Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 24.03.2018
Russia is at war with the West. In recent weeks, the Putin regime has attacked with a nerve agent in Britain and it has held an illegal ‘election’ in Crimea, Ukraine, which Russia invaded and occupied four years ago. Since Russia began open and continuous warfare in 2014, the response of Ukraine has been to fight to defend the homeland and the West, but the response of other Western democracies under attack has been to do nothing more than express “deep concern” at Russian aggression. The shock of Russia’s recent acts of aggression against Britain and Ukraine may change that. The Putin regime is facing some blow-back in the world of diplomacy.
After the Russian nerve agent attack at Salisbury, England on March 4, the United Kingdom expelled 23 Russian spies who were under cover as diplomats. The British government announced that it would push forward its consideration of a Magnitsky law for the UK to sanction corrupt Russian officials who are abusers of human rights. There is strong pressure on the British government to crack-down on the money-laundering racket whereby Russian oligarchs have corrupted the City of London and London’s property market for many years. Putting an end to “Londongrad” would be the best thing the UK could do to take action against Russian aggression: go after the money that fuels the Putin-Kremlin crime syndicate.
The European Union withdrew its ambassador from Moscow in solidarity with the UK. At an EU summit on March 23, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that additional steps beyond the recall of the ambassador would be taken. President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, told reporters that additional steps to counter Russian aggression would be taken by EU member states as early as March 26. Lithuania’s President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, said on March 22 that Lithuania would soon be doing what the UK did, and expel Russian spies working under cover as diplomats. President Grybauskaitė said that it was important to break the powerful Russian intelligence services: “I believe that cracking of the intelligence ring in all countries of Europe and destruction of the Russian intelligence network is a common task.” As well as Lithuania, France Poland, Estonia, and Latvia are considering saying “yes” to the request by the UK government to expel spies-as-diplomats from their countries.
After Russia conducted its so-called presidential ‘election’ illegally on the territory of Ukraine – in Crimea – major Western democracies followed through on their announced policy of non-recognition. Ukraine, the EU (and most EU member states individually), the United States, Canada, Norway, Japan and other countries refuse to recognize the so-called ‘election’ in Crimea. On March 19, eight EU foreign ministers made a point of declaring that temporarily Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea would never be forgotten. Ukraine has succeeded in scheduling a debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the non-recognition of the Russian presidential in temporarily occupied Crimea. First Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Gerashchenko, made a statement: “The Ukrainian delegation will insist that the topic of illegal elections on the stolen peninsula, violations of human rights in the Donbas and Crimea, the security situation in the occupied territories become the subject of special debates at the April session of the PACE.” By its continued acts of aggression in Crimea (and Donbas), Russia is in violation of PACE resolutions that Crimea is integral Ukrainian territory. Russia will not be relieved of sanctions or re-admitted to full voting status in PACE any time soon, given its outlaw behaviour.
Putin is badly weakened as president of Russia because he held a sham election in a part of Ukraine he invaded.
Russia is an outlaw nation, and it is vital to the survival of the West that it be treated as such. Ukraine has declared Russia to be an aggressor. The next logical step is to break off diplomatic relations. Immediately, Ukraine should expel diplomats in solidarity with the United Kingdom. Because of Russia’s nerve agent attack in Britain and because of Russia’s illegal ‘election’ in Ukraine’s Crimea, the diplomatic screws should be tightened on the Putin regime. This is what is needed now: expulsion of diplomats; freezing the money of the Russian oligarchy; cutting off Russia from the SWIFT international payment system; expansion of Magnitsky sanctions against Russian human rights abusers; expansion of sanctions on Russian war criminals for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; supplying Ukraine with overwhelming military assistance. For the West to defeat Russia, “deep concern” must give way to “stop Putin.”