April 13. 2024. 5:48

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Former UK PM Blair: Iraq war cannