The brutal invasion of Ukraine should have sent a resounding wakeup call to Western appeasers. Those same leaders sat on their hands when Vladimir Putin effectively annexed more than 20% of Georgian territory in 2008. The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, both scenes of violent separatist conflicts which left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless in 2008, are now virtual no-go areas controlled by Russia. At the time, UK Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his outrage at the Russian seizure of Georgian territory and famously said: “Where next…Ukraine?”

Cameron was right. Putin marched his troops into Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014, citing his usual ‘false-flag’ excuse that he was mounting a military operation to protect Russian citizens. The war in Crimea has killed over 14,000, but once more, the Western appeasers did nothing. Putin’s next target was Salisbury. In March 2018 he sent trained Russian assassins to the UK cathedral city to murder Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer, and his daughter Yulia. They survived poisoning with the deadly nerve agent Novichok, but weeks later Charlie Rowley found a perfume bottle in a litter bin and gave it to his partner Dawn Sturgess, who sprayed it on her wrist. It was the discarded bottle of Novichok, dumped by the assassins and Dawn Sturgess died. 

It should have been clear by then that we were dealing with a deranged tyrant. But business-as-usual was quickly resumed and EU reliance on Russian gas and minerals continued to swell the Kremlin’s coffers. Now, we are paying the price of appeasement. The West looked on in shock and horror as Russia invaded a sovereign neighbour, shelled Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, destroyed cities, bombed hospitals and schools, forced mothers to give birth in tube stations, killed and maimed thousands of men, women and children, forcefully displaced over three million refugees and then claimed to be fighting a Nazi government, despite the fact its president is Jewish? The repetition of the horrors of 1939 that triggered the Second World War is now happening on our doorstep, in real-time. 

It seems incomprehensible that any sane person could contemplate involving Russia in the signing of an international treaty and yet that is what is happening in the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna. The tattered Iranian nuclear deal, signed by Obama in 2015 and torn up by Trump in 2018, is about to rise from the dead, thanks to the efforts of President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The original nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed between the EU+3 (China, France, Germany), the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its resurrection will require the renewed agreement of Russia, a great ally of China and the corrupt Iranian regime and all the signs are that a deal is in the offing.

Iranian officials said last week that they were working with the Americans to negotiate a potential prisoner exchange in tandem with the signing of the nuclear deal. Such an exchange would involve the release of Iranian prisoners held in US jails, in exchange for several Iranian/American dual nationals who were arrested on trumped-up espionage charges in Iran and held as hostages. As part of the deal, the Iranian regime has insisted on removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the United States’ list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). The four- decade-long involvement of the IRGC and its extra-territorial arm, the Quds Force (IRGC- QF), in terrorist operations, ultimately led to their designation as an FTO in April 2019. 

Given the unfolding genocide in Ukraine, many feel that it would be madness for the Biden administration to consider renewing the JCPOA and in particular, delisting the terrorist IRGC.  The deal never stopped the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons or spreading terror across the Middle East and worldwide. Indeed, a renewed deal would simply ease tough sanctions on Iran, enabling them to sell more oil and gas and re-double their spending on their nuclear and ballistic missile programme. It will also enable them to continue funding Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq, the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. It would be an historic mistake.

Russia, as a signatory to the original 2015 JCPOA, must give its consent to any renewal. There can be no credibility in any treaty signed by Putin. He has proved himself to be a liar, a cheat, a swindler, a gangster and now a mass murderer, who happily ignores the UN Charter and even tramples over the Geneva Convention for humanitarian standards in war. Putin’s ruthless targeting of the civilian population in Ukraine has turned him into another Hitler. There can surely be no question of signing any agreement with such a monster.

For seventy-seven years the West has allowed itself to slumber. We celebrated the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War with decades of reduced military spending, convinced that the world had become a more tolerant and democratic place. The invasion of Ukraine and the horrifying spectacle of war and suffering in Europe has jolted our generation out of its torpor. We now recognise that while we slept, Putin was planning his genocidal aggression. The forces of good must once again align against the forces of evil. The West must tear up the Iranian nuclear deal and slam the door on Putin and his allies. Murderous dictators like Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, should be indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide and tried in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.