Category Archives: Britain

NATO Chief Concerned Russian Navy Task Force Will Join Attacks On Aleppo

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he is “concerned” that a Russian aircraft carrier and its task force that is heading to the eastern Mediterranean Sea will join Russian attacks on the Syrian city of Aleppo and “increase human suffering.”

Stoltenberg said on October 20 that navies from NATO member states would monitor the movements of the Russian task force in a “responsible and measured way.”

The Russian Navy deployment would increase its firepower in Syria, where it has been carrying out air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s army for more than a year.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, can carry dozens of fighter bombers.

It is accompanied by a nuclear-powered battle cruiser, two antisubmarine warships, and four support vessels.

The deployment comes amid an offensive by Assad’s troops on rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo, backed by Russian warplanes, that has caused international outrage.

It also comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and NATO, which has accused Russia of provocative military maneuvers.

The British Navy was shadowing the Admiral Kuznetsov and seven other Russian warships on their journey from the Norwegian Sea to the North Sea and through the English Channel as they head toward Syria.

Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, the former commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet, says the task force could cover the distance from the English Channel to the eastern Mediterranean in “less than a week” at top speed.

He said that at “medium speed, it can take up to two weeks.”

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on October 19: “When these ships near our waters, we will man-mark them every step of the way” and will be watching them “as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged the European Union to unite in condemning Russia’s role in Syria and bring an end to what she called Moscow’s “sickening atrocities” there.

Meanwhile, momentum was building among EU leaders for sanctions against supporters of Assad’s regime — including Russia — if they fail to stop atrocities in Syria.

A draft statement obtained by RFE/RL at an EU summit in Brussels on October 20 said the bloc was “considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the [Syrian] regime, should the current atrocities continue.”

Russia was not specifically named in the threat of more punitive measures, but was singled out in the draft statement — which said the EU “strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo.”

Russia announced on October 20 that it would pause its air strikes for 11 hours each day for the next four days to allow civilians to leave Aleppo and aid workers to deliver humanitarian supplies.

But officials at the EU summit dismissed the gesture as being timed to coincide with their talks in Brussels in an attempt to minimize the growing momentum toward sanctions against Russia.

During the break in fighting in Aleppo on October 20, Syria’s military used loudspeakers to call on residents to evacuate.

However. there was no sign of such a move among the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the besieged city’s rebel-held eastern district.

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RT: NatWest to close Russian channel’s UK bank accounts

NatWest bank is to close the accounts of Russia’s state-run broadcaster, RT.

Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan tweeted: “They’ve closed our accounts in Britain. All our accounts. ‘The decision is not subject to review.’ Praise be to freedom of speech!”
The bank said the decision was “not taken lightly” and that the accounts were “still operative” at present.

An MP from Russia’s ruling party has said its parliament will demand an explanation from the UK.

RT says the entire Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group, of which NatWest is part, is refusing to provide its services.
The broadcaster, previously known as Russia Today, says NatWest wrote to its London office saying: “We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities.”

The bank, RT said, had insisted its decision was final and it was “not prepared to enter into any discussion.”
A letter posted online by the channel appears to show that the freeze is not in effect yet. It warns that banking facilities will be “cancelled and closed” on 12 December.
RBS said in a statement: “These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further. The bank accounts remain open and are still operative.”

The UK Treasury said it does not comment on individual cases, but added that no new sanctions or obligations relating to Russia had been imposed on British banks by the government since February 2015.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: “It’s a matter for the bank, and it’s for them to decide who they offer services to based on their own risk appetite.”
Reaction in Russia

MP Sergei Zheleznyak, from the ruling United Russia party, told the privately owned Interfax news agency: “We will be demanding an explanation from Britain’s official authorities in connection with this situation.”

Mr Zheleznyak, who sits on the international affairs committee of the State Duma (parliament’s lower house), called NatWest’s refusal to offer its banking services “outrageous” and “an infringement of the rights of journalists”.

RT chief Ms Simonyan said the closure included the personal accounts of some senior staff working in the UK.
She told Russian state media: “They haven’t explained the reasons and I think they can’t explain them because there can’t be any reasons. We have an absolutely transparent operation there, absolutely transparent funding. There have never been any complaints in this regard at all.

