Britain and Russia

My uncle was one of thousands of British sailors from both the RN and the merchant navy who risked their lives in the terrible and dangerous conditions of the Arctic convoys to take supplies to Murmansk and help Russia fight off the fascist Nazi invaders who threatened both our countries.

As recently as 2015, less than eight years ago, the late Richard Baker and other veterans of the Arctic convoys received the Ushakov medal from the Putin regime itself, awarded in recognition of the bravery of British sailors who aided Russia against the Nazis.

Over the past two hundred and fifty years, British and Russian soldiers, sailors and aircrew have fought together more often than we have fought each other. We fought side by side in the Second World War, in the First World War, and in many wars before that, standing together against aggressors from Napoleon to Hitler.

So when Putin's ally and former Presidential seat-warmer Medvedev described Britain as Russia's "eternal enemy" I was not so much angry as sad. It is a lie - the conflict in which we were allies, and the campaign in which my uncle and Richard Baker risked their lives to help Russia's defence against a fascist invader, are still just about within living memory.

The British people are not now, and never have been, the enemies of the Russian people. We have been forced to become the enemy of the Putin regime because, and only because, that is the course that Putin himself has chosen.

Britain is supporting Ukraine, not because we want to hurt Russia, but because we are keeping the promise which Britain, the USA and Russia all made in 1994, that in exchange for Ukraine giving up 1,700 nuclear weapons all three countries would guarantee Ukraine's borders. That promise was enshrined in a treaty called the Budapest Memorandum and President Putin's breach of that treaty by attacking Ukraine is probably the worst act of international treachery since the end of World War II. 

If Putin succeeds in taking Ukrainian territory by force in flagrant disregard of the Budapest memorandum, it will not just undermine the whole international order, but also nuclear non-proliferation, making nuclear war more likely.

It is for that reason, and not because we want to harm Russia, that Britain and the free world have no choice but to help Ukraine.


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