Just two weeks ago I was offering my analysis of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Little has changed since then, the illogicality of what Putin is attempting just increases by the day and with it the evil of unleashing weaponry upon the civilian population banned under the Geneva Conventions.
Sanctions have been stepped up across the board but with some reluctance by some European countries, at first preferring to protect their own industries but by and large the West’s response has been rapid and extensive.
The UK can be justifiably proud of its actions both in sanctions and monetary support to Ukraine and surrounding countries bearing the humanitarian pressure of an exodus to safety the like of which hasn’t been seen since the Second World War. We’ve also been at the forefront of providing our most advanced military equipment, particularly tank busters and air defence systems. This comes on the back of our previous training of the Ukrainian military who are holding up and keeping the Russians bogged down. A military victory for Russia is far from certain but the situation grows uglier by the day.
Not only will the sanctions be hurting all associated with the Putin regime, almost every source of income for the country from its airlines to its mining industries will be hit. I am sure normal Russian people, to whom we should bear no ill will, will be seeing that most of the normalities of life are rapidly changing, from the value of the Ruble in their pocket to empty shelves in shops. This is where Putin’s actions defy any logic: he and his pals were living a feather-bedded lifestyle, money was flooding in, life was improving for most of the population and he didn’t have to face democratic elections as we know them to maintain his position. We will feel economic pain as well in higher prices but this is as nothing in comparison to what the Ukrainian people are suffering.
The elephant in the room is of course the hydrocarbon trade which falls outside of the sanctions regime and the transfer of billions of dollars, pounds and euros per week continues unabated, such is the unholy reliance of much of Europe on Putin’s gas. This highlights too clearly what I have been saying for many months: energy security, and with it price stability is now in sharp focus. We are blessed in the UK with a lot of gas whether traditional North Sea or through onshore shale gas which we are yet to realise. This has nothing to do with Net Zero: we were going to use gas under any scenario as an interim fuel even under the government’s more wishful plan whilst new nuclear comes on-stream and renewables, perhaps some that actually work, come into view.
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we’re prepared to be part of the financing of Russia or accept the small inconveniences of shale gas extraction? Domestic supply comes with tens of thousands of well-paid jobs, huge tax revenues, balance of payments and CO2 savings as well. You know, money to be able to support measures to reach Net Zero, pay for public services and wean Europe away from Putin’s gaseous gold.
We await fuller detail of how the new ‘homes for Ukraine’ scheme will work. I have had plenty of offers from local constituents wishing to help and I have no doubt that we will all rise to the challenge. I am separately looking at what we have locally in terms of higher volume accommodation available. The unused University campus in Broadstairs and facilities of local faith groups spring to mind as possibilities. There has been criticism that we’re doing too little; I do not accept that. It is obvious that many Ukrainians will wish to stay as local as possible, not least because of historic links to neighbouring countries – particularly true of western Ukraine where borders have been fluid over time. There are many Hungarian speakers and passport holders in western Ukraine as the old borders of Hungary pre-first world war extended way into modern Ukraine but it is clear that the numbers of refugees are simply overwhelming neighbouring countries, even larger ones like Poland. Little Moldova, a poorer country has accepted 300,000 refugees into a country of just 2.6 million people. The UK is giving a huge amount of aid, medical and logistical support and is now launching an unlimited refugee support scheme in the UK.
It was a historic moment to be in the House of Commons chamber to hear the address from President Valenskyy last week. What a guy – perhaps the solution would be for him to become the new President of the whole of Russia including Ukraine which would achieve, perversely, Putin’s objective of a grand re-unification of imperial Russia, end the war and start the healing process. Wishful thinking undoubtedly but whatever the outcome, Russia under Putin will become an economic pariah backwater. Let’s hope some of his Generals in the Kremlin can see this as clearly as we can.