“They have failed to defeat us by simply vilifying us, by picking on our broadcast, so they decided to try the banking flank: ‘Try broadcasting when all your accounts have been closed.’ Yet we will try.”

RT, which is run by the Kremlin, has previously been accused of biased reporting and found in breach of Ofcom regulations.

The UK broadcasting regulator criticised a programme in which RT claimed the BBC had “staged” a chemical weapons attack for a news report on Syria.
Ofcom ruled that parts of the RT programme were “materially misleading”.

Russian media outlets have made inroads into the UK recently.

The state-funded Sputnik news agency set up in Edinburgh in August to broadcast live radio programmes from Scotland. It said its goal was “telling the untold” to Scottish and UK audiences, although critics say it will act as a Kremlin mouthpiece.

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The UK would like Russia to explain how a thermobaric rocket launcher ended up in Ukraine

At the end of September, in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe located a Russian-made rocket launch system that had never been exported to the Ukrainian military.

The system, a 220mm TOS-1 Buratino thermobaric multiple rocket launch system, is one of the most blatant pieces of evidence to surface so far showing Russia’s involvement in the almost two-year-long war. And now the UK wants Russia to answer for its presence in the war-torn east.

“The Buratino is produced in Russia and has never been exported to Ukraine,” the UK’s Delegation to the OSCE said in a tweeted statement Wednesday. “We are requesting the delegation of the Russian Federation to explain the presence of the TOS-1 Buratino in this training area.”

Russia has repeatedly denied claims of sending troops or equipment into Ukraine.

The OSCE, which provides almost daily updates on the situation in the country, identified the Buratino on Sep. 25 parked in a training area near the Ukrainian city of Luhansk. A few days later it was gone.

The Buratino is a mobile piece of rocket artillery mounted on a tank chassis that can blanket large target areas with fuel-loaded rockets. The rockets saturate the area before igniting, giving the impression that the Buratino is a type of “flamethrower.”

While other multiple-rocket launch systems, such as the BM-21 Grad and BM-30 Smerch, have been used in Ukraine, the TOS-1 is recognized as a significantly more devastating weapon.

In the past, Russia has sold the system to Iraq and at least one has recently been spotted in Syria, helping with the current Russian-backed offensive in the west of the country.

[Ukrainian soldier killed by rebel fire in eastern Ukraine]

More than 7,000 people have died since the conflict in Ukraine began in 2014. Wednesday marked the first death caused by hostile fire in a month when a Ukrainian soldier was killed by small arms fire. Aside from the occasional cease-fire violation, a shaky truce has held between the Ukrainian military and Russian-back separatists since early September.

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Russia Celebrates Election of Pro-Kremlin Party Leader in Britain, ‘Admirer of Karl Marx’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn latest extremist figure in European politics to align with Vladimir Putin

Russian state media have extolled the recent election of Jeremy Corbyn to the head of Britain’s Labour Party as the Kremlin continues to expand its influence among European political extremists.

Corbyn received nearly 60 percent of the votes in Saturday’s leadership election for Labour, the major opposition party in Britain once led by Tony Blair. The left-wing Member of Parliament has been critical of NATO and expressed opposition to imposing sanctions on Russia for its support of separatists in Ukraine. He also previously referred to members of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” when he welcomed them to Britain.

Russian news outlets lauded the victory of a candidate with views closer to the Kremlin line. RT, a Russian-funded propaganda network, noted that Corbyn was “an admirer of Karl Marx” and had won “one of the key races in recent times.”

Neil Clark, a British journalist interviewed by RT, said that his election was “a wonderful day for British democracy.”

“What this campaign showed is a massive disconnect between the establishment elite who told us Corbyn couldn’t win,” he said.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, a columnist for the pro-Kremlin outlet, wrote that Corbyn “has the Establishment on both sides of the Atlantic shaking in their boots.” He praised the new Labour leader for challenging the “lobby” of NATO officials, who have condemned Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea last March and its ongoing provision of weapons, troops, and money to Ukrainian separatists. Nearly 8,000 people have died in the Ukrainian conflict since last April.

