Slaughter of innocents in Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's forces shows why the world needs a 'Democratic League' – Scotsman comment

The destruction of democratic Ukraine by the forces of Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin is becoming hard to watch. But we must.

We owe it to the people of Ukraine not to look away from the ongoing slaughter as they bravely fight on against the most terrible odds. They are experiencing what the UK would have faced in 1940 had the Nazis won the Battle of Britain.

And we owe it to ourselves. The horror unfolding in Ukraine should be burned into our memories as a lasting reminder of the cost of liberal democracies letting their guard down and believing they can deal with the devil.

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We must remember the bravery of the people like the 13 Ukrainian soldiers on Zmiinyi Island who refused to surrender to a Russian warship and paid with their lives.

We must remember the brutality of the Russian forces which have been carrying out “indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals”, according to Amnesty International.

“The Russian military has shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas. Some of these attacks may be war crimes,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general.

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And we must also remember the words of Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, who is said to be at the top of a kill list drawn up by the Kremlin, in a chilling echo of the Nazis' plans for Churchill.

The symbolic support of lighting up Downing Street in Ukrainian colours may be heartfelt but it has little practical effect (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)The symbolic support of lighting up Downing Street in Ukrainian colours may be heartfelt but it has little practical effect (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The symbolic support of lighting up Downing Street in Ukrainian colours may be heartfelt but it has little practical effect (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Ukraine, said Zelensky from a secret location, had been “left alone in defence of our state”. “Who is ready to fight with us? Honestly – I do not see such [help]. I ask them [western countries], are you with us? They answer that they are with us. But they are not ready to take us to the [Nato] alliance. Today, I asked the 27 leaders of Europe whether Ukraine will be in Nato. I asked directly. Everyone is afraid. They do not answer.”

The cold, hard reality is that Nato is not going to risk a Third World War by sending its forces to defend Ukraine. The chance to take the country under the alliance’s protection has passed.

Instead, the West should now seek to wage economic warfare which causes such a political crisis in Russia that Putin is overthrown. However, we may not even do that, despite the danger that Putin will see out the storm, emerging emboldened and even more powerful.

Whatever happens, the lesson of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine is that the world’s democracies have to be there for one another in their hour of need or we will find ourselves once again sitting idly by and watching as another democracy falls under the heel of a tyrant’s jackboot.

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Finland and Sweden should quickly join Nato, but it needs to expand its horizons beyond the North Atlantic to the whole world.

And this new organisation could and should do more than mutual defence. An international club of democracies, in which membership came with economic advantages, would encourage other nations to join.

When the Iron Curtain fell, the countries of Eastern Europe could, like Belarus, have fallen under the control of new dictators. Most did not because of the desire for the same prosperity and freedom as the countries of the European Union. The goal of membership turned them into liberal democracies, although some have been slipping back into old ways.

A ‘Democratic League’ – combining the military and, to an extent, through mutually beneficial trade deals, economic strength of many nations – could have a similar effect but on a global scale.

And never again would the free world be forced to look on helplessly while the forces of a murderous, blood-crazed despot unleashed hell on innocent civilians and the brave soldiers trying to defend them.

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