A Conservative MP on the dilemmas Vladimir Putin’s regime poses for the UK: time to choose between freedom and corruption, between independence and dirty money, he argues.

First published: February 2022.

Xtra | Tom Tugendhat

🟦 Conservative MP
MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
MP since 7 May 2015
Voting record
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Early Career: Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army (served in Iraq & Afghanistan)


Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling. Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee:

“In 1945 the Soviet Union and her allies brought to justice those who had caused so much suffering to millions of their compatriots in a horrific war. Those who had waged it faced four possible charges.

“1. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace;
2. Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace;
3. Participating in war crimes;
4. Crimes against humanity.

“It all started with a conspiracy. A false flag operation designed to mislead and trigger a war. But the truth was clear – a mafia-like organisation had taken control of a once-great nation and provoked war in the narrow interest of its new elite.

Xtra | The Gleiwitz incident

“The Gleiwitz incident was a false flag attack on the radio station Sender Gleiwitz in what was then Gleiwitz, Germany, staged by Nazi Germany on the night of 31 August 1939. Along with some two dozen similar incidents, the attack was manufactured by Germany as a casus belli to justify the invasion of Poland, which began the next morning. The attackers posed as Polish nationals.” (Source: Wikipedia)

“Today’s parallels are clear. No, not fascism but the gang in the Kremlin are a mafia-like organisation in charge of a state. They have robbed and murdered their way to power. Now they’re trying the same abroad.

“He’s tried to run the same protection racket he’s spun in Moscow, on the people of Kyiv but they weren’t buying it, so he’s trying something else. He’s trying to show that only other choice for Ukraine is pointless. The west is weak and divided and won’t really help them.

He knows he can’t hold Ukraine. 130,000 troops is a lot for a border raid but no where near enough for an occupation. Ukrainians would fight and that means he would need to plan for casualties and reserves.

“When he invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014 he lost hundreds of soldiers. Their mothers protested in Moscow and brought out many in support. He knows the same could happen again.

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“That’s why his plan isn’t just about war it’s about chaos. Like all the worst leaders, he’s using chaos to his own advantage. Division is what rulers try if they can’t achieve the cooperation that builds real strength.

“He’s trying to keep the pot simmering to keep the pressure on us and expose our divisions. He knows he could walk away now and lie about his great victory at home – the number of foreigners who have been to Moscow show he’s the main man – or he could see what else he can get.

“So far, he’s used the crisis to:
1. Look useful to his new friends in Beijing by demonstrating he can distract us as long as he wants;
2. Look strong at home by mocking those who talk about treaties when he talks about power;
3. Prove to the world that his rivals are divided and unwilling to take the action needed to face him down.

And all this he’s done without crossing a red line. He’s created a huge call option – he could cash in now, or hold to see what more he can get.

“So what are our options? Playing his game in Moscow makes us weaker but abandoning Ukraine makes our other eastern allies nervous. That’s why we need to get serious at home.

Dirty money has been an issue for decades but its poison is seeping deeper into our system. For decades, Russian companies have used our markets to raise money – equities and debt – to finance the Kremlin. As their economy has failed, they’ve used fronts to find cash.

“We’ve done nothing to stop it. Instead we’ve threatened vague sanctions on individuals whose assets are hidden and have more than enough to accept losing some now and again. If we’re serious, we have to choose to act.

“Putin’s survival should require cooperation not chaos but that would require us to take decisions:
1. Stop focusing on individuals and close our markets to Russian firms - there’s almost no real private sector at scale;
2. Expel the families of those linked to the regime;
3. Support Europe to end its dependence on Russian gas;
4. Fund free media to allow Russians to hear the truth about their rulers and close down their propaganda arms abroad;
5. Increase help to those threatened by Putin’s aggression and pledge support for Ukrainian resistance;
6. Last – but in every way most important – stop corruption at home and prosecute it.

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“Taking fraud seriously, prosecuting enablers, whatever their profession, and exposing the full web of dirty dealing too public scrutiny is the first step to showing we’re serious.

“Until we publish the assets of officials whose salaries don’t match their lifestyles and clean up our own city, they won’t take us seriously and we’ll be kept simmering. Sergey Lavrov would have mocked Liz Truss less if she’d threatened his gold not just his integrity.

“There is no need for war. Even Putin doesn’t really want it. What he wants is for us to serve his interests and through our division show his strength. We don’t have to play this game anymore. We must stop pretending treaties matter to these crooks and act.

“It will cost and we’ll have to be serious. But our democracy is being undermined and our alliances could unravel. We know the truth – you can have freedom or corruption, not both.

“Putin’s conspiracy made it clear – the time has come to choose.”

— Source: Twitter.

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