Pages tagged "Ukraine"
By Tony Brown
Lord Acton's famous dictum, "all power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely", might have been written for Putin.
Putin allowed the oligarchs to keep their fabulous wealth on condition they steered clear of politics and effectively became hedonistic playboys: Chelsea FC and all those yachts are rich men's toys! He then proceeded to eliminate all significant opposition and took personal control of all the Russian state's levers of power, appointing an entire class of bureaucrats to run everything on his instruction. They in turn received fabulous wealth, but retain it only on condition they do his bidding. Not only is there no internal dissent, but all alternative opinions are unwelcome.
In the tradition of Peter 'the Great' and Stalin - both tyrannical bullies - Putin has become the ultimate autocrat. And that is where Lord Acton's aphorism comes in, for such autocrats come in time to believe that they and they alone have a monopoly of truth; that their opinion is right on everything.
I believe that Putin genuinely believes that Ukraine is not a proper state, that the territory is really Russian (and always has been) and that it needs and requires 'de-Nazifying'!
Manifestly this is arrant nonsense.
Ukraine is a properly constituted sovereign state under international law without any caveats. Russia itself accepted this when it guaranteed Ukraine's territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances signed on the 5th December 1994. In return Ukraine voluntarily gave up the nuclear arsenal left on its soil from the USSR. How Ukrainians must now regret their naivete!
If you want a historic, international parallel, it is the 1839 Treaty of London: this created the state of Belgium (which did not exist before that date, though they actually rebelled to create their new state in 1830) - and guaranteed its integrity. One of the signatories was Prussia. The German Empire of 1871 was the legal successor state. When the German Empire invaded Belgium in August 1914, they were in clear contravention of their own international guarantees - which both brought Great Britain into the 'Great War' and made it much more straight-forward to argue that Germany was the aggressor and had caused the war. Putin's behaviour is identically illegal and immoral.
Most state boundaries, especially in Europe, are 'accidents of history'. If you know the history of Europe, you know that entire states come and go: Hungary literally did not exist (except briefly during an uprising in 1848/9) from 1526 to 1867; likewise Poland from 1795 to 1919. Yet Poland was vast in 1648 and Hungary in 1914. States are created by key European treaty settlements: the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 created the Netherlands and Switzerland; Vienna in 1815 shaped Germany into its modern 'Länder' after the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and enshrined the three Empires which dominated the map of Europe east of the Rhine in 1914. The Versailles Treaty of 1919 abolishes empires and redraws the map east of the Elbe to create many of the boundaries and states we know today. Eire was created out of the UK only in 1922. Even if you take the view (which I don't) that Ukraine was only created by Lenin in 1917/1922 then it is still as old as most of Europe's states. Putin's claim to his neighbour is without merit, hogwash, bunkum, risible, ludicrous and absurd!
As for Putin's claim to be 'de-Nazifying' (his word), that is gaslighting as international diplomacy: Putin is the one behaving like a Nazi with his fake flag incidents to justify invasion, just as Hitler did over the Sudetenland in 1938 and Silesia in 1939.
Yet, without any dissenting voices to tell him otherwise, I believe that Putin believes his own propaganda: he probably genuinely thought inside his own world of delusion that his troops would be greeted with flowers and that it would all be over in days; a week at the outside.
Putin is therefore not merely an international war criminal and deluded megalomaniac, he is also an explanation of why freedom and democracy are so important. For only with dissent allowed, many political voices, freedom of speech, a mechanism to change government and transfer power, can we avoid creating the Putins of this world.
Sadly much of the world has only ever really experienced rule of the autocratic kind. A real lesson for me of current events in Russia and Ukraine is to reinforce my certainty that western values are right and better, that we must have the confidence to say this, that not all cultures and value systems are of equal value and that real decadence - of the kind which dooms you - is no longer believing or asserting this.
Tony Brown was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy. Tony is a member of The Freedom Association.
By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
Three weeks ago I thought that Putin would not invade invade Ukraine; that he would continue to play a game of brinkmanship, try to divide NATO and the West, and take over parts of Ukraine using salami tactics. But after his deranged television addresses last week, it was clear that he is an old man in a hurry. So when I woke up to the news on Thursday morning that Russian forces had invaded Ukraine, I can't say that I was surprised.
