By Sarah Turnbull, CTVNews.ca writer
Ottawa, Canada (CTV Network) — The United Kingdom’s former prime minister Tony Blair says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine is an “act of madness.”
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Blair said Putin doesn’t appear to be the same man he knew in the early 2000s who wanted “good relations” with the West.
“He changed over time, but in the times that I knew, if he’d become much more brutal, he was also still very calculating,” the former world leader said. “And the real anxiety people have about his behavior over Ukraine is that it’s such a colossal miscalculation. I mean ever to think that Ukraine or Ukrainians were going to accept being brought under the heel of a Putin dictatorship.”
Nevertheless, Blair said he thinks Putin is “still rational in the sense that he’s taking decisions and he is running this campaign” but that the war he’s caused is an “act of madness because, by the way, whatever happens … Russia is going to emerge weaker.”
Twelve weeks into Russia’s assault of Ukraine, troops are shifting their focus to close in on specific regions of Eastern Ukraine after facing defeat near the capital of Kyiv. However, Russia claimed to have captured Mariupol on Friday, which would be its biggest victory yet if confirmed by Ukraine.
Asked how this war ends and whether Putin would consider tactical nuclear weapons if backed into a corner, Blair said while it’s difficult to predict, it’s “unlikely” because of potential retaliation from the West.
“I can’t tell you exactly what the response of the West would be, but it would be very significant,” he said. “Now, I think in the first couple of weeks of this conflict, we might have been able to bring [the war] to an end on a relatively straightforward basis. The problem now is Ukrainians will not agree to give up any of their territory or even push him back to where he was prior to the 24th of February.”
Blair, like other observers, argues the West’s main role is to suffocate Russia financially, while at the same time ensure Ukraine is equipped militarily.
Canada has done both, most recently announcing a ban on Russian vodka, caviar and diamond imports, the export of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks to Russia, and further sanctions on 14 oligarchs.
On emerging threats to the global world order, Blair said democracies should find solace in the fact that the actions of autocracies and dictatorships in recent years have exposed major weaknesses.
He pointed not only to the ramifications of Putin’s war but also China’s handling of the COVID-19 virus and the enduring economic impact being felt today.
Going forward, Blair said democratic nations have to work on making the system more “effective.”
“I honestly believe that best way to do that is we’ve got to reestablish a strong center in western politics, centre left, centre, right… It’s when you get politics [battling] between left wing populism versus right wing populism, then you end up with incoherence, inconsistency, and that has been the weakness of the West over the past decade or so,” he said.
With a file from The Associated Press
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