Our prayers are with the people of Ukraine | Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column

Just a few weeks ago I wrote my weekly column on the situation in Ukraine.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

In it I said that Putin wanted to turn back the tide to a time when brute force is considered an accepted means of changing borders, and where a sovereign country is only sovereign for as long as a bigger neighbour considers it acceptable.

Sadly, Putin has put into action that plan.

On Monday, he engineered a situation so that he could recognise two parts of Ukraine as ‘independent’.

Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This alone was a blatant act of aggression, violating the territorial integrity of a European nation in the same way he did with Crimea in 2014.

But in the early hours of this morning he went further still, launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

An invasion by a permanent member of the UN Security Council into a democratic, sovereign, European nation which presented no threat and wanted only to live peacefully.

For historical precedence for this you must go all the way back to World War Two.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Back then we saw what the cost of inaction was and what resulted was the bloodiest conflict known to man.

We cannot, therefore, hope and pray that Putin will stop at Ukraine. We know from his essays and statements that he believes in reviving the Soviet Union – returning to the days of empire – and with his behaviour becoming increasingly erratic we must be prepared to deliver the most serious of consequences for this course of action.

However, let me be clear, this will not include the sending of UK servicemen and women to Ukraine. There is no desire or appetite amongst Members of Parliament – myself included – or amongst NATO members, to see UK & NATO personnel involved in this conflict.

Our role is to offer whatever support we can to Ukraine as they defend their homeland, and to ratchet up the economic pressure on Putin’s regime through the most severe sanctions to bring about an end to this conflict.

This is something the Ukrainians know and accept.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They have never asked for NATO troops to join them, but for the defensive equipment to enable them to stand up in the face of overwhelming aggression, and economic support to ensure they still have a home afterwards.

The sanctions regime that will now be put in place will be painful, not just for Russia but unavoidably for our allies to.

It will aim to starve the Russian economy of the funding it needs to operate – from purchasing military equipment through to day-to-day spending.

And it is highly likely that, in turn, Russia will seek to further weaponise gas prices by restricting global supply in the hope that European nations buckle.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But for weeks work has been ongoing amongst allies including the USA, Qatar and others to ensure that should this happen, alternative supplies are available.

It is this kind of global coordination and action which Russia cannot do – isolated in the world – that will ensure we will stay united, and Russia will fail.

Putin’s oligarch friends will be hit too. Collectively these individuals hold his vast personal wealth – from mansions on the Black Sea coast to an estimated $200 billion fortune.

With pressure increasingly applied to them, and Ukraine fighting harder than he has ever envisaged, he will end up being forced to think again.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And our NATO allies in the East and South East – Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania – will also need our reassurance.

Our commitment to them, as their commitment to us, is and always must be unwavering. That is why NATO has been so successful at deterring aggression against itself and its members.

The Enhanced Forward Presence of forces there have already been reinforced once and should the need arise, will be reinforced again.

For weeks politicians in the West, including President Biden and the Prime Minister, alongside the Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary and their counterparts across the G7 have been calling out Russia’s provocative actions and plans.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There has been a monumental effort to change the course of action, but it seems there was never anything that could be said or done. Putin decided on this plan a long time ago.

These are dark days for Ukraine and its people. Our thoughts and prayers should be with them as they stand up to face the aggression of a powerful neighbour.