Tue, 5 July 2022

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Defence
By Shabnam Nasimi
Education
Defence
Press releases

We must use every economic sanction at our disposal to deter Russian aggression

We must use every economic sanction at our disposal to deter Russian aggression
5 min read

I have never forgotten the sheer courage and determination of pro-democracy activists whom I met on the streets of Lviv, in 1989, as they were risking their lives to throw off the shackles and chains of the Soviet Union.

I have never forgotten the sheer courage and determination of pro-democracy activists whom I met on the streets of Lviv, in 1989, as they were risking their lives to throw off the shackles and chains of the Soviet Union.

Our delegation met families who, in the previous generation, lost loved ones to Stalin’s Holodomor, the man-made famine that convulsed Ukraine from 1932 to 1933.

As Stalin replaced Ukraine’s small farms with state-run collectives and punished independent-minded Ukrainians, the Holodomor (a combination of the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death”) led to millions of people dying.

The writer, Alex de Waal described the Holodomor as “a hybrid…of a famine caused by calamitous social-economic policies and one aimed at a particular population for repression or punishment.”

In 1989 I met with a bishop, and others, who had spent almost two decades in Soviet prisons after refusing to renounce their faith. Without any protective clothing, one young pastor had been sent to Chernobyl to clear radioactive waste, after being caught celebrating the liturgies in the open.

These stories matter because they illustrate why Ukrainians will fight to the bitter end to protect their hard-won freedoms and why they will resist Vladimir Putin’s attempt to resurrect a Russian empire, in which he will crush democratic rights and sovereignty.

Xi Jinping and the CCP will be weighing up this opportunity to use the engagement of Russian troops in Ukraine to make their own territorial conquests

This is all about trying to roll the clock back, about reversing the gains made across Europe with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, put it well when describing an essay published by Mr. Putin, saying that what flowed from Putin’s pen was a “7,000-word essay that puts ethnonationalism at the heart of his ambition”. This is about arousing the destructive forces of ancient hatred, not the narrative peddled by the Kremlin invoking the straw man of Nato encroachment.

As Mr. Wallace points out, just one paragraph of his 7,000 words is devoted to Nato. Donetsk wasn’t about Nato. Georgia wasn’t about Nato. Crimea wasn’t about Nato – and nor is Ukraine.

Or, at least, whilst these territorial conquests weren’t about Nato encroachment, they certainly were about testing the strength and determination of Nato allies to resist totalitarian dictatorships – giving credence to Churchill’s assertion that if you go on feeding the crocodile, one day the crocodile will come to feed on you. 

And like-minded totalitarians are waiting in the wings. The true nature of such states has been made clear.

We can be certain that under the cover of Ukrainian darkness, Xi Jinping and the CCP will be weighing up this opportunity to use the engagement of Russian troops in Ukraine to make their own territorial conquests.

Both Putin and Xi want to see whether we have the stomach for a fight – and, if not, where next? Taiwan? The Baltic countries, Romania, Poland? 

Central and Eastern Europe - and the still benighted people who suffer under the CCP’s own version of ethnic imperialism - have extraordinary heroism and courage, from which we would do well to learn.

Ukraine shows that Nato has to be remade for these dangerous times.

The US has 35,000 troops defending 400 million Europeans who themselves have a $21 trillion economy. Yet the US pays 75 per cent of Nato’s costs. The UK meets its 2 per cent Nato contribution. It’s high time Germany and the rest did the same.

A nation also has the right to self-defence. I was shocked by reports that when Estonia tried to send munitions to Ukraine, Germany stopped them from transporting them over their territory.

When one Nato country stops another Nato country supporting the self-defence of a sovereign nation - along with freedom, liberty, and democracy - what does that say about our position as an alliance? Where here are our shared values? My consternation wasn’t exactly assuaged by Germany’s offer to provide Ukraine with a field hospital.

During debates in 2014 and 2017, I argued that “fragile peace and seedling democracies, from the China Sea to the Ukraine, are at daily risk” and that we needed to do far more to strengthen and encourage the peoples of such countries – not least through BBC World Service broadcasts and British Council programmes. But capacity for self-defence is what matters most.

Our immediate response must now be to ensure that every economic sanction at our disposal is used.

The Prime Minister’s decision to sanction five Russian banks, Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank, sends the right signal. And we are right to sanction three very high net worth individuals, Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg. But that is just a start. 

We must maximise the pain for corrupt elites while minimising the damage to ordinary Russians – who experience quite enough suffering under Putin. Yes, the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is right, go after the oligarchs. There must be no London hiding place. Seize their properties; target the inner circle. But cut Moscow from the Swift financial system and cancel, not just suspend, the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Despite huge vested interests, and the sacrifice, resources, and steadfastness that will be needed, the violation of Ukraine demands a coherent and united response - recognising that the precious freedoms and independence which the people of Ukraine fought for in 1989 are not trivial matters.

We must stand with them at this terrible time of trial.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool is a crossbench peer. 

 

 

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.

Categories

Foreign affairs