Chris Mendes

Chris Mendes

Party Leader

March 11, 2022

Punishing the Russian people and standing with Ukraine are not the same thing

The economic warfare we have launched in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, doesn’t hurt the ‘bad guys’, it hurts ordinary people including the poorest and it needs to stop.

Vladimir Putin’s violent invasion of Ukraine, killing thousands and displacing millions, is morally bankrupt and the Ukrainian people have every right to resist and defend the integrity of their homeland.

And while a near-universal consensus on this point is welcome, such a consensus and lack of debate about our response is not.

The British government has legislated to enact a series of trade, financial, aviation and immigration restrictions on Russia, and subsequently, a never-ending list of private companies from Sainsbury’s to Netflix have withdrawn their commerce – quite possibly after coordinated pleas from Western governments.

But the intention of any intervening action at a time of armed conflict is ultimately to reduce harm to human beings. So what does this economic warfare actually achieve?

We know trade restrictions harm Russian businesses, consumers and workers through the loss of jobs. But who does these restrictions help? The Ukranians? Harming Russians only helps Ukranians if it stops Russians from harming them.

So which exactly between the disabling of credit card payments, the withdrawal of certain goods and services from supermarkets, and the Premier League suspending football match broadcasts is going to lead to T14 Russian battle tanks to disengage and return to base?

Consumer prices, manufacturing costs, unemployment and poverty will go up, and quality of life for millions of Russian families will suffer.

St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

These are changes in the everyday life of ordinary people, not the elites that run the country and invade other countries. The rich and powerful that are responsible for war, will remain unharmed by the economic reality on the ground.

What kind of callous nation have we become in deliberately reducing wholly innocent human beings to worthless pawns, whose livelihoods are of no concern, as a vague and feeble attempt to rehabilitate a dictator?

The sanctions are designed to please public opinion

Do we really think these sanctions will make any meaningful difference to this war? Are we so naive to think that the Kremlin didn’t anticipate them beforehand?

So why do our politicians do it? Is it really to help the Ukrainians as they claim? Some of them are probably foolish enough to think so. But for the more senior figures with broader considerations, such as the Prime Minister, it isn’t.

The obvious truth is that the only way we can really help a country under attack from a larger army, would be for Challenger tanks, RAF jets and infantry regiments to join the fight and destroy the invading forces.

But another obvious truth is that military intervention of this kind would undoubtedly lead to far greater harm to human life, rather than less, and potentially without limit.

Russian T-72B3M tanks in Simferopol, Crimea (Source: Russian social media)

Our economic intervention on the other hand, like a great majority of government decisions, is to defend the integrity of the government in the court of public opinion, as they hastily judge it, and defend its future electability.

Rightly, millions of people demand justice for what has happened, I’m one of them, and hopefully one day when the conflict is over the Ukrainian people will get it.

But politicians, especially of the calibre that we have today with neither courage or conviction, are ultra-sensitive to their vulnerability in this regard and are desperate to signal otherwise. And in that desperation often comes ill-considered and utterly unprincipled action that does more harm than good.

This economic virtue signalling at the expense of innocent people in Russia does absolutely no good at all and needs to stop.

European and NATO meddling has contributed to this disaster

What can we do to help? We should make room for Ukrainian refugees in need of a new home, teach them English and help them to find their feet.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, newly established Russia surrendered vast territory in Europe and Asia, and the West had its chance to secure long-term peace and stability.

But for the past thirty years we’ve pursued NATO expansion and confrontation with Russia, using Ukraine as a battering ram in the process, for reasons that have yet to be properly explained to the public.

The more justifiable sanction would be to impose on governments and global institutions a ban on meddling in potentially life-threatening affairs, which they don’t sufficiently understand, cannot adequately anticipate and cannot ultimately control when it goes wrong.

And who pays the price? Not the elites playing games with people’s lives. The innocent and powerless on the ground who didn’t choose to offend anyone and just want a quiet and happy life.