New Forest East

UKRAINE - 15 March 2022

UKRAINE - 15 March 2022

Dr Julian Lewis: I disagree with quite a lot of what the hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) said. However, I acknowledge the fact he served on the frontline in Afghanistan in the armed forces of the United Kingdom and that it takes a degree of moral courage to speak out against the overwhelming views of an audience. I am sure that he would acknowledge, however, that whatever courage it took for him to make that rather unpopular contribution – I dare say his contribution was possibly, in some respects, inaccurate – it took a lot more moral courage for Marina Ovsyannikova to speak out as she did on Channel 1 Russian TV. I wish to put on record in this House – I do not think it has been done yet since she did so – what her placard said:

“No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.”

Because she knew the sort of society in which she lives would have her arrested and locked away for what she had done, she had pre-prepared a video which concluded as follows:

“Now the whole world has turned away from us” –

meaning the Russians – 

“and the next 10 generations of our descendants will not wash away the shame of this fratricidal war.”

As a young mother with one Russian and one Ukrainian parent, who is better qualified than she to judge?

Daniel Kawczynski: My right hon. Friend is making a brilliant point. Is he aware that this lady now potentially faces a prison sentence of 15 years, because of the new legislation introduced by Putin to try to suppress freedom of speech?

Dr Lewis: Yes, I am aware of that. And I feel that the more attention we draw to her courage and bravery in showing up the ruthless nature of the regime which Vladimir Putin embodies, the more likely it is that perhaps Russia will think twice before it goes even further than it already has.

James Gray: Will my right hon. Friend and the whole House join me in also paying tribute to the American Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, who has been killed outside Kyiv?

Dr Lewis: Yes, indeed. Politicians often have harsh words to say about journalists, but I wonder how many politicians would put themselves at risk in the way in which so many journalists – American, BBC, Sky and all the other British journalists – are doing. Let us remember that when we are listening to reports about incoming missiles, those brave men and women are reporting from the very targets on which those missiles are ranged.

Near the end of the Second World War, the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee of the British Chiefs of Staff produced a report entitled “Relations with the Russians”. From years of experience of the Anglo-Soviet alliance against Nazi Germany, the JIC concluded that Russia would respect only strength as the basis for any future relationship.

According to the sneering psychopath Mr Putin, what his country is engaged in at the moment is a holy war against Ukrainian neo-Nazis. What he fails to remind people is that the Second World War, with which he presumes to draw comparisons, was enabled only by the vicious agreement between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to carve-up Poland as a result of a secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. When people in this country ask which event started the Second World War, it is not enough to say that it was the Nazi invasion of Poland. It was the Nazi-Soviet agreement to invade Poland 16 days apart: Nazis from the west and Soviet Russia from the east.

Vladimir Putin is a product of that history and of that system. He earned his spurs in the KGB, schooled in the suppression of captive countries, steeped in the culture of communist domination and filled with regret that the Soviet empire imploded. According to him, its break-up was the greatest disaster of the 20th century – a revealing and curious choice when compared with the millions killed in two World Wars, in the Russian Civil War and in the forced collectivisations, the mass deportations and the hell of the Soviet gulag. Until the Bolshevik Revolution came along, there had been a significant chance of Russia evolving along democratic lines, but then the cancer of Marxism-Leninism gave cynical psychopaths like him their ideological excuse to seize total control. Their opponents were denounced as enemies of the people and were put, or worked, to death with no semblance of due process.

Now that ideology has gone, but the ruthless mindset remains. Russian leaders no longer claim to be building a workers’ paradise, but they still believe that western capitalists will sell them the rope with which to be hanged.

Alec Shelbrooke: May I draw on my right hon. Friend’s point about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? I am sure that he has seen the Putin essay. Paragraph 38 is really frightening for European security:

“Under the 1921 Treaty of Riga, concluded between the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and Poland, the western lands of the former Russian Empire were ceded to Poland.”

Does that not make it clear that Putin’s intentions do not stop at Ukraine?

Dr Lewis: It makes it absolutely clear. That will be the very next point that I address.

Whereas Russia previously infiltrated by ideology, its leaders now bribe their targets with high-spending oligarchs and the temptations that they place in the way of western politicians. Gerhard Schröder, a former Chancellor of Germany, is the prime example – a man who has been chairman of Rosneft since 2017 and has recently, I believe, been a director of Gazprom as well. He has been at the heart of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) did so much to warn this House against when people were somewhat complacent about it.

For 40 years from 1949, two factors ensured the containment of Russia and the maintenance of peace: the deterrent power of western nuclear weapons and the collective security provided by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. No longer could an aggressor attack small European states that belonged to NATO without the Americans immediately entering the war. We know that it is Ukraine’s misfortune not to belong to NATO, and we can argue about whether that should have been permitted. I simply say what I have said all along, which is that if NATO over-extends the guarantee of Article 5 to the point at which it ceases to be credible that the major NATO countries would fight World War Three to defend the country in question, it undermines the credibility of the guarantee as a whole.

I will conclude by referring to what the former President Petro Poroshenko said on Sky TV at 1 o’clock today. He made a more appropriate parallel with World War Two than Putin could ever make when he referred to what we called “Lend-Lease”, which was the decision taken and signed into law by President Roosevelt in March 1941 to give all sorts of high-value equipment and support to those countries that were fighting for democracy, even though America was not then in the war itself.

Former president Poroshenko quoted Churchill’s words:

“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”

He also said, 

“Don’t trust Putin … if you try to compromise with Putin he will go further.”

This relates to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke). There is no doubt at all that the battle that Ukraine is fighting now is the frontline of the battle that would face NATO if NATO’s credibility were undermined.

So it is quite simple, and I think that the Government could go further in terms of this rather artificial distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” weaponry. I believe that fighter jets – provided that they are crewed by Ukrainians and not by people of a NATO nationality – are a defensive weapon, and that we should operate according to a single practical slogan, namely that we will support Ukraine in its fight for democracy by all means short of war; and that means supplying them with the tools so that they can finish the job.