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.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.