I wrote earlier this year about the need for Conservatives to acknowledge and work to counter the threat posed by Putin’s Russia. Happily, the majority of Conservative Party members who read this site appear to agree – though there is a vocal minority on the British right who are happy to act as apologists for the Kremlin, apparently persuaded by the increasingly active propaganda effort we see both openly and covertly on TV and online.
It was encouraging, therefore, to see the Prime Minister send a message to Putin in extremely clear terms last night: “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”
She’s not only correct, but it’s politically wise to emphasise this message. Beyond the immediate task of challenging Russia’s agenda, there are dual benefits – highlighting things like election meddling draws a line that distinguishes her position once more from that of Donald Trump, and it can only be positive to reiterate to our NATO allies that Britain is still here as a partner in the defence of Europe.
Having stated the nature of the problem in such bald terms, and told Putin that he “underestimates the resilience of our democracies”, the Government’s next challenge might well be to defeat and expose further Russian attempts to harm British institutions or interests. That is almost inevitable whatever we might do, and it’s better to be clear and open about the fact we are under threat than to pretend it’ll go away if we just play nice. As I argued in February:
‘We may not like the idea of being in conflict – cold, lukewarm or whatever temperature you care to call it – with him, but conflict does not wait on both sides to agree to participate before it begins. One participant is all that is required. To paraphrase Trotsky’s line about the dialectic, “you may not be interested in Putin, but Putin is interested in you”.’