When communism collapsed in the 1990s, the shadow of war in Europe appeared to have been lifted. Our expectation of peace has been fundamental.
It led to our values being taken for granted. Cynicism about our institutions flourished. Some have even nurtured scorn for the idea of the West and our open, democratic societies.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ended an era.
There can be no doubt now about where we stand or why it matters. The horrifying images of tanks rolling down residential streets, of flats being shelled, of rockets hitting playgrounds, of innocent civilians dying… there is no ambiguity.
There is right and wrong.
This invasion is utterly wrong and these acts are war crimes.
At the same time, we have seen the heroic defiance of the Ukrainian people. Their bravery, fortitude and humour. Their refusal to surrender their country, even at the cost of their own lives.
The contrast between President Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin is stark.
Putin’s attempts to mislead and confuse succeeded when it came to the Crimea, Syria and beyond. This time, he has only succeeded in confusing his own army and uniting most of the world against him.
German politics has undergone a watershed. Switzerland is no longer neutral. Sanctions, asset freezes and banking suspensions stretch the globe from Latin America to the far east. Even China has stopped talking about NATO ‘provocation’.
The clear and repeated warnings from the United States and our own intelligence agencies proved entirely correct, while every assurance from the Kremlin and its fellow travellers was a lie.
We can be proud of the role of our country. The UK has trained over 22,000 members of the Ukrainian army. We sent over 2,000 of our NLAW anti-tank weapons before the invasion began. We continue to send supplies and hardware.
The prime minister has been speaking to president Zelenskyy every day and led the effort to exclude Russia from the SWIFT banking system. Nothing is off the table in terms of further sanctions.
Putin must fail.
His morally bankrupt regime must fail. And the Russian oligarchs who have based themselves here, while maintaining their role there, must choose.
We have asked too few questions of the foreign money that has bought high-value property, or even our football clubs, serviced by London’s lawyers, accountants and advisors.
Tolerance needs to be replaced by transparency and action.
Yet equally, our issue is not with the Russian people – or the many Russians living in the UK who share our horror at Putin’s autocratic crimes. Most are as opposed to his actions as Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
Peterborough is home to so many people from eastern Europe.
Not only do we have the relatives of those under siege in Ukrainian cities, but also those from the countries nearby, who understandably fear what may happen next.
The Baltic states and Poland are members of NATO.
Our commitment to defend their borders from Russian aggression is absolute.
It is heartbreaking that we cannot go further to help Ukraine without risking a direct war with Russia, with consequences that would be hard to contain or control.
Nevertheless, Putin is not achieving his objectives.
As his frustration grows, the deliberate bombardment of civilians is increasing, to appalling effect.
Cities may fall, but this occupation will never be accepted. Ultimately, it must fail. Slava Ukraini!