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William Hague was on rather shaky ground when he argued this week that Moscow has chosen “the route to isolation” by recognizing Crimea’s referendum. On the contrary, it is the European Union and the United States who look as if they have seriously overplayed their respective hands in Ukraine. Across Asia, Africa and Latin America, the cry of “Western hypocrisy” has been heard much louder than complaints about Vladimir Putin.

Even in the UK, mainstream opinion is steadily becoming more critical of Western interventionism and our “New Cold War” posturing – despite some pretty one-sided media coverage and much establishment “tut-tutting”. Independent thought is still viewed with suspicion, and even disgust, by some – and I should know, having consistently argued we should negotiate with Moscow, not threaten tough sanctions we’ll never impose.
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“There will be significant costs and consequences” following Russia’s intervention in Crimea. So said Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday. But what can the West actually do to challenge Vladimir Putin’s Russia? How far are we prepared to go to determine the future of a small, sun-kissed territory that juts out from Southern Ukraine?

Crimea lies at the heart of a region that is, and always has always, hugely strategic. This picturesque peninsula has seen centuries of conquest, be it at the hands of Greeks or Scythians, the Byzantians or the British. It was the importance of the Black Sea ports to the grain trade, after all, which provoked the Anglo-Russian Crimean War under Queen Victoria, with its glorious, yet ultimately doomed Charge of the Light Brigade.

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