Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Europe appears to have a severe shortage of both sticks and carrots


Some Eurocratic wit – it may have been the unusual British diplomat Robert Cooper – was the first to define the EU motto on foreign policy as: “Speak softly but carry a big carrot.” In the scornful view of several MPs, that was about as far as the Europeans had gone in standing up to Russia over Ukraine.

In the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s statement declaring Crimea a “sovereign and independent state” – it’s reassuring to know that the old tsarist habit of issuing draconian decrees has survived through the Soviet era to the present day – there were MPs across the party divide in favour of wielding the big stick instead.

Among those questioning the widespread consensus – held by William Hague and his supportive shadow, Douglas Alexander, and others – that military options were a non-starter, Labour’s Chris Bryant promised MPs that he was “not arguing for war” but contrasted the approach to Russia with that of not ruling out military action against Iran.

“I want to ask now why we ruled out any military intervention, in whatever set of circumstances… from the very beginning of Putin’s advances into Ukraine,” he said.

The right-wing Tory Gerald Howarth went even further. Noting that Russia was “repeatedly” conducting exercises on Ukraine’s border, he suggested: “Nato should have a maritime exercise in the Black Sea to serve notice on the Russians: ‘You do not go near Odessa.’”

The problem with these threats from the safety of the Commons, however, is that they had the ring of the old Glasgow bar-room joke: “You want a fight? I’ll hold your coat.” Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who condemned the “pathetic and feeble” measures so far taken by the EU, did not suggest military measures.

Instead Rifkind, who in the 1980s played a key ministerial role in Margaret Thatcher’s “Ostpolitik”, culminating in her political love affair with Mikhail Gorbachev, urged real financial sanctions which would oblige Putin “to live with a Russian economy in which no other part of the world would invest and in which billions were coming off the Russian stock exchange”.

You didn’t need to be a Bletchley decoder to realise he meant sanctions that might actually hurt the City of London.

Far from being alone in invoking pre-Second World War appeasement, Rifkind, speaking as usual without a note, added: “We must be able to look ourselves in the eye and say that we did all that we could… to ensure that the horrors of the 1930s were not repeated, not in exactly the same form, but in a form that will damage European security and stability for a generation to come.”

Against this background, it was pretty brave of his fellow Tory Sir Edward Leigh to be the lone voice appealing to MPs to appreciate the “sensibilities” of Russians over Ukraine.

Declaring an interest – namely his absorption with Russian history and culture “since my wedding to my Russian Orthodox wife” – Leigh insisted that he was neither “pro Russian nor pro-Ukrainian” but said: “We must stop playing power games. It is too dangerous a situation, and the West must realise that it cannot tear Ukraine away from Russia.”

Earlier, Hague had been at his most eloquent in warning, more sharply than before, that there is a “grave risk that we have not seen the worst of this crisis” and that “the credibility of the international order would be at stake” if it did not stand up to Putin’s “profound breach of international agreement”.

But while he promised that Britain would push for further EU sanctions, he acknowledged only that “preparation is under way” for the kind of measures that might satisfy Rifkind.

So Hague spoke not softly but harshly. It was hard, nevertheless, at the end of the debate to escape the feeling that faced with Putin’s determination, the Europeans lack a carrot, let alone – so far at least – a big stick.

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

KS1 & KS2 Teacher

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: We are looking for infants and...

Secondary Trained Teachers for the watford area

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Qualified secondary teachers - ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?