only sensible way out of the dilemma . If the citizens of the Eastern region of the Ukraine vote and wish to be a part of Russia , so be it . NATO , the USA the EU , ourselves and others have no right to be involved .

    Diplomacy with Russia is essential and any efforts that Theresa makes to improve relationships with Russia should be supported . As long as Russia is kept out in the cold , they will continue to feel isolated and we will fail to read the messages of what really goes on there . It is time for change .

  14. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Off Topic:

    I heard a cute turn of phrase on TV today:-

    “Italy suffers from institutional inertia”

    I used to have an old car suffering the same.

  15. bigneil
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    OT
    Cuts announced to NHS – – strange how every service we pay taxes for is yet again “cut” – but the doors are still wide open for anyone from anywhere to walk in and get treatment. Why is there never any cuts – 0r even a limit – to the bill for immigrants who come to live off our taxes – -with no intention of ever contributing. Won’t be long before the images of 3rd world hospitals we see on our tvs will come from our local hospitals. Importing annually hundreds of thousands of (people from overseas ed) can only lead to the destruction of this country. I see the politicians are surging ahead with their plan.

    The NHS cuts are not to save money – they are merely robbing Peter to give (foreign names ed) and all – – free lives on the UK taxpayer.

    • ian wragg
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      But Neil, all these people coming to our shores are doctors, dentists and engineers. They all pay more in taxes than they consume so soon the government coffers will be full with their largesse.
      I know this is true because the BBC interviewed them on the Austrian border and they were all professional people.
      Peter van Leueen believes this too.

      • Anonymous
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        If the theory is true (that mass migration boosts revenues and the economy) then why the need to cut services at the very time the population is booming ?

    • Iain Gill
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been in third world hospitals that are better than what we have in the NHS. Anyone who travels a lot realises how crap the NHS is.

  16. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    “The truth is there can be no peaceful settlement in Ukraine without the engagement and agreement of Russia.”

    So what would such a “peaceful settlement” look like to you John? Would it look like Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968 perhaps?

    • Mitchel
      Posted August 27, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      We could find plenty of examples of “peaceful settlements” from our own imperial past.Time to move on.

    • zorro
      Posted August 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be silly…… Russia is not the Soviet Union. The tribe of people who controlled the Bolsheviks do not hold the same sway in Modern Russia…. And they know it.

      zorro

  17. Peter Gardner
    Posted August 27, 2016 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    The West’s diplomacy on Ukraine has been disastrous, largely as a result of the EU’s ambition to expand its territory and the populations it can claim to represent. The Russian response of seizing Crimea was a perfectly obvious one, yet arrogantly discounted by the West – until it all too predictably occurred.
    Successful diplomacy on such issues depends on clarity of just purpose and a full spectrum of appropriate means to achieve such a purpose. The West had neither and the situation was made worse by, for example, David Cameron’s blustering pretence that Britain had the means of military force. Cameron ensured that the Kremlin would view Britain as all blouse and no trousers. Cameron’s ridiculous ill-judged but expressed wish to see the EU borders expand to the Urals must be thoroughly dismissed.
    If Mrs May wishes to assert Britain’s role even as a regional policeman she needs to boost Britain’s defence capability quite considerably. The Royal Navy’s surface fleet has been an invaluable tool of diplomacy for a very long time – showing the flag and the weapons and numerical strength of the fleet. EU interference in and duplication of NATO’s organisation and operations must be rejected or at least curtailed. Now that Obama is going, the role of NATO must be asserted as a defensive and not an expansionist (NATO carries some guilt here over Ukraine as well) organisation.
    Mrs May has a lot of work to do to heal the self-inflicted wounds of previous governments and not only those of the British government.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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