'Our city’s history shows it is always right to stand against bullies'

THIS week, talks take place between Russia and the US to reduce tensions in Ukraine. They will be followed by more talks between Russia and Nato members, including the UK. These talks were sparked by aggressive acts by Russia. This included threats over energy supplies and the movement of 100,000 combat troops up to the border with Ukraine.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 11:10 am
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 11:11 am
Penny Mordaunt Picture: Habibur Rahman

These events did not have to occur for a talks to happen. Nato has been open to dialogue with Russia since they collapsed following their invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

The aim of such talks should be to de-escalate the situation, but not at any price. They should certainly be to warn of the consequences of course. We should, however, remind Russia of the opportunities, too.

The premise of Russia actions is that Nato is the aggressor. Nato is a defensive alliance. Its purpose is to deter precisely the kind of action Russia has taken against Ukraine.

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Amongst its demands is that it should, in effect, have a veto on future membership of Nato and that the Alliance should not exercise as it sees fit. I hope such demands will be dismissed.

If talks fail, and Russia continues its aggression, then expect action both from Nato and others. No-one wants this.

We want a peaceful relationship. So, I remind Russia’s president of the joint characters of the British and Russian people. Why his course of action is so unnecessary. We have much in common.

Firstly, neither of us scare easily. That why we were allies in two world wars against one of the most powerful fighting machines ever created. Secondly, we don’t run from threats. Thirdly, we are proud people with huge potential.

If only we were able to build on the cooperation there has been between these nations. What opportunities there would be.

Putin should understand that aggression has a price. It will lead to more nations making a commitment to avoid dependency on of Russian energy. The energy sector constitutes the majority of the Russian economy. The West may also become more aggressive in cracking down on activities which undermine it, financial flows and visas for instance. EU member states may not in future agree to grant citizenship to people who facilitate Putin’s policies which damage our own security and way of life. Economic sanctions would have a real impact, but more importantly, allies around the world may harden their views. Germany, for instance, under a new chancellor, may be less willing to cooperate with Russia. It may become more willing to show commitment to Nato. It should do.

Nato was founded on mutual cooperation about security. If seventy-five years of peace have diminished this, then the new Russian aggression will be the fuel for its rejuvenation and modernisation.

We’ve paid a price for our nation standing up to bullies. Portsmouth was the last city in Britain that so many of our fine sailors and soldiers saw as they went off to battle never to return. We remember this and take great pride in it. We know this as the right thing to do. It made our nation safer because it deterred future aggression. It created one of the longest periods of peace in human history. This week we must not waiver. Nato and its allies should take a leaf out of Portsmouth’s book.