By Daniel Kawczynski
11 October, 2015
London: It is when Parliament is completely united with no dissenting voices when real tactical errors can be made. Parliament should be a forum for rigorous debates where sharply contested specifics are challenged and debated.
This, however, is not the case with regard to British relations with Russia. There is almost unanimous consensus across the whole of the British political spectrum that Russia is not to be trusted, is an aggressor, and has malign ulterior motives in its engagement in Syria.
The vast majority of not only politicians but also media commentators have a very strongly held cold war perspective of the Russian government. No senior elder statesman has appeared to challenge this perspective and no one appears to want to put their head above the parapet. So we continue to cultivate ostracising Russia and not taking any consideration whatsoever of the possibility of engagement and collaborative approach in dealing with some of the horrifying trouble spots which currently exist in North Africa and the Middle East
As this sentiment pervades there are two profound consequences.
1. Many of our many British businesses both large and small in our constituencies have had their opportunities of exporting to Russia wiped out. A great deal of the cultural technical co-operation between our two countries has been snuffed out and we have no sight to an ending of these sanctions as things stand at the moment.
2. We are grappling around in the Middle East trying to contain an ever increasing number of highly toxic conflagrations stretching from Libya to Syria, Yemen and Iraq, which if not sorted out could lead to the worst possible threat to the security of Europe since World War 2. We intervened in Libya and have not managed as yet to stabilise that country. The same can be said of Iraq and now there are many people who challenge Russian intervention within Syria.
I think the Russians have become increasingly concerned about the spread of ISIS in the area and the ramifications the spread of the caliphate state and the potential for radicalisation within their own country and they have decided to intervene. The West has clearly failed to deal with this mounting human chaos and misery in Syria and so believe Russia felt no option but to intervene.
We must acknowledge that we cannot and will not have a complete domination of western influence throughout North African and the Middle East. Indeed, it is vital we put aside our differences with Russia and work constructively with her to ensure this appalling threat to stability in our neighbourhood is eliminated.
I very much hope we will start to have a genuine debate in the House about our engagement with Russia to take time to understand their perspective and work collaboratively with them in the UN in order to foster better relations between ourselves.
Whilst of course all of this is happening, our strong NATO alliance in Europe will of course continue and I have called for greater NATO presence in Poland and the Baltic state. The new demarcation line between Russia and NATO Europe is here and it is here to stay and a clear message to President Putin is that we will not allow destabilisation for our NATO partners. But let us put our difference aside, work collaboratively in the Middle East as genuine partners to try and tackle this growing threat. We had to put aside our differences during WW2 to defeat fascism and the differences then between Stalin and Churchill, one might argue, were even great than they are today. Nevertheless, that agreement came into play because of the necessity to deal with such an ultimate threat to both entities. We are approaching the moment when ISIS could become a rapidly increasing threat to both Europe and Russia. Let us put our differences aside and work to defeat them.
Daniel Kawczynski, British Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham, is Member of Foreign Affairs Select Committee