Strategic vision needed to contain Putin

DS completely agree with the sentiments in a recent letter published in the Times by Air chief marshal Sir Michael Graydon, former chief of air staff; vice-admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, former deputy chief of defence staff. With their kind permission it is republished below.

Sir,

 

David Aaronovitch “If Russia looks strong, remember it’s weak” (Comment, Oct 27) reminds us that Gorbachev’s reforms were driven by the recognition that Russia could not compete with the West. He is right to do so, and right too in stressing its weaknesses today. However, there are factors arguing against such recognition emerging under Putin.

In the 1980s, there was strong leadership in the West. Reagan and Thatcher in particular saw what needed to be done; defence spending was such that the West had credible armed forces across the conventional and nuclear spectrum.

Putin has restored pride in a dispirited nation; to many Russians he is the man capable of re-establishing it as a global power and they like that. This adulation may weaken, but with his virtual monopoly of the media it is unlikely to do so quickly.

Russia, Churchill said, “will bang and rattle at every door and every window until they find one that is open”. There are many doors and windows open in the West and around the world, as Putin has demonstrated so successfully: he has shown scant regard for diplomacy and considerable regard for the value of force. He must be contained and this will require qualities of leadership and strategic vision not evident at present.

Air chief marshal Sir Michael Graydon, former chief of air staff; vice-admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, former deputy chief of defence staff