Ukraine crisis: The UK and Europe are accused of having "badly misread Russia"

A damning report by the House of Lords condemns the UK's failure to take the Russian threat and Ukraine crisis seriously.

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The House of Lords European Union Committee has accused the UK and Europe of having "sleepwalked" into the Ukraine crisis. In a damning report, the committee has found that Europe "badly misread" the Russian threat, therefore taking a back seat in the conflict unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.

The EU committee states that a "catastrophic misreading" of the Kremlin's intentions in the build-up to the conflict shows a lack of Russian expertise in the UK Foreign Office. It blames this on government cuts. It also refers to a similar shrinking of EU foreign ministries, now ill-equipped to stage an "authoritative response" to the situation.

The UK government has been accused in the past of taking a back seat in the events in Ukraine and Crimea, but this is the most comprehensive condemnation of the cabinet's approach yet. It accuses Britain of not being "active or visible enough" in negotiations regarding Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The report is published the day after the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned about the "real and present danger" of Russia to the Baltic states, Nato members. It coincides with the European Council president Donald Tusk's phonecall with David Cameron to discuss the EU's response to the ongoing violence in Ukraine.

The chairman of the Lords committee, Lord Tugendhat, commented:

The lack of robust analytical capacity, in both the UK and the EU, effectively led to a catastrophic misreading of the mood in the run-up to the crisis.

The BBC reports a Foreign Office spokesperson asserting that no one could have predicted the scale of Russia's "unjustifiable and illegal" intervention:

The blame lies squarely with the pro-Russian separatists, backed by the Russian authorities, not with an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine which had been under negotiation for more than seven years before Russia decided to illegally invade and then annex part of its neighbour.

If the Ukrainian people want a closer social, economic and political relationship with the EU, that is for the people of Ukraine to decide, not Russia.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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