Michael McDowell: Weak response to Russia will jeopardise the international order

Only response to Putin’s threats are massive and severe crippling sanctions

Russian president Vladimir Putin: the only deterrent available to his threat of invasion must be the prospect of  sustained crippling sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP via Getty

Russian president Vladimir Putin: the only deterrent available to his threat of invasion must be the prospect of sustained crippling sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP via Getty

As I write, Vladimir Putin has massed a very substantial Russian army in areas including Belarus and Russia – and in areas of Ukraine that are the subject of de facto annexation by Russia – in a manner which suggests that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is in contemplation. This is the first time since the end of the Cold War that any major European state has threatened to invade another sovereign state which is a member of the United Nations and which is internationally recognised, since 1991, as a fully fledged member of the international community of nation states.

We should remember that Ukraine declared itself to be a neutral state and, indeed, formed a sort of military partnership with other former Soviet states in the early 1990s. Russia subsequently attempted to draw Ukraine further into its military and economic sphere during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych until mass protest ended in his deposition. Since 2014, Russia has annexed Crimea and has established military control of a large section of Eastern Ukraine in the Donbas region using Russian armaments and proxy military formations.

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