Former UK PM David Cameron urges support for Ukraine, says Putin has ‘already lost’
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should serve as a “giant wake-up call” to the West, former British Prime Minister David Cameron said on April 1 during a MSC Wiley Lecture Series lecture at Texas A&M University’s Rudder Auditorium.
“Ask yourself, ‘Why are unarmed civilians standing in front of Russian tanks?’ “, he said. Behind the resolve shown by the Ukrainian people over the past few weeks, Cameron said, is their desire for what people in the UK and the US take for granted: self-determination, the state of law, free markets, freedom of expression, freedom of choice and the dignity that go with these values.
He said the problem extends far beyond Ukraine as more and more world leaders ignore the rules-based international system that the US and UK helped build. , Cameron said. While the Cold War had its roots in communism versus the free market, he called the source of today’s tensions “democracy versus autocracy.”
Cameron, who served as prime minister from 2010 to 2016, spoke about this “new era of the Cold War” in a speech followed by a discussion with Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for NPR and contributor to FOX News Channel.
Two weeks ago Cameron packed a truck with donated food, clothes, medicine and other supplies and drove 2,000 miles from his home in Oxfordshire in eastern Poland near the Ukrainian border. “One minute I’m talking to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, and the next I’m handing out food parcels to his victims,” he said. Cameron stressed that the situation was neither complicated nor difficult to understand.
NATO did not provoke the invasion and Ukraine is “in no way” part of Russia, he said. Simply put, Russia has invaded a sovereign and independent country. Cameron compared Putin’s tactics to those of “historical bad guys” like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
“This belongs to another century, and Vladimir Putin belongs in a war crimes trial,” he said.
Putin will not achieve his goals of taking over large swaths of territory in Ukraine and establishing a puppet state, Cameron said. In some ways, “he is already lost” after clearly miscalculating the strength of the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces, as well as Ukrainian national identity.
Cameron stressed the importance for Western leaders to find more ways to help Ukraine. “What we shouldn’t do is try to get ahead of what Ukraine wants or undermine what it wants,” he said.
The United States and the United Kingdom have so far made a good start in demonstrating their unity with Ukraine in provide weapons and monetary aid, Cameron said. The difficulty now lies in how to help secure an outcome that leaves the country intact.
Liasson pointed to the ongoing conversation about actions the West won’t take, such as directly confronting Russia or establishing a no-fly zone. She asked how the West should react if Putin uses chemical or nuclear weapons, and what more can be done to support Ukraine.
“Of course, in your heart, you kind of wish we did more,” Cameron said. We have to think with our heads… the line not to cross is to put NATO forces in direct conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine. But supplying him with weapons is acceptable.
President Joe Biden, current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders are due to meet their national security teams daily to discuss how to put more pressure on Russia, whether through sanctions aimed at disrupting the Russian economy or other measures.
Additionally, Cameron suggested that just as Russia was removed from the G8 in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea, now is the time to “kick them out” of the G22.
Cameron said he met Putin several times and got to know the Russian president relatively well during his tenure. He described Putin as someone who “lies all the time”.
“He has no qualms about lying, he has no morals, he doesn’t care how many people he kills, how many cities he tears down,” Cameron said. While he hopes Putin will be removed from his post or see how many Russian soldiers have died and choose to move towards peace, Cameron said the plan should be to give Ukraine as many resources as possible to help to end the war.
In his chat with Liasson, Cameron also spoke about Europe’s reliance on Russian oil, the West’s relationship with China, Brexit and other thoughts on his tenure.