Russia has been presented as one of the bad guys in the coverage of the turmoil in Ukraine. But today, Sir Menzies Campbell told the Commons that the one thing that linked the three countries mentioned in William Hague’s urgent statement on Ukraine, Syria and Iran was that ‘progress, however limited, was made as a result of engagement with Russia’.
Hague’s reply made clear that bad guy or not, the UK needs to continue engaging with Russia:
‘This is a very important point and again this is why the Prime Minister spoke to President Putin on Friday, why I have spoken to Foreign Minister Lavrov today, and agreed to speak again in the near future.
‘It is very important that we present this correctly, we are seeking a democratic and free future for Ukraine to make its own decisions and we believe that closer economic links between the Ukraine and the European Union can be beneficial to that entire region, including to Russia.
‘We are not presenting it as a strategic competition between East and West: I think that would be a mistake to do so and so our continuous contact with Russia and recognising the fact that their approach to Ukraine will always be important in its stability will be a continuing feature of our policy.’
Owen Matthews argues in this week’s Spectator that Russia’s run of failure in backing despots in countries such as Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Libya has come to an end with Syria and that ‘Moscow’s diplomatic protection in the UN… finally means something again’. The country’s hard power is growing at the same time as Vladimir Putin extends its soft power, and that’s why Hague knows that those calls to the Kremlin need to keep on coming