Former Liberal MP warns that it’s a mistake to rule out military action in Ukraine

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The international community is responding with strong words but little action in response the Russian occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The Russian parliament has now approved of President Vladimir Putin's use of military force to protect its citizens in the peninsula. According to CNN, there are now approximately 6,000 Russian troops in Crimea, while another 150,000 are staging war games along the land border between the two nations.

There are also reports of Russian fighter jets violating Ukrainian air space.

[ Related: As Ukraine and West debate moves, pro-Russian soldiers take ferry terminal, borders in Crimea ]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called the troop movement an "incredible act of aggression."

"Russia chose this brazen act of aggression. If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country," the Obama administration's man responsible for Foreign Affairs said, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that "Russia must stop its military activities and its threats."

And in Canada, the Harper government has joined its G-7 brethren in condemning Russia's actions: they withdrew their ambassador from Russia and will boycott preparatory meetings for June's G-8 summit in Sochi.

During a television interview, on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, ruled out any military intervention.

"I don’t think there’s anyone talking about western military intervention, none of our friends or allies," Baird said according to the Canadian Press.

"What we are doing is working together to say in no uncertain terms that this is completely unacceptable and to condemn [it] in the strongest language possible."

[ Related: Justin Trudeau attacked for making a joke about hockey, Russia and Ukraine ]

A former Liberal MP — and Ukrainian-Canadian — argues, however, that a military threat is exactly what is needed.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj — who drafted the Liberal Party's Emergency Resolution on Ukraine at last weekend's convention — says that Putin's actions in Ukraine evoke memories of Adolf Hitler's 1938 occupation of Sudetenland.

He even took the analogy a step further suggesting that the west's response is akin to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of 'appeasement' which turned out to be one the precursors to WWII.

In an interview with Yahoo Canada News, Wrzesnewskyj asks: "Where is the western Churchill?" (Churchill — who was then an MP in Chamberlain's caucus — consistently called for stronger action against the Germans.)

"Chamberlain's appeasement led to a horrific cost for the world. Millions dead, a world war. There's an exact parallel with [what's] happening today in Crimea. You have a dictator whose intent is expansion," Wrzesnewskyj warns.

"We applaud the fact that the G-8 countries have said that they're not going to attend the summit in Sochi. But that's a calculation that Putin had already made. He made a calculation that the west will rumble a lot but there will be no real consequences."

[ Related: Ukrainian woman’s YouTube plea for help goes viral ]

Instead, Wrzesnewskyj recommends that the west up the ante in the form of comprehensive trade and financial sanctions against Russia.

Moreover, he wants to see a credible military threat, under the purview and obligatory responsibilities of NATO.

"Personally I believe we need to see U.S. and British naval warships in the Black Sea, in the Baltic Sea," Wrzesnewskyj said, warning western leaders not to believe propaganda about a Russian minority in Crimea seeking Russian intervention.

"A red line needs to be established. And if it's crossed, you act on it."

He says he understands the potential consequences of what he's recommending but claims that the alternative could be a lot worse.

"Do you act now, or do we wait?" Wrzesnewskyj concludes, evoking memories of WWII.

"The consequences are horrific if we do not stand up to Putin."

The question is: will any Winston Churchill's emerge?

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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