Late on Saturday we noted William Hague’s response to the crisis in Georgia. It was, to say the least, cautious.
Mr Hague’s intervention contrasts with much more robust statements from other world leaders. The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia issued a joint statement condemning ‘the naked aggression’ of Russia. John McCain endorsed that statement and identified Russia as the principal villain of the piece. Dick Cheney has said that Russian aggression must not go unanswered. David Miliband has "deplored" the shelling of Georgia.
In an excellent piece for Iain Dale’s blog, Helen Szamuely notes how Russia has been observing EU weakness for many years now:
"Nothing happened when she broke business agreements and harassed Russian and business firms or when the government acquired control over the Russian media and started limiting activity on the part of others like the BBC Russian Service or when her troops crossed into Transdniestria (in Moldova), Abkhazia and South Ossetia (both in Georgia). The West said nothing when Russian planes started buzzing Georgian territory (and I don’t mean South Ossetian or Abkhazian either) and blowing up various installations; it said nothing when Russia turned off agreed supplies of gas or oil to countries it disapproved of, like the Baltic states, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
Then came the final surrender: earlier this year at the NATO Summit Germany, France, Spain and the Benelux countries “stood up to the Americans” and did what the Russian government wanted them to do: rejected the notion of putting Georgia and Ukraine on the path to membership. The final communiqué actually reversed that stance and made it clear that NATO will consider this autumn the two countries as potential members but that gave the Russians a time limit on action that they knew they would get away with."
Perhaps it is good politics for the Tories to say little on foreign policy. To stay out of this dispute. To refuse to back the surge of troops in Iraq. To refuse to say whether we’ll increase the funding of Britain’s overstretched army. To refuse to say how we want to reshape our relations with the EU. But a government-in-waiting won’t be able to stay quiet forever.
Related link: "Russia has yet to understand its Cold War defeat was moral as well as strategic" says Dan Lewis on CentreRight