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.