Ukraine War: Warlike rhetoric by Tory and SNP hawks must not overshadow the need for peace talks – Kenny MacAskill MP

“Peace will come. And let it begin with me” sang Tom Paxton. Writing at the time of the Vietnam War, his words certainly don’t seem to apply to the conflict in the Ukraine, where Liz Truss and the SNP’s Westminster hawks seem to revel in war, demanding even more of it.

Thankfully, the United Nations’ Secretary General has been visiting Kiev and Moscow seeking to replace combat with diplomacy. And that’s badly needed as the plight of refugees grows, the threat to the developing world from food shortages increases, and the spectre of nuclear war returns to haunt us all.

Now, I condemn the Russian invasion unequivocally and Ukraine needs to defend itself from attack, that’s for sure. But it’s also the case, as in many wars, that it becomes hard to fathom what it’s all about and this is proving no different.

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According to the Kremlin, the conflict, which had been simmering for years, was about Ukraine joining Nato and the rights of Russian speakers or a Russian minority in the Donbas region. The Minsk Accords which guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty, but precluded the former and provided for autonomy or devolution for the latter, were allowed to fester by Ukraine. Russia’s invasion has now scuppered them anyway, even if they were stated to be Putin’s war aims.

Inna, 53, weeps inside her burnt-out house in Ozera, Ukraine (Picture: Alexey Furman/Getty Images)
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But now Ukraine has confirmed that it’s not seeking to join Nato and a de facto division of the country’s taking place. Sadly, brutality by Russian troops, although it would also be fair to say that atrocities are never a one-way street, make harmonious living in the region far harder.

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Where once people lived side by side, irrespective of language or ethnicity now, it’s bitterness and hatred that reside. Surely, now’s the time to try and forge a peace deal.

Ukraine’s being laid waste to; Russian mothers are grieving their lost conscript sons. But what now are the war aims?

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Ukraine will argue it’s about its survival, and Russia that it’s about its security and the rights of Russian minorities. But given the de facto situation, isn’t there the basis, if not hope, that diplomacy can prevail over destruction?

Listening to Liz Truss, she envisages a war that could run for two to four years. SNP hawks demand ever more flagrant UK intervention, threatening to precipitate a Third World War, in which General Crackpot has already started contemplating limited tactical nuclear strikes. To achieve what?

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Is this about Ukrainian survival and rejecting Russian aggression anymore? There’s a real risk that this becomes about regime change and the removal of Putin. Biden suggested that when going off script, and it certainly looks like some wish to bleed Russia white, but through the sacrifice of Ukraine and her people.

I’ve no time for Putin but war has shored him up. His popularity has soared at home. Hopes that an internal coup will displace him are naïve. It wouldn’t be imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny or a liberal that would replace him, but a marshal or nationalist even more willing to press the button.

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Call me naïve if you like but, as was also sung about Vietnam, “what the hell are we fighting for?” It’s time for peace to be tried.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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