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Russia sowing the "seeds of division and instability in Europe"

6 July 2021

The Defence Committee report states that Russia’s ongoing military aggression and subversive behaviour towards neighbouring countries has led to deep instability in Europe. 

The international community has reacted quickly and united behind a clear message to Russia that the world is watching and there will be consequences for illegal military action. However, the UK and NATO must decide what their red lines are, and the appropriate action which could be taken, if Russia crosses a red line.

The UK, with the US, should insist Russia stands by the international agreements it has signed up to and its commitment to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia’s motivations

The report finds that Russia is using its military for coercive diplomacy, to pressure the Ukrainian Government to make concessions in the political settlements for the Donbas and to test Western allies' resolve to come to Ukraine's aid.

It is unclear as to what Russia’s true motivations are. Similarly ambiguous manoeuvres several years ago preceded the invasion of Ukraine, however, the report finds that a full-scale invasion into Eastern Ukraine is unlikely. The report concludes that there are several probable political motives for escalating tensions, driven by regional insecurities and President Putin’s willingness to engage in power politics.

UK and International Response

Lessons have been learnt from the Georgia crisis in 2008 and the Ukraine crisis in 2014, primarily that the international response must be decisive and unanimous in the face of Russian aggression.

The UK should call on Russia to honour its commitments under the Vienna Document and fully co-operate in OSCE meetings to support confidence and security-building measures and de-escalate conflict.

The UK should, with its Allies, use the OSCE mechanisms in the Helsinki Final Act to hold Russia to account, and if necessary, bring the dispute before the OSCE’s Court of Conciliation and Arbitration

Supporting Ukraine

We recommend that the UK Government should put in place a longer term package of support, beyond 2023, to assist Ukraine in building up the capability and resilience of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, particularly the Navy.

The UK and NATO must push back on Russia’s narrative, that Ukrainian membership of NATO, and NATO enlargement in general, would present a threat to Russia’s security. It is Russia, not Ukraine or NATO, whose recent actions destabilise the region.

The UK Government should continue to work closely with Ukraine, NATO and other allies to monitor the situation on the ground, share intelligence and plan a co-ordinated approach for joint action.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:

“Russia’s military aggression and subversive behaviour are obvious attempts to sow the seeds of division and instability in Europe. This should raise alarm bells for the UK and our allies. Russia’s willingness to generate and exploit disinformation to agitate tensions is of deep concern, the recent incident in the Black Sea only underscores the lengths Putin will go to disrupt peace in the region.

“Ukraine is a trusted ally and partner and has been subject to oppressive, persistent provocation from a far more powerful neighbouring state. The UK Government must provide long-term material and diplomatic support for Ukraine, and assist Ukraine in building up the capability and resilience of its Armed Forces.

“So far, the international response to Russian aggression toward Ukraine has been robust and coordinated. It is imperative that the UK Government work with Ukraine, allies and NATO to promote peaceful resolutions between Russia and Ukraine. The West’s greatest defence is unity. Divided, Russia will reap the rewards.”

Further information

Image: MoD