Being an MP is an eclectic job, with a to do list that is local, national and sometimes, international. I’m currently very concerned about the situation in Ukraine, which looks very grave. This week I attended a briefing by the Chief of Defence Intelligence on the latest information we have.
A third of the Russian army now surrounds Ukraine. This is approximately 60 divisions or 100,000 troops. The deployment around Ukraine is a major variance to the Russian army’s usual seasonal training rota, as is the deployment to Europe of units traditionally stationed in the Far East of the country. At the current rate, Russia might have sufficient forces in place for a full scale invasion of Ukraine in just days, which could result in huge loss of life, and a humanitarian disaster.
Russia’s viewpoint is that Ukraine is part of its sphere of influence and that it should have de facto control of Ukraine’s affairs. Vladimir Putin recently published an essay arguing that Ukraine is in fact an integral part of Russia itself.
The rest of the world must not accept this. Modern Russia is a country run by a kleptocratic elite who have looted their country’s wealth and now menace their neighbours. If people in Ukraine, particularly younger people, look towards the West rather than Moscow, the Putin administration has only themselves to blame. It is clear that the Russians are deeply worried that Ukraine continues to evolve and becomes a prosperous and democratic country in stark contrast to themselves.
The Ukrainians deserve our full solidarity and support. Military equipment has already been supplied by the UK, and this must be matched by major sanctions if aggression does occur. This should include the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT global payments system and the blocking of rouble conversion in the banking system. This would cut Russia off from most international financial transactions, including international profits from oil and gas production, which is currently around 40% of the country’s revenue.
I also the UK Government will take a harder line on illicit property and financial transactions in this country. I was bitterly disappointed to learn than in trying to save his own bacon over lying to Parliament about partygate, Boris Johnson missed a crucial diplomatic meeting with Putin. This complete absence of leadership is wholly unacceptable.
The consequences could be felt well beyond Ukraine. Russia is adept at cyber warfare, which could well increase. In addition, Putin is known for surprising opponents to knock them off balance, and it is conceivable NATO members (including the UK) might directly experience aggression. For the people of Ukraine, and for world stability, I dearly hope that in the days ahead this course of action is not pursued.