Fear. It’s perhaps the greatest word one could use to sum up Western foreign policy since the Second World War. It was a fear of the growing Soviet/Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe, Asia and South America which dominated the agenda. This fear masks the fact that Britain has a responsibility to Ukraine.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the West regained some form of strength, most notably by the interventions into Kosovo and Sierra Leone. The former was a humanitarian war to end “a systematic campaign of terror including murders, rapes, arsons and severe maltreatments” by the Yugoslav (Serbian) forces toward the Albanian populace. The latter saw British intervention in order to end a civil war that left approximately 50,000 dead. However, the West’s strength found itself instantaneously broken down by a fear of the terrorist in 2001. Both the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were badly thought out and motivated by vengeance rather than clear strategic and moral objectives. The result of these wars would leave NATO, Britain and America exhausted and tired of conflict.
After the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan and both American and British foreign policy seemingly shifting to counter China, on 24 February 2022 Vladimir Putin – Dictator of Russia – took advantage and launched a ‘Special Military Operation’, or as it should be known a fully-fledged invasion of Ukraine. What was the West’s response to the violation of not only a nation’s sovereignty but also international law? To condemn it and impose at first weak sanctions that as of writing have been vastly ramped up. However, such an invasion into a sovereign state by a great power poses the question. Why was the West so determined to impose – with military force – democracy on nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, who as far as we can tell did not want it, but refuses to intervene militarily in a nation for whom Britain had not only guaranteed the independence of in 1994 and who are a democratic people fighting with everything they have to maintain their freedom?
Fear, that is why. Fear of a potential nuclear conflict, fear that Putin would do the unthinkable if NATO nations were to involve themselves militarily. However to argue that Putin would use nuclear weapons is falling for the greatest ruse in ‘Great Power’ politics, Mutually Assured Destruction, ironically named MAD. To think a man who sucks the life out of his nation in order to live a life of luxury, a man who hides his children from the public eye, because he cares so much about his family’s wellbeing, would see the world destroyed is nonsensical.
Britain and France could engage in a militarily defensive position in Ukraine to protect European sovereignty. Any action must exclude the US, in order to show European solidarity and remove the Russian Cold War narrative that Putin relies so heavily on. This could be achieved by French and British forces restoring the borders of Ukraine and advancing no further, all accomplished without calling upon Article 5 of the NATO charter and bringing us to World War Three. To see this in action, one may look at the Falklands war in which a NATO member was attacked and yet NATO did not flood to Britain’s defence entirely because we did not call for it. Article 5 is an option, not a certainty.
I do not suggest direct British military intervention lightly, my own father was deployed in Afghanistan on a number of occasions, and I have seen the cost of a futile war. But this is not Afghanistan, this is not Iraq, this is about defending not just the sovereignty of a free state, but the very system of freedom, liberty and equality that allows me to write this article. Britain promised to defend Ukraine in 1994, it coerced the state to give up its nuclear deterrent, the very deterrent that would see its borders secured today. Britain owes a debt to the Ukrainian people not just to send our ‘thoughts’ to their nation but to send our might.