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MPs Accuse UK And Western Allies Of Leaving Ukraine In A Vulnerable State For Too Long

3 min read

MPs have said the crisis at the border of Russia and Ukraine could have been prevented if tougher sanctions were imposed more quickly on Vladimir Putin’s government and Kremlin-linked oligarchs.

On Thursday Boris Johnson warned that tensions in the region have led to “the biggest security crisis Europe has faced for decades,” and cautioned Russia against invading Ukraine or risk facing an “an absolute disaster” that would be “pointless, tragic and vastly economically costly".

“It's a really desperate state of affairs when a country has been left to feel [this] way,” Conservative MP, and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns, told PoliticsHome.

“For too long the West has allowed Putin to constantly edge forward with no consequences and if there are no consequences there is no deterrent,” she added.

“Essentially [we’ve] said: 'You just crack on we're not going to stand up'.”

Kearns wants to see the Foreign Office employ “deterrence diplomacy” more often and proactively in its dealings not only with Russia, but also where appropriate with all actors who are hostile to the UK and its allies.

“Diplomacy in itself is a deterrent. If you talk enough about something, and if you put enough of a spotlight on it, you can prevent things from escalating,” Kearns said.

“When Britain convenes people, whether it's in-country around an embassy, or whether it's an international conference, people come and listen. People respect us.”

While the Prime Minister's strong rhetoric on Russia this week has been commended by MPs across the Commons, others have expressed concern that Ukraine has historically been left in a vulnerable position by the UK and Western allies.

In the eight years since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Ukrainian army has faced bouts of aggression from Russian backed militias that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

The state has also had to combat an influx of Russian cyberattacks, misinformation warfare campaigns, economic losses and the persistent threat of a full-scale invasion.

Foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat also believed that historically, “the West has not been strong enough when it comes to Russia”.

“We need to crack down on dirty money so there is a cost to Russian aggression,” the senior Tory MP told PoliticsHome.

“Putin is an opportunist and the situation is highly unpredictable,” he added. 

Tugendhat believed that oligarchs with links to the Kremlin are being allowed to grow their wealth through “dirty money” in London and exert soft power influence with political donations.

The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International estimates that 150 luxury properties in Britain, worth around £1.5 billion, are owned by Kremlin-linked oligarchs.

“It's important to recognise that for us here [Russian aggression] goes back a long way,” shadow foreign secretary David Lammy told PoliticsHome.

“People were killed on British soil, and it could have been so much more horrendous following those poisonings in Salisbury,” the MP added.

“We have sought to support Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea and the moves into the Donbass. We want to be supportive and united in our approach to Russian aggression.”

Lammy told PoliticsHome he has been “very grateful” to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss for sharing information and working closely with him on the issue of deterring Russian aggression.

However, the shadow foreign secretary caveated that “it is worrying that we've got a Prime Minister that has been caught up dealing with a scandal of parties in Number 10, losing staff and not managing to take call with Vladimir Putin at this very serious time”.

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