Earlier last week, Putin tried to con the world that the invasion into Donetsk and Luhansk wasn't an invasion. Russian troops were there to maintain peace, he said, but he wasn't fooling anyone. I wasn't impressed with the sanctions announced by the Prime Minister on Monday in response to this invasion, but in all fairness to him, his hands were tied as Western powers attempted to move in lockstep with each other. After the full invasion of Ukraine on Thursday morning, the package of sanctions were much more robust, but we know that other countries have been in appeasement mode.
The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, announced that he has halted the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project, designed to double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany. But there is still Nord Stream 1. Germany didn't want Russia cut-off off from the Swift banking system. It has now been agreed that it will, but it took days to happen when it should have happened immediately. Germany spends just 1.36 per cent of GDP on defence, although the news that Germany plans to correct that and spend two per cent - NATO's minimum - is welcome news.
Italy still wants to send luxury goods to Russia. In other words, it stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, but doesn't want to feel any pain!
Hungary under Viktor Orbán is not much better than Russia under Putin. He eventually distanced himself from Putin, but only when he realised that Hungary would be isolated. He faces elections in just over a month's time. I am sure that played a crucial part in his decision. I have spoken to free speech and free market activists from Hungary, and many of them fear being imprisoned if they upset Orbán's regime. Freedom is not alive and well in Hungary.
In 1994, Ukraine unilaterally gave up its nuclear weapons in a non-proliferation treaty. The United Kingdom, United States and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to respect the independence, sovereignty, and the existing borders of Ukraine. There was an obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and a commitment that nuclear weapons would not be used against the country.
Russia has not respected this international treaty.
Nations bordering Russia are desperate to join NATO. Why? It’s not because they want to attack Russia. The opposite is true. They fear a Russian attack, and this is why Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are all on a heightened state of alert, despite being NATO members. They have every reason to be fearful.
Article 5 of the NATO Treaty states that "an armed attack against one or more of them [NATO members] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."
Joe Biden is (and I choose my words carefully) clearly not well enough to be President of the United States. Unless he makes a firm commitment that America will honour Article 5, NATO will not be fit for purpose and the Baltic states and other NATO countries like Poland and Slovakia will be left to their own devices.
During times of adversity, you find out who your friends are. Poland is willing to accept all refugees, even if millions of people cross over its border with Ukraine. Slovakians are busy fundraising so they can offer assistance to Ukrainian refugees. Other neighbours are offering their wholehearted support, too.
Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been leading from the front. Biden has offered to evacuate him, but Zelenskyy told the US President that "the fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride." He would rather die defending his country than go into exile.
A new axis is forming. The Chinese Government has told its citizens living in Ukraine to place Chinese flags on their cars. This is the 21st Century equivalent of the Passover. It is clear that despite being traditionally hostile to one another, Russia and China have been moving closer since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. It won't be long before Iran joins this axis, if it hasn't done so already. Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, met Putin a few days ago. India abstained in a vote condemning the invasion in the United Nations Security Council on Friday.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a major assault on liberty, freedom, and democracy. It’s implications will not stop with Ukraine. It encourages other totalitarian regimes to act in similar ways. This is why Putin's actions are not, rightly, going unpunished.
Responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of The Freedom Association, and Andrew Allison, Chief Executive of The Freedom Association, have issued the following statement:
“The Freedom Association, along with with the rest of the free world, condemns the unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Russia. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and support the Government in its robust response to this aggression. This is a major assault on liberty, freedom, and democracy. It’s implications will not stop with Ukraine. It encourages other totalitarian regimes to act in similar ways. Putin’s actions must not go unpunished.”
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NOTE FOR EDITORS
The Freedom Association (TFA) is a non-partisan, centre-right, classically liberal pressure group. We believe in the freedom of the individual in all aspects of life to as great an extent as possible. As such, we seek to challenge all erosion of civil liberties and campaign in support of individual liberty, freedom of expression, and free markets.
To find out more about The Freedom Association, visit our website: www.tfa.net