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For many Conservative voters, the threat of nuclear war is a vivid memory, not just a history lesson

Older generations may find Boris Johnson's bullish approach to Russia alarming.

By Freddie Hayward

Volodymyr Zelensky called for a war crimes tribunal akin to the Nuremberg trials in an address to the UN Security Council yesterday as Western nations announce new sanctions following Russian atrocities in Bucha. 
 
Zelensky’s speech was his latest appeal to foreign legislatures and international bodies to hold the Russians accountable for its invasion of Ukraine. But Zelensky’s plea will ultimately be met with the harsh reality of Russia’s Security Council veto. While the General Assembly’s overwhelming condemnation of Russia’s invasion in the early days of the war was an important sign of Russia’s isolation, the Security Council will not impose sanctions, as it did to Iraq during the 1990s, because of the veto. So what can be done at the UN? Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has called for Russia to be suspended from the UN’s Human Rights Council – a potentially important symbolic move that would require a two thirds majority in the General Assembly.
 
But the primary response to Russia’s invasion has come from other international organisations. The Foreign Secretary will attend Nato and G7 summits later today as the EU discusses proposals to ban Russian coal imports. In recent days, European governments have expelled more than 168 Russian diplomats. Meanwhile, the US has announced an additional $100m in military assistance to Ukraine.
 
The other key question for the government, as Mark Lyall Grant, a former UN ambassador and national security adviser, told me yesterday, is deciding which weapons to provide to the Ukrainians. Boris Johnson is said to be in favour of sending anti-ship missiles to defend the port city of Odessa, but there are concerns Russia could see this as an act of aggression.
 
This points to a potential problem for the government. For younger generations, for whom the Cold War is a history lesson rather than a memory, the threat of nuclear war will not feel as pressing. But for older generations, which mostly vote Conservative, the Prime Minister’s bullish approach, combined with Putin’s erraticism, could be alarming. Britain’s intelligence establishment is warning the government against escalation, as Andrew wrote last week. But the horrific atrocities committed in Bucha have reinvigorated a question for Western politicians that could change that approach: what more can be done?

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