Picture: Every Night for Ukraine 022 Russian Embassy Finland. Author: rajatonvimma /// VJ Group Random Doctors
On June 7th the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society debated the motion “It is time for the West to stand up to Putin and kick Russia out of Ukraine”.
Mike Swadling proposed the debate, and below is his speech delivered to the society. As always with this friendly group the debate was good natured, very well opposed and drew out some great views from the audience.
“It is time for the West to stand up to Putin and kick Russia out of Ukraine”
What does this mean?
Of course, in many ways this is already government policy. Standing up to Putin is exactly what we are doing by supporting front line states, supplying the Ukrainian government, and restricting the operation of Russia’s economy. So in many ways it means doing exactly what we are doing today.
What it doesn’t need to mean, nor should it, is a direct armed intervention in the Ukraine with NATO forces acting directly against Russia or Russian troops. It would be unwise in the extreme to directly attack another nuclear power, unless you had already set out clearly that their actions were a line that could not be crossed.
I am reminded of a line from a book I read many years ago during the Cold War, called “Nuclear War, What’s in it for you?” In a line about misjudging a military interaction with a nuclear Soviet Union as it was at the time, the good news was you only had 4 minutes to regret your mistake.
What we are talking about here is standing up to a bully, an oppressor, and a calculated man who is in his mind making a logical choice to invade the Ukraine, and will if not stopped, go further. Therefore, we need to stop him and push him back. It’s worth pondering for a while, where we are at, and how we got to this position?
I’m not entirely sure why the global community has decided national borders matter more than anything else. The fact is we do care about borders, but I’d like to consider for a moment if it is the right or moral choice?
Nations continue to trade with China as they intern millions of Uyghurs. Allegations of slave Labour and Genocide haven’t led to sanctions against leading members of the Chinese Communist Party, business leaders or the Chinese media.
Statista the market and consumer data company lists Egypt at the top of the list of worst countries for human rights and rule of law as of 2021, and Amnesty International says “Authorities targeted human rights defenders, opposition politicians and other activists through unlawful summons, coercive questioning, extrajudicial probation measures, criminal investigations, unfair prosecutions and inclusion on a “list of terrorists”, yet we have no sanctions against them.
Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Amnesty reported the following on Russia: “Torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention remained endemic and prosecutions of perpetrators rare. Enforced disappearances were reported in Chechnya. The authorities failed to address domestic violence. LGBTI people continued to face discrimination”, yet none of this led to sanctions.
The things we choose to care about, or more to the point the things we don’t choose to care about, often baffles me, but that doesn’t mean the national borders don’t matter, in fact from the reactions we see all around us we know they clearly do, and we should be profoundly concerned by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. What makes Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine so dangerous is the very calculated and to his mind logical nature of it. I want to dismiss any ideas that Putin’s invasion was the act of a mad man.
It may not have worked out well, but that is in part because of the decisive action we have taken to support the Ukrainians. It is worth remembering when the invasion started, no one expected the Ukrainians to last out long or avoid an inevitable defeat.
Why do I say the invasion was calculated and logical? Well if I may, can I ask you to cask your minds back to history lessons of Alfred the Great and his sons and grandsons who united the English people, pulling together the Angles and Saxon tribes who had by that time formed into a common people on this island. Imagine if say the Eastern Anglo tribe of East Anglia, had for some reason stayed separate.
They had through invasion and forced separation formed a slightly different grouping of English people, with a different but recognisable language. We had united for some hundreds of years but had just 30 years ago again separated. Might it be logical to some that we again unite as one people, one country.
Now I’m not suggesting for one moment this is right. All I am saying is might it seem to some uniting an English people who had been separated at a weak point in the tides of history is a reasonable thing to do. Well this is in imperfect analogy for the Ukraine and Russia. Their history does bear similarities.
The Kiev Rus, the first Russians, are a recognised group from the 800s AD. The Mongol Horde split the Kiev and Muscovite Russians. Ukrainians then variously formed parts of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Austrian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, before Catherine the Great united the Russian People, in the Russian Empire.
By then of course these Kiev Rus, or Ukrainians were a separate people, and Ukrainian nationalism flourished in the 19th Century. This nationalism led in part to Starlin’s murder of an estimated 4 million Ukrainians in the famines of the 1930s. The nations finally split again in 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Despite this, many in Russia and more than a few in the Ukraine see the ‘Rus’ both Kiev and Muscovite as one people.
Now all this talk of Mongol Hordes and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealths, may seem from a different era, but maybe if we again look closer to home, where we still have disputes between Protestant and Catholic football teams in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and to a lesser extent Liverpool. We still live with the threat that the situation in Northern Ireland may become bloody again, Scotland may well vote to leave the Union. Ireland did join and leave the union, but often people still talk of Cromwell. Scotland joined the union and people talk of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Wales, especially in Welsh speaking, Plaid Cymru voting, North Wales is separate from England because 1600 years ago our Anglo-Saxon ancestors moved to these islands.
My point is we have these divisions in a modern tolerant democracy like Britain. A nation with largely one language, that built an Empire and with it the modern world. Yet we still hark back into long history’s, Russia and the Ukraine have never really had any of our benefits, it’s no surprise history casts a long shadow there.
Russia already has Belarus as a de facto vassal state. With a 1,400 mile border, disputed territory, some of the best ports of the Black Sea, and the opportunity to ensure no foreign troops can be on the Great European Plain for a few hundred extra miles away from Moscow. It was not the act of a mad man for Putin to invade the Ukraine. It was from his position in Moscow quite logical. It’s this logic that means we have to stand up to Putin, and kick Russia out of Ukraine.