“Predictably, the national security button will be pressed as enemies and dark forces are invented to justify NATO’s existence and new members are sought to bolster its budget and cater for the lobbies for which NATO is the cutting edge,” Bancroft-Hinchey wrote.

Corbyn has also called for abolishing Britain’s Trident nuclear system.

The Russian embassy in Britain has traded barbs with David Cameron, the UK’s current prime minister and the leader of the Conservative Party. When Cameron said on Twitter that a Labour Party led by Corbyn is “a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security,” the Russian embassy responded: “Just imagine UK media headlines if Russian President called a leading opposition party threat to national security?”

Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, tweeted congratulations to Corbyn and also expressed “hope for positive change” in relations.

In Washington, John Kirby, a spokesman for the Department of State, said on Monday that, while American officials do not comment on “internal political matters,” the U.S.-UK alliance will “continue very, very strong” regardless of changes in party leadership. The Obama administration has assumed several positions seemingly at odds with Corbyn, including U.S. support for economic sanctions on Russia.

Corbyn is the latest European leader to express a desire for closer relations with President Vladimir Putin. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, has denied reports that her party received millions in loans from a Russian bank as a result of her support for the Kremlin. Le Pen has visited Moscow several times and praised the Russian president.

Even members of France’s main center-right party, the Republicans, have moved closer to Putin in recent years. Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president who leads the party, has said that “Crimea can’t be blamed for choosing Russia.”

Additionally, far-left and far-right politicians leading Greece and Hungary, respectively, have met repeatedly with Putin and expressed admiration for him.

Putin’s courting of extremist politicians, including some who now lead their countries, could undermine U.S. and European efforts to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. While some of the fighting in eastern Ukraine has subsided, there are also reports that Russian troops have continued to supply advanced weaponry to the separatists, including T-72 tanks and anti-aircraft missiles.

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Fallon pledges Ukrainian support during military exercises

The UK will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has pledged.

Mr Fallon is on a two-day visit to Ukraine, where he also promised that Britain will train another 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

He made the announcement in the Zhytomyr region as he watched a military exercise, from where the BBC’s David Stern reports.


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West Needs to Up the Ante in Infowar

The West is finally coming to a belated comprehension of the power of the Kremlin media machine. The Soviet Union is no more, but the Kremlin holds a media hegemony over 142 million citizens of Russia and 93 million residents of former Soviet republics, for whom Russian is a native language, or fluent second language.

The European Endowment for Democracy project that I co-authored sought a solution to this problem. Our research led us to an understanding of how different the situation is today than during the Cold War era.

In the 20th century, the goal of Western media broadcasts in Russian, like the BBC World Service and Radio Free Europe, was to get information through the Iron Curtain. The battle was fought for alternative points of view against censorship. Today, television is under the strict control of the Kremlin, but the public has access to different media sources through the Internet.

Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, Moldova, and the Baltics can get information from a wide range of sources: Kremlin-run, local, or Western, all providing sharply contradictory versions of reality.

A good example is Estonia, whose residents, after hearing the competing Russian and Western versions of the events surrounding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine last year, lost faith in reports from both sides.

The Kremlin blurs the boundary between fact and fiction. Informational and analytical segments are prepared using cinematic techniques and sensationalism. The disinformation is arranged into a coherent narrative. News shows concentrate on military actions in Ukraine, Western conspiracies against Russia, and positive stories about President Vladimir Putin. The president ensures stability in a country surrounded by enemies.

These emotions are intensified through costly documentary films about the glorious battles of World War II and betrayal by liberals, dishonoring themselves by collaborating with enemies of the motherland.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin-run media ignores the local news and important social issues. Analysts from the European Endowment for Democracy recommended creating a news agency that would concentrate on those very details that Moscow strives to avoid.

This type of media source would be unlikely to succeed, nor should it try, in convincing its audience of the veracity of one particular version of the events surrounding a passenger plane crash in Ukraine, for example, but it could focus on local stories about hospitals, schools, and courts, and therefore be more relevant.

Ideally, this approach to program creation should correspond to development priorities. When the British Department for International Development supports judicial reform in Ukraine or Moldova, that should be accompanied by the production of television shows and documentaries about the workings of the judicial system. The BBC charity Media Action is already helping Ukrainian public television prepare short films about the lives of young people in a conflict zone. The budget for this project is tiny, but such projects are essential.

