Even the mildest Russian territorial goal now is totally unacceptable

News Letter editorial on Wednesday February 23 2022:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

We report today the former Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken saying that events in Ukraine could inadvertently trigger a world war.

Mr Aiken is a sober voice and a man of huge military experience, including having had the rare honour of being put in charge of a Royal Navy nuclear submarine.

The scenario that he outlines is a worst case one and for various reasons must be very unlikely to come to pass.

Nations around the world are far less prone to major conflicts than they were a century ago.

At the same time though, Mr Aiken is plainly justified in his observation that no-one was expecting a global conflict in either the summer of 1914 or of 1939.

Thus it is important to be vigilant about how tensions and localised disputes can unravel in disastrous ways.

There is another respect in which to be very anxious right now: the possibility that three nations that are at best wary of Europe and America, at worst positively hostile — Russia, China and Iran — could take advantage of current events in order to achieve long cherished regional goals through aggression.

And even if a Russian invasion of Ukraine does not lead to a wider war, it will on its own be a completely unacceptable precedent of a major international country invading, or taking territory by force, in the 22nd century.

One of the most benign possible outcomes now is that Russia merely seizes the pro Russian enclaves in Ukraine, as it did Crimea — and even that is an utterly unacceptable abuse of power to change borders unilaterally.

The immediate announcement of sanctions by a range of countries including the UK is a necessary first step but it is far from clear whether these initial penalties are enough, or whether they will even cause President Vladimir Putin much concern.

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