You couldn’t accuse William Hague of using soft language on the Today programme this morning when he said that ‘it is certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st Century and it will require all our diplomatic efforts, but also a great deal of strength in the western world in order to deal with this satisfactorily’. He urged Russia to ‘return to that situation, to being in its bases, to having its assets in Crimea’ while recognising the ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine’.
But what will the international community do, other than use strong language that Putin may or may not care to ignore? President Obama’s ‘red lines’ now mean very little after President Assad crossed them in Syria. Hague insisted that ‘there are a range of other significant costs… the world cannot just allow this to happen, the world cannot just say it’s ok in effect to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way’.
But over the next few days it will be worth watching the language that Britain deploys and how active a role it takes both in urging Russia to retreat and in setting up these ‘costs’ – economic sanctions – as there is a sense this morning that Britain is taking a back seat on this issue.