After Russia invades Ukraine, SNP should reconsider its opposition to nuclear weapons – John McLellan

Waking to the news that a fire had broken out at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant after being shelled by Russian forces, Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a man impervious to reason.

Total victory and the complete subjugation of Ukraine into a new Russian Empire is the only goal and the path to a negotiated settlement which recognises Ukrainian sovereignty has been all but blocked.

Only Nato’s nuclear deterrence stands between Putin and invasion of the Baltic states, but his willingness to massacre thousands of civilians he regards as Russians must indicate his lack of concern for innocent lives extends to all Russian citizens.

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For the people of Moldova, with its pro-Russian rebel strip of Transnistria, and Georgia, neither of which are Nato members, Putin’s cross-hairs are on their backs. Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis has the unity and resolve of the Nato alliance been so necessary, and if brute strength is all Putin really respects then that is what must be displayed.

If it requires the immediate axing of all Russian gas and oil exports then so be it, no matter the impact on energy prices here. It is a small price to pay compared to that being paid by the people of Mariupol and Kharkiv right now and could soon be paid by the citizens of Chisenau and Tblisi, and then Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn.

The UK’s doors to Ukrainian refugees should be fully open and there should be no pussyfooting around legal barriers preventing seizure of Putin allies’ assets. If it means Chelsea briefly becoming a state-owned football club, so what?

It is true the principles of rules-based democracies must be upheld, but if the rules protect oligarchs who give succour to a tyrant they must change, just as the Duma has changed Russian law to imprison people speaking the truth about Ukraine.

Unfortunately for ordinary Russians, the ruin of Ukraine must also mean the immediate ruin of their economy to have any chance of averting a full-scale European war.

Vladimir Putin needs to be kept in check by the threat from Nato's nuclear deterrent, including the submarines based at Faslane (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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Here, the Scottish Government has supported the ending of commercial contact with Russian companies, but it should also reverse any economic and industrial policies which hamper the ability to cope with the impact of a total trade embargo.

While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had to put SNP president Michael Russell back in his box after his idiotic comparison between Ukraine and Scotland, if there is indeed to be some sort of independence referendum in the next year or so, which looks less likely by the hour, the SNP must reconsider its attitude towards the nuclear deterrent.

If the Eastern European crisis has put paid to any residual notion that the SNP can revive its old policy of leaving Nato, its policy of shutting the Clyde nuclear bases is incompatible with Nato’s nuclear-led strategy.

While many members don’t host nuclear weapons, only the SNP threatens to disrupt the deterrent by ordering bases to close. Apart from there being no viable plan to replace the 6,000 people directly employed at Faslane, it would take years for a suitable alternative to be found, so such a divisive policy plays right into Putin’s hands.

There is the view that nuclear bases just makes them a target. It’s only just over 30 years ago that we were living with those blast-impact diagrams should the Russians launch a first strike attack on Helensburgh and there was a post-apocalyptic painting of an overgrown, ruined Edinburgh hanging in a Labour councillor’s office in the City Chambers.

Sadly, it is probably only the prospect of a Nato missile turning Putin into glass which prevents him ordering his cowed generals to press the button and turn that into reality. As he did in Grozny in 1999 and Aleppo in 2016, he is condemning Ukrainian cities to that fate by non-nuclear means.

Outside Edinburgh City Chambers is the statue of General Stanisław Maczek, a true hero ostracised by Russian-backed communists, who saw out his days in Edinburgh until his death aged 102 in 1994, an embodiment of Eastern Europe’s century of turmoil, of resistance to tyranny and indeed of Scotland’s welcome for refugees.

After First World War service in the Austrian Army, he fought the Bolsheviks in the Polish-Soviet war of 1918-21 and again faced Russians in 1939 after Stalin and Hitler divided Poland. Leading Free Polish forces, he fought the Nazis in 1940 in France and again from 1944 to victory. Never has his homeland needed such an inspirational figure as now.

But what was his homeland? Poland didn’t exist when he was born, and he was brought up in what was known as Lemberg, now better known by its Ukrainian name, Lviv. As Polish Lvov, it was part of the once-vast commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania until grabbed by Austria in 1772, remaining Austrian until 1918 when it became part of new Poland and then swallowed by the USSR in 1945. Western Ukrainians were not and never will be Russians.

The only way all Ukraine will become a settled Russian satellite is for massacre and human displacement on a scale which will dwarf what happened in East Prussia in 1945 and Grozny in 1999, when an estimated 8,000 civilians died in a city of 300,000.

Putin’s hatred of independent Ukraine was all too obvious from this week’s deranged rant about an “Anti-Russia created by the West”, but do the Russian people and his troops have the stomach for repeating Grozny in every Ukrainian city? As Ukrainian troops regroup for a brutal guerrilla resistance supplied from Hungary and Romania through mountain passes, Galicia will become a killing field for Russian soldiers.

There must now be an assumption that re-establishing old Soviet borders are the least of Putin’s ambitions and what is in effect a total war on democracy, total economic war is the least the West can do.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor in Edinburgh

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