Malaysia Airlines flight MH17: Britain and France should focus their anger on Vladimir Putin

 

Share

Public indignation over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 a week ago remains high. It is only natural for our leaders to identify with and amplify emotion of this sort, both to improve their standing among voters and, if possible, to have some impact on the future behaviour of the Russians.

Often a degree of dissembling creeps into exercises of this sort. We may like to suppose that, by barring some oligarchs from travelling, we are dealing President Vladimir Putin such a grievous blow that he will repent and become a changed character. Sanctions, of course, never work like that. Often they are little more than a means of discharging collective emotion. Conversely, truly effective sanctions, such as a ban on oil and gas imports or financial services, would have far too heavy an impact on EU economies to be politically tolerable.

However limited the sanctions all can agree on, it is vital for the West to remain united over Ukraine and over the atrocious human consequences of Russian policy there. In this respect, David Cameron’s grandstanding on the issue this week, telling MPs that “future military sales [to Russia] from any country in Europe should not be going ahead”, was grossly misjudged.

By assaulting French warship sales to Russia, he may have pleased his Europhobic party colleagues but he infuriated the French, who promptly and justly called him a hypocrite. Britain itself, it emerged, still has hundreds of arms export licences to Russia, while the City benefits greatly from its close ties to Russian oligarchs, among them Roman Abramovich, who in Russia is nicknamed “Putin’s purse”.

Changing the behaviour of a regime as  rotten and dysfunctional as Mr Putin’s will be no easy matter, even if the Government is sincere about wanting to. If Western Europe shows itself to be in disarray over sanctions, any pressure we might collectively be able to exert will be undone.

Solidarity is essential: it was remarkable to observe the sobering effect on the Donetsk separatists and their Moscow backers in recent days of the international coalition of victims, led by the Malaysians and the Dutch. That is the model to follow. Mr Cameron should get off his high horse, whatever its provenance.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent
African elephants in Botswana photographed by television presenter Chris Packham  

We've made incredible progress, but there's still more to do to make sure we save the elephant

Hugo Campbell
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'