Over 20% of Kazakhstan’s population are native Russian speakers, NATO members Latvia and Estonia both have about 30% of their population as native Russian speakers. Of course these overall numbers hide regions that are majority Russian. We know Russia has played fast and loose with Georgian independence, and threats are currently being made to Finland and Sweden. Russia is a bully and history teaches us we must stand up to bullies.
If Mussolini had been stood up to before the invasion of Abyssinia, or Hitler in the Rhineland, Sudentonland, or Austria, the history of Europe could be very much less bloody. Many believe the withdrawal of the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance from the Falkland Islands convinced the Argentinians to go to war.
NATO has kept the peace in western Europe for 70 years, because bullies only understand one thing, strength, and only through strength can we ensure Putin goes no further. How do we show that strength, how do we stand up to Putin?
So far, what I am going to imperfectly call the ‘west’, has reacted with surprising unity. While we haven’t been able to fully wean ourselves off Russian gas, and no country was going to impoverish itself deliberately overnight, progress has none the less been made. We have imposed meaningful sanctions against Russia as a nation and punished the plutocrats that enable the Putin regime.
Britain as the leading military power in Europe has shown we can support the Ukraine, and the nation states on the frontline. Whilst I won’t pretend to be a military expert the ability for relatively small arms to disrupt a large invading force must be a concern to all military powers. Cheap domestic drones have become a feature in this war that will surely challenge future acts of aggression.
Indeed this alone is a reason for our involvement in standing up to Putin. A military only remains strong if it is engaged in or is close to the latest military actions. No one wants to send troops to war, but we do want a military we can trust the readiness off. British expertise is being used, and knowledge is being gained through our providing assistance. Weapons like the NLAW anti-tank missiles, we have been suppling will be better for being seen in battlefield conditions. No one wants a war, but if one is happening, your military intelligence should make use of it. Incidentally we can reflect after the Jubilee weekend, it’s been reported Ukrainian soldiers shout “God save the Queen!” when using the NLAW against the Russians.
Naval warfare has changed as ships have been seen to be more vulnerable to land-based missile attack, something that will affect activities in the Taiwan Strait for years to come.
The coming together of the Ukrainian people and their successful defence of their country sets them clearly apart as a nation from Russia. In the medium to long term a humiliated nuclear Russia would be a concern for all, and once confined to their borders, we should look to re-engage Russia in the international community, but for now our security needs are best met by ensuring the integrity of an independent Ukraine.
There are a few areas of concern from our reaction to the war. On the more absurd end we have seen sanctions against individual sports men and women, the refusal to play Tchaikovsky by the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, and the banning of Russian media.
Chemical Ali was a propaganda boon to the coalition during the Iraq war, Lord Haw-Haw if anything, stiffened resolve against Germany. We could now be watching Putin’s propagandists having to explain the failing of the paper bear Russian army, instead by banning them, we have protected them from their own shortcomings.
Perhaps my biggest concern from the invasion of Ukraine has been the willingness of India to work with Russia to secure energy supplies. With 1.36 billion people, India is by far the largest democracy in the world, and this should be celebrated. Both to handle Putin and with the looming global threat of the Chinese Communist Party, making sure India is on the side of the good guys, on the side of the liberal democracies, is good for one billion souls and good for the globe.
What are our next steps? Some actions we already appear to be taking, we need to align states with NATO and other tenants of the western military alliance as ultimately security only comes through strong defence. Winston Churchill once said “Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety, and variety alone”,we need to exploit domestic supplies of energy and encourage other countries to diversify their supplies of energy and other key commodities.
We should be forming an alliance of democracies with not just India but all countries who are set on a democratic path and open to the peaceful transition of government. The emerging global power of China and with it the Chinese Communist Party, and the regional threat of nations like Russian and Iran, is best stopped by democratic nations working together.And we need to continue to supply better and more sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainian regium. We need to ensure the Black Sea Fleet cannot operate with impunity in the Black Sea, that Russian tanks are proven ineffective, and that Russian soldiers no longer care for the fight.
Over 20% of Russians are from non-Russia ethnic groups, over half don’t call themselves Christian. We should be using our considerable media skills as a nation to agitate these populations against Putin, creating problems in his own backyard.
As we did in the Cold War, we need a range of actions, outspending, out propagandising, and out thinking our enemy. In the 1980s, the western alliance’s actions, led to Perestroika and Glasnost in the USSR, making sure the cost of pursuing this war is greater than any benefit they could gain from winning it, can led to a newfound peace with Russia.
In April the UK government announced a new package of £100 million of military aid, building on the £350 million of military aid and around £400m of economic and humanitarian support that the UK has already provided. This included additional Javelin anti-tank systems, Starstreak air defence systems, ballistic helmets, body armour and night vision goggles. We are already standing up to Putin, we are already working to kick Russia out of Ukraine.
In the episode called ‘Grand Design’ of the Yes Prime Minister TV Series, the government’s chief scientific adviser tells Prime Minister Jim Hacker:
“Why should the Russians annex the whole of Europe? They can’t even control Afghanistan.
No, if they try anything, it will be salami tactics.
– Salami tactics? – Slice by slice.
One small piece at a time.”
Destabilising Georgia in 2008, annexation of the Crimea in 2014, further destabilising the Ukraine, involvement in Syria supporting the chemical weapon using Bashar al-Assad, and now the invasion of the Ukraine in 2022.
Putin is using Salami tactics, we need to show him this time he has sliced off more than he can chew.
To find out more about the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CoulsdonPurleyDebatingSociety/ or email them at [email protected].
A large part of this speech first appeared in the Blacklist Press, Free Speech bulletin on 9th May 2022.