Lord Flight was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2001-2004. He is now chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund.
The Russian actions in the Ukraine look dangerously analogous to those of Hitler in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. I ask myself: when will Chancellor Merkel be signing a “Peace in our Times” document?
It is perhaps even more frightening to discover that Putin and his gang are, in reality, National Socialists and not Communists. Their intellectual guru worships extreme nationalism and the virtues of conflict. It transpires that Russia has been financing the Far Right political parties in Hungary and elsewhere (Jobbik, Golden Dawn, etc.).
In the 1930s, “the West” was unwilling to match aggression with military action, partly because it was war-weary from the Great War and partly because economies were only just recovering from the “Great Crash”.
Today, the West is deeply sceptical of further military interventions given the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and, similarly, its economies are weakened by the 2008-10 financial crisis and the grave effects of the Euro on the less competitive, southern members of the Eurozone. Moreover, Germany is hugely dependent upon Russian gas.
As a result, the response of the EU is non-existent, and NATO looks unwilling and not organised to match Russian aggression with a military response at this juncture.
Putin’s tactics are obvious and visible – following his success in the Crimea, to sponsor “revolt” in the Eastern Ukraine by importing Russian agitators and gunmen. Russian occupation of the Eastern Ukraine, in due course, is likely to undermine the new Government in Kiev – itself faced with major economic problems, opening the path for Russia to install its client government for the whole of the Ukraine.
As with Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, the West is likely to do nothing to prevent this happening. Who will be Russia’s next target?
The biggest danger is that Putin may then become over confident of what he can get away with, crossing the line which leads to major warfare.
Again, as in the 1930s, the US stance has effectively become one of non-involvement – there are no US tanks left in Europe.
Not only are attempts to freeze the assets of the odd oligarch useless and likely to be used to fan the flames of Russian nationalism, but, in the recent Crimea case, Putin had told his henchmen to sell their Gazprom stock before his gangs marched into the Crimea.
Regrettably, I reach the worrying conclusion that it is time for the West to match Russian aggression with a military response. I do not have a magic solution, but it seems to me it needs to involve NATO moving troops and equipment into the Ukraine to protect Kiev. Bullies only understand one language.