Coffee House

Cameron faces down critics on Ukraine

26 March 2014

3:45 PM

26 March 2014

3:45 PM

There are few fiercer critics of the way the international community has reacted to the crisis in Crimea than Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Today when the Prime Minister gave his statement on the latest decisions made by world leaders to sanction Russia, Rifkind had another opportunity to scold the Prime Minister and his international colleagues. He did so in typically forceful language:

‘Does the Prime Minister agree that when the history of the Crimea crisis comes to be written, there will be found to be no winners. President Putin has of course control of Crimea but he has lost Ukraine and done much to unite the Ukrainian people. But will my right honourable friend also accept that the international community, the United States, and European countries, will not fare well in the judgement of history either. Because the response that we have made to the invasion of a European country by its neighbour and the annexation of its territory in contrast to all its international legal obligations, has resulted in a very timid and hesitant response, with no financial sanctions or sanctions that might influence future Russian behaviour. That surely is not the best way to deter future aggression.’

The Prime Minister’s response was rather good, though. He explained that there was a need for a ‘predictable’ response from the international community so that Putin had an opportunity

‘I think it’s too early for the history books to be written. And what I think really matters here is that the countries of the European Union, the United States, the international organisations, the UN, we need to recognise, this needs a long-term approach and I hope when the history books are written they will see that Europe decided to become more energy independent, that the UN stood up for the importance of the UN Charter, that Britain, America and allies took a series of predictable consistent steps to demonstrate to Russia that what she was doing was wrong and if we take a long term approach then we can actually achieve an outcome that the history books might be kinder about.’


Jack Straw’s question directly after this contained the bigger problem than how the past few weeks will be presented in the history books. How would countries that had given up their nuclear weapons in return for guarantees about their territorial integrity feel about the way Russia had behaved?

The PM argued that the ‘considered, long-term and predictable’ approach would show the risks for a country in behaving the way Russia has. But that does rather assume that Russia will at some point agree to reverse what it has so far achieved in Crimea.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • FurtherBeyond

    Russia has been behaving like a neo-colonial power by encouraging the ‘colonisation’ of Ukrainian territory by ethnic Russians. Once the process creates a majority in the territory being colonised, these neo-colonists then simply demand
    independence or re-unification with their motherland/fatherland on the basis of
    a presumed universal right to self-determination.

    However, this is hardly a novel approach, after all, this is the very same ploy that the UK has used for many years now in an attempt to legitimise the so called right of their colonists to determine the nationality of territories they occupy such as
    Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands in the face of UN General Assembly
    Resolutions mandating that the UK decolonise those territories (see: e.g. Res. 2429(XXIII), 18 Dec. 1968 (67-18:34): and cf. Res. 3286(XXIX), 18 Dec. 1974).

    It is important therefore to point out that the so called right to self determination is not universal but limited. Under international law there are exceptions to the
    right to self-determination. For example, this right does not apply to colonies
    such as the Falklands, Gibraltar and the Palestine occupied territories where
    transplanted populations illegally occupy another nation’s territory.

    If we want ‘autocratic’ Russia to respect international law then we should insist that the so called ‘great democracies’ such as the UK lead by example.

  • pp22pp

    Our “elites” have ensured that our own nation’s history has not much longer left to run. What right do they have to frustrate the desire of the Crimean people to be Russian? By what right do they stir up trouble on the streets of Kiev and provoke a clash with Russia? Their duty was to the people of this country whom they have betrayed at every turn. If some Muslim or Chinese scholar can be bothered to write the history of our country one day in the distant future, I wonder if they will be able to fathom the sheer speed of our national suicide or the reasons for it. I cannot understand what our leaders thought they were doing. The sheer depth of their arrogance, ineptitude, ignorance and lack of foresight beggars belief. Having wrecked their own land, they should leave Russia and Ukraine in peace.

  • komment

    Rifkind suffers from serving two governments, one in Westminster, the other in Tell Aviv. Once we understand this we can begin to understand his schitsoprenia/denial/dementure.

    • Curnonsky

      Another shocking example of how the FSB has lowered the old KGB language school standards.

    • Tom Tom

      Frankly I was always opposed to economic sanctions against Israel but the vigour with which Russia is attacked for uniting its lost province following a referendum is in stark contrast to the supine approach as Israel displaces Palestinians and annexes their land for expansionism backed with guns.

  • swatnan

    One of these days Rifkind will be consumed by his own pomposity and spontaneously combust. Crimea belongs to Russia, and Russia should be congratulated in putting the record straight without any blood being shed.

    • Makroon

      When the BBC wheels out that decrepit cretin Wolfowitz to make the case for regime change in Ukraine and a new cold war between “the west” and Russia, there really does seem to be a plot by sections of the media, to lure Cameron and Hague into an embarrassing Blairite military adventure.

  • HookesLaw

    Its possible for both to be right but when Rifkin quote history books he forgets hisory and the links between the crimea and Russia. Its possible to look at the events in the context of history.
    Its perfectly possible for the Crimea to have been returned to Russia but its quite wrong in the way Putin has gone about it. Under these circumstances its possible to respond to Russia without pressing the nuclear button.

    • Tom Tom

      “pressing the nuclear button” ? ????? You are nuts. I don’t mind London and Birmingham being turned to glass but it is a cavalier approach to nuclear warfare you have

    • Makroon

      How about removal of a duly elected government by street riots, with full approval by the EU and US, does that earn your censure too ?

  • DavidL

    Would this be the same Malcolm Rifkind who dismissed as “emotional nonsense” Mrs Thatcher’s criticism of the spineless response to Serbia of the Government in which he served? Glad to know he’s improved with age.

    • Tom Tom

      Rifkind’s family came from Lithuania like his cousins Sam and Leon Brittain, they hate Russia with a passion and hi-jack our foreign policy for their own ends. Russia owns Crimea like Britain owns Southampton and purportedly Gibraltar