The BBC has just reported the arrival of a British warship in Ukraine. A government defence minister has been shown driving a Ukrainian navy patrol boat, and speaking to relatives of the sailors recently detained by the Russian navy. He has said that the presence of our warship is to send a ‘message’ to the Russian government, and to show British support for the Ukrainian position in this dispute. My response is simple. Why?
The turbulent history of this now-sovereign nation is the subject of record. Part of Russia until the 1917 revolution, they attempted to create an independent country outside of the control of the Soviet Union, and failed. It was broken up, with parts under the control of Poland, The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. After the German invasion in WW2, many Ukrainians welcomed the occupying Nazis. They fought alongside them, acted as guards in concentration camps, and carried out recorded massacres of civilians, including the deaths of 100,000 Poles in Volhynia. Following the defeat of the Germans, some supporters remained active as ‘partisans’ until as late as 1950.
Eventually, Ukraine was granted the right to be a self-governing part of the Soviet Union, retaining its language, and becoming represented in the United nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine sought complete independence, which it achieved in 1991. Since 2000, politics in that country have become more focused on being part of Europe, and also featured a right-wing bias, with some people openly supporting and espousing ‘Nazi-style’ ideas and policies. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, supposedly due to the overwhelming support of the people in that region. This created an international incident that continues to this day, with both sides at loggerheads over historical claims to Crimea. There has been open warfare in the Donbass region, and ongoing incidents between the two countries, with the most recent being the seizure of two Ukrainian navy vessels by the Russians.
This is all very involved, and no doubt tragic for those involved. But it is not our business. It is not up to us to support a country with a dubious government, and a recent history of supporting Extreme Right ideals. No more is it our business to issue warnings or ‘messages’ to Russia, especially when we are in no position to ever back up those feeble threats. There was a time when the appearance of a British Gunboat on a foreign shore would signal an intent. That intent, rightly or wrongly, would have been backed up by the biggest navy in the world at the time, and a huge colonial war machine that was feared by every nation on Earth. But that time has gone, and has not existed since the 1950s. And if such things have to be used at all, there are many other places where it might have more effect, or be of more use. This cynical support of Ukraine is packed with ulterior motives, none of which are remotely to do with any real concern over the fate of some sailors, or the future of Crimea.
It is high time that Britain realised that the sun has long set on our former Empire. We have enough problems to deal with at home, instead of sabre-rattling to show support of a country that may not even deserve it. As a country, we need to get over ourselves, and face facts. It isn’t 1910 anymore, and someone in the Ministry of Defence needs to check the date on a calendar.