High-quality shows aren’t cheap. A full-fledged television project like BBC Russia would cost at least 20 million euros a year. Putin knows well that the media is just as important as doctors and soldiers. The West made a big mistake in the 1990s when they left media development in the former Soviet Union to the will of the free market. The media was seized by oligarchs and corrupt regimes.

Reducing financing for media sources like Radio Free Europe was seen as a peacetime bonus in the West. But today, the cost of those savings is high.

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British troops learn what it’s like to face Russian forces as they train Ukrainians

British troops sent to train Ukrainian forces fighting battling Russian-backed separatists are also learning from their pupils

As the 10-man patrol picked its way down the lakeside track, the pine forest ahead suddenly erupted with gunfire.

The Ukrainian troops took cover and fired back at their unseen ambushers, throwing smoke grenades to cover their retreat, while bandaging up a wounded comrade writhing on the ground.
Moments later, as armoured personnel carriers sped to their rescue, the men clambered aboard and departed to be debriefed by British Army teachers watching the drill from a nearby rise.

In Western Ukraine, a small force of British trainers is trying to teach the beleaguered Ukrainian army battlefield skills that will keep them alive against more heavily-armed Russian-backed separatists.

But British soldiers of 1st Bn The Yorkshire Regiment and 4 Armoured Medical Regiment are finding they can also learn from their pupils. Troops who have spent a decade honing skills against lightly-armed Taliban fighters and their roadside bombs are learning from those who have spent a year facing the very different threat of Vladimir Putin’s tanks and heavy artillery.

WO2 Steven Harrison, company sergeant major, said: “We try to learn as much from them as we are trying to teach them.

“We have never been to war with an overmatched force before. Wherever we have been, we have always been the better equipped, better manpowered, better disciplined army, so some of the lessons that they have been learning are things that we can definitely understand ourselves and get back into our training cycle.”

Around 75 British troops have already trained 1,000 Ukrainians in life-saving battlefield medicine and basic infantry tactics. Courses are being widened to include new lessons in urban combat, dealing with mines and building stronger fortifications. The aim is to have taught 2,000 by the end of the year.

“It is relaxed but we have very sharply in mind that the guys that we are training are going to be at high end operations pretty soon after,” said the 38-year-old from Barnsley.
“They are in a pretty difficult fight.”

During their lessons, the British troops can point to years of hard-earned experience in Afghanistan, but the Ukrainians see that as a very different conflict.

He said: “They definitely see, rightly or wrongly, Afghanistan and Iraq as a peacekeeping mission. They don’t see it as how we see it, the sharp end.”

Kiev has asked without success for the West to supply arms including anti-tank weapons. The Ukrainian troops being taught at Zhytomyr, two hours drive west of Kiev and 500 miles from the heavy fighting around Donetsk, are also not content with defensive lessons.

“They have asked us to teach offensive tactics, but we are not in that field, it’s defensive tactics we are teaching and how to preserve life,” said Lt Col Paul Kinkaid, a training specialist with the Adjutant General’s Corps.

Drills honed in Afghanistan in the face of Helmand’s homemade bombs may not be suitable for eastern Ukraine, where the great threat is artillery and snipers, he said.
“The Ukrainians weren’t lacking anything, they are a credible armed force, but they want different ways of doing business.

“Some of our drills have been very deliberate because the threat that we focused on in Afghanistan was from improvised explosive devices, so they were slower than they need to be here.
“Obstacle crossing, for example a bridge, was very slow, very deliberate because in Afghanistan it would be a choke point where IEDs could be laid, whereas the Ukrainians don’t have that time.
“They say that at the front line if they are exposed for more than 11 minutes they can start to get hit by artillery.”

The Ukrainian soldiers learning these first courses will themselves become instructors for their comrades.

One Ukrainian officer, who said he went by the nom de guerre of Maj Zam, said: “The best thing is the methodical nature of the training. We want to see less theory and more practice.”
Asked about whether it would improve the Ukrainian forces, he said: “In terms of the whole country, I hope there should be an improvement, because it cannot get much worse.”

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The UK Beefs up Ukraine Armed forces training program.

