MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMEMT For once we have to stand up to Putin
Published: 23:38 GMT, 19 July 2014 | Updated: 23:38 GMT, 19 July 2014
The horror and grief of the Ukraine tragedy have persuaded a distracted world to focus once again on this tortured corner of Europe.
For some months now an intense and vicious war has been dragging unspectacularly on, a war in which the Ukrainians have been achieving some success against Russian separatists.
There is no doubt that those separatists have been helped, advised and equipped by Moscow.
And there is little doubt that this arm’s length, shadowy policy blew up in Vladimir Putin’s face on Thursday.
Russian-backed individuals, acting in Russia’s interest and with Moscow’s encouragement, are the prime suspects in a mass murder.
It is always wise to be cool after such emotive tragedies, and to wait for facts before reaching firm conclusions.
The site of the outrage is a war zone and there are special difficulties in gathering evidence in such places. But a great mass of circumstantial evidence already points towards the Kremlin.
How should civilised states respond? Our brand-new Defence Secretary, the refreshingly blunt Michael Fallon, has essentially accused President Putin of sponsoring terrorism.
Such powerful language places this country firmly alongside those who desire an unmistakably tough response to this atrocity.
By contrast, the response of the EU and of President Obama to Russia’s recent misdeeds in Ukraine has been extraordinarily weak and divided. France and Germany remain keen to do business with Moscow, and Mr Obama seems to have lost all stomach for intervention.
Western inaction has come at a high cost. Action is now called for. And there must be a position between Mr Fallon’s passion and the White House’s passive quietism. And if we are to bring this savage war to an end before it ruins many more lives, the major powers of Nato are going to have to find such a position.
They need to tell Moscow that enough is enough, in language even Mr Putin can understand, and they must make it clear that not only do they carry a big stick but that they are ready to use it.