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Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting

March 10, 2014 10:05 AM
By George Smid - European Spokesperson
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

George Smid, a European Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the East Midlands writes:

George Smid 1In 1938 my father was 16 and the German armies moved to Czechoslovakia 'to protect German speaking people'.

In 1968 I was 16 and the Soviet Army moved to Czechoslovakia 'to protect proletarian brethren'.

Both armies claimed to be invited. For both armies the move was a logical result of the political situation at home. Both armies created the pretext of 'local unrest' to justify their 'peace making' role. But the role of the aggressor was, and is, the same. But an aggressor can only play his role if there is a willing audience (and if not willing than at least acquiescing).

The West now must raise to the challenge unwinding in Ukraine.

And the challenge presents itself on two fronts.

Internationally the current response is weak: 'we will do something', 'we need to de-escalate the situation', we argue about the legality of the move.

All this must have been taken into the evaluation by the Russian strategists. And their conclusive feeling was that the West is 'weak' and Russia will get away with it.

Not weak in a physical sense, it is true that Russia under Putin is a much weaker state than any of the EU democracies - but 'weak' in our liking of comfort, weak in our reluctance to become involved, weak in our resolve to compromise energy supplies for example.

To counteract that the West must highlight concrete steps of how our response will be 'escalated'.

If Russia goes ahead with the 'referendum annexation' (and my guess is it will) the reaction of the West has to be firmly stated in advance depending on the deterioration on the ground.

Whilst using arms is out of question we could outline the following steps:

  • 1) visa restrictions,
  • 2) targeted asset freeze
  • 3) suspension of G8 and WTO negotiations,
  • 4) asset freeze of all Russian assets,
  • 5) selected embargo
  • 6) complete embargo exempting humanitarian supplies.

Only by escalating our response we will de-escalate the situation on the ground.

But this resolve comes at a price which poses the second challenge: domestic.

The public must be prepared to bear the cost and some temporary discomfort.

And 'temporary' might be a euphemism - it will be a long distance run.

The question is if the public is prepared for such a resolve. Outside political classes the general public opinion (If the public cares at all) is split between the 'sense of danger' and 'business as usual with Putin'. The public reaction oscillates between deference and indifference.

The political leaders therefore must explain the rationale behind such a move - that leaving the aggressor unchecked brings its own 'cost' which will be much higher (see the experience of my father and my own generation).

Also Crimea is not an isolated incidence - it was preceded by Georgia, Moldavia, and Belarus.

And it will be not the last - only by continuously invigorating his image as a tough man expanding Russian influence into the Soviet era spheres can Putin deflect and deal with criticism at home.

Crimea-like adventures are a political necessity for Putin.

And history suggests that there will come a time when the next step is direct challenge to the integrity of the West and the West will be forced to respond - with much higher human and material cost. (Compare the sequential occupations of Austria, Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, …. or Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland …)

In 1938 when the Munich Agreement was presented to the public as the 'peace in our time' Churchill responded: "[We] should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."

I echo Churchill's words which we still have time to rephrase as warning for the future: "you will be weighed on the scales and you must not be found wanting". Act now. Otherwise Churchill's words will be true reflection on our most recent past.

George Smid is a Euro Candidate for East Midlands

George comes originally from Czechoslovakia having lived in the UK since 1981. His personal experience, his adopted home and his work makes him specifically interested and engaged in European issues

George welcomes any opportunity to become engaged in public debate about the need for Britain to stay in Europe and for the need for the UK playing a leading role in Europe

George can be contacted at

Mobile: 07950 021 062

Email: jg.smid@gmail.com

Facebook: J George Smid

Twitter: georgesmid

Additional photographs of George Smid can be downloaded here