The Defence Secretary has announced further enhancements of the UK training programme for Ukrainian armed forces while visiting the country.

The latest additions to the UK training programme will see an increase the skills being provided, to include ground threat awareness, for example identifying mines and IEDs, defensive operations in an urban environment, operational planning, and engineering expertise.

The move will build on an existing programme of medical, infantry, logistics and tactical intelligence training which has so far been successfully provided to around 1000 Ukrainian troops since March, and is designed to increase the resilience of Ukrainian forces and reduce casualties.

Around 250 personnel will be trained in August alone in additional infantry, medical, and survival skills previously announced by the Defence Secretary during the NATO defence ministers meeting in June.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

Our training programme for the Ukrainian Armed Forces continues to be well-received and highly valued by troops and commanders in the east of the country. Since March, 13 UK training teams have deployed across 8 locations and we expect to have trained around 2,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces by the end of the year.

By adding further much-needed skills and stepping up the pace of our programme we can provide more and better training, improving the resilience of Ukrainian forces and further reducing casualties resulting from the on-going conflict.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement on a visit to Ukraine, during which he met with Prime Minister Yatseniuk and Defence Minister Poltorak to discuss the situation in the east of the country and the programme of support being provided by the UK and allies.

Mr. Fallon also discussed implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement, and called on all sides in the conflict to respect the terms of the agreement to bring an end to hostilities in the eastern Ukraine.

Following the bilateral meetings, the Defence Secretary visited a training site west of the capital Kiev, where UK military personnel are currently training Ukrainian troops far from the fighting in the east.

The Defence Secretary met UK trainers and Ukrainian personnel to see first-hand demonstrations of the infantry and medical skills being provided through the programme.

Putin’s war on the West

HE IS ridiculed for his mendacity and ostracised by his peers. He presides over a free-falling currency and a rapidly shrinking economy. International sanctions stop his kleptocratic friends from holidaying in their ill-gotten Mediterranean villas. Judged against the objectives Vladimir Putin purported to set on inheriting Russia’s presidency 15 years ago—prosperity, the rule of law, westward integration—regarding him as a success might seem bleakly comical.

But those are no longer his goals, if they ever really were. Look at the world from his perspective, and Mr Putin is winning. For all his enemies’ machinations, he remains the Kremlin’s undisputed master. He has a throttlehold on Ukraine, a grip this week’s brittle agreement in Minsk has not eased. Domesticating Ukraine through his routine tactics of threats and bribery was his first preference, but the invasion has had side benefits. It has demonstrated the costs of insubordination to Russians; and, since he thinks Ukraine’s government is merely a puppet of the West (the supposed will of its people being, to his ultracynical mind, merely a cover for Western intrigues), the conflict has usefully shown who is boss in Russia’s backyard. Best of all, it has sown discord among Mr Putin’s adversaries: among Europeans, and between them and America.

His overarching aim is to divide and neuter that alliance, fracture its collective approach to security, and resist and roll back its advances. From his tantrums over the Middle East to his invasion of Georgia and multiple misadventures in Ukraine, Mr Putin has sometimes seemed to stumble into accidental disputes with the West, driven by a paranoid fear of encirclement. In hindsight it seems that, given his outlook, confrontation may have been inevitable. Either way, the contest he insists on can no longer be dodged. It did not begin in poor Ukraine and will not end there. Prevailing will require far more resolve than Western leaders have so far mustered.

What the Kremlin wants

Last year Mr Putin lopped off Crimea, redrawing Europe’s map by force. The war he hallucinated into reality in eastern Ukraine has killed thousands. Even if the ceasefire scheduled for February 15th holds (unlikely, on past form), he seems certain to get what he wants there: a wretched little quasi-state in the Donbas, which he can use to stall and warp Ukraine’s development. Yet these incursions are only his latest bid to bludgeon former Soviet states into submission, whether through energy blackmail, trade embargoes or war. For Mr Putin the only good neighbour is a weak one; vassals are better than allies. Only the wilfully blind would think his revanchism has been sated. Sooner or later it may encompass the Baltic states—members of both the European Union and NATO, and home to Russian minorities of the kind he pledges to “protect”.

