Rishi Sunak’s government was accused by a cross-bench peer, a former Russian oil company boss, of pursuing a “policy of war” on Ukraine. Speaking during a debate on February 24 on the conflict sparked by Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Lord Skidelsky pointed out that Wimbledon’s foreign minister, Lord Ahmed Vladimir Putin, “can stop a war at any stage by stopping an illegal attack”. “And pulls out its forces.
The UK has supplied the Kiev government with weapons, including anti-tank missiles, and helped train thousands of Ukrainian troops since Russia’s invasion of the country began in February 2022.
Criticizing Britain’s approach to the conflict, Lord Skidelsky, who until the beginning of the year was a director of the Russian oil refinery Rosneft, said: “The government’s policy is a policy of war. I support a policy of peace.
“I may be an isolated voice in Britain calling for peace but not in the world. Everyone outside the NATO world is calling for talks and some are inside NATO. I am particularly mindful of French President Macron.”
He added: “I am not privy to secret military intelligence, but such evidence as I have and common sense suggests that neither Russia nor Ukraine can achieve their war objectives in the current course of hostilities.
“So the drive for victory will intensify on both sides. Russia will intensify its air war and NATO will provide Ukraine with more weapons to shoot down Russian planes.
“At what point such escalation leads to the accidental or deliberate deployment of tactical nuclear weapons is anyone’s guess but the risk must remain.”
The war must end “as soon as possible” and that can only be achieved through negotiations based on an armistice, argued Lord Skidelsky.
He added: “I absolutely reject the basis of the government’s policy that Ukraine should decide if and when to end the war.
“President Zelensky’s policy is to ‘take back our land in full’. It is up to Ukraine to decide what to do, but we cannot give Ukraine weapons to decide its policy of war when we are actually supplying it. Continue the war at considerable sacrifice to our own people.
“Decisions on peace and war, conditions for ending the war, should be taken jointly by Ukraine and NATO.”
However, Lord Skidelsky argued that meaningful talks were unlikely with Mr Putin in office and urged the UK to provide “incentive” to secure his departure.
The colleague said: “Not only is his personal honor too much at stake, but his attempt to achieve it is leading his country to disaster.
“His invasion of Ukraine strengthened Ukrainian nationalism, expanded NATO, shifted the balance of power in Europe to its most anti-Russian eastern states, exposed hitherto hidden Russian military and technological weaknesses, subjected Russia to the largest economic sanctions ever imposed and provoked. Highly skilled Russian scientists, technologists Immigration of professionals, thinkers and artists.
“He has erected a new monument to incomplete, incompetent governance.
“Any resolution to the war that could inspire future confidence would require Mr Putin to leave the scene.
“I don’t know how it’s going to happen, it’s out of our control, but we can provide an incentive.
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“Our government can say it is ready to join our partners in serious negotiations to end the war with a new Russian government.
“This will encourage forces within the Russian state to implement government change.”
He continued: “It may not succeed, but it is infinitely better than the dangerous war in which we seem to be stuck.”
Lord Ahmed replied, “The only reason missiles are flying in European skies today is because of Russia’s action.
“It’s an unwarranted invasion and it’s unacceptable.”
He added: “We will not back down from supporting Ukraine, Russia is an aggressor and Russia must leave.”
“Russia can end this war today by ending its illegal attack on Ukraine and withdrawing its forces.”
The minister said: “We will stand firm. We will relentlessly support Ukraine’s right to self-defense.”
Crossbencher Lord Skidelsky, 83, born Robert Jacob Alexander, was born in Harbin, Republic of China, to Boris Skidelsky and Galia Sapelkin, British citizens of Russian descent.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, he refused to let Skidelsky resign as director of Russian state-owned company Rusnano Capital, as well as criticized economic sanctions targeting Russia and what he argued were Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine. Ukraine should be given the opportunity to secede.
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