The EU and NATO are Mr Putin’s ultimate targets. To him, Western institutions and values are more threatening than armies. He wants to halt their spread, corrode them from within and, at least on the West’s fragile periphery, supplant them with his own model of governance. In that model, nation-states trump alliances, states are dominated by elites, and those elites can be bought. Here, too, he has enjoyed some success. From France to Greece to Hungary he is cultivating parties on Europe’s far right and left: anyone who might lobby for Russian interests in the EU, or even help to prise the union apart (see pages 19-22). The biggest target is NATO’s commitment to mutual self-defence. Discredit that—by, for example, staging a pro-Russian uprising in Estonia or Latvia, which other NATO members decline to help quell—and the alliance crumbles.

Mr Putin’s stranglehold on his own country means he has time and freedom for this campaign. As he has amply demonstrated, he has no qualms about sacrificing Russians’ well-being to satisfy his coterie’s greed or to further his geopolitical schemes. He persecutes those who protest. And in the echo chamber his propaganda creates, the nationalism he peddles as a consolation for domestic woes is flourishing.

What is to be done?

The first task for the West is to recognise the problem. Barack Obama has blithely regarded Russia as an awkward regional power, prone to post-imperial spasms but essentially declining. Historians will be amazed that, with Ukraine aflame, the West was still debating whether to eject Russia from the G8. To paraphrase Trotsky, Western leaders may not have been interested in Mr Putin, but Mr Putin was interested in them.

The next step is to craft a response as supple as the onslaught. Part of the trouble is that Mr Putin plays by different rules; indeed, for him, there are no inviolable rules, nor universal values, nor even cast-iron facts (such as who shot down flight MH17). There are only interests. His Russia has graduated from harassing ambassadors and assassinating critics to invasions. This is one of his assets: a readiness to stoop to methods the West cannot emulate without sullying itself.

The current version of this quandary is whether, if the latest ceasefire fails, to arm Ukraine. Proponents think defensive weapons would inflict a cost on Mr Putin for fighting on. But anyone who doubts his tolerance of mass casualties should recall his war in Chechnya. If arms really are to deter him, the West must be united and ready to match his inevitable escalation with still more powerful weapons (along, eventually, with personnel to operate them). Yet the alliance is split over the idea. Mr Putin portrays the war as a Western provocation: arming Ukraine would turn that from fantasy to something like fact, while letting him expose the limits of Western unity and its lack of resolve—prizes he cherishes. If fresh Russian aggression galvanises the alliance, arming Ukraine will become a more potent threat. Until that point, it would backfire.

A better strategy is to eschew his methods and rely on an asset that he, in turn, cannot match: a way of life that people covet. If that seems wishy-washy beside his tanks, remember that the crisis began with Ukrainians’ desire to tilt towards the EU—and Mr Putin’s determination to stop them. Better than arms, the West must urgently give Ukraine as much aid as it needs to build a state and realise that dream (and as much advice as it takes to ensure the cash is not misspent or stolen). The IMF deal announced on February 12th should be only a start. Mr Putin wants Ukraine to be a lesson in the perils of leaning West. It should instead be an exemplar of the rewards.

Just as urgently, those former Soviet countries that have joined Western institutions must be buttressed and reassured. If the case for sending arms to the Donbas is doubtful, that for basing NATO troops in the Baltics is overwhelming, however loudly Mr Putin squeals. Western leaders must make it clear, to him and their own people, that they will defend their allies, and the alliance—even if the struggle is covert and murky.

And it isn’t only its allies who appreciate the West’s virtues. So do many Russians, including shameless Putinists who denounce the West’s decadence but exploit its schools and stockmarkets. It is long past time for every Russian parliamentarian and senior official to join the sanctions list. Far from being relaxed as, after Minsk, fellow-travellers may suggest, sanctions must be tightened—and sanctions-busting curtailed (see page 64). In the end, they will prove a stronger lever than weapons.

At the same time, the West should use every available means to help ordinary Russians, including Russian-sympathisers in the Baltics and Ukraine, learn the bloody, venal truth about Mr Putin. It should let them know that Russia, a great nation dragged down a terrible path, will be embraced when it has rulers who treat the world, and their own people, with respect not contempt, however long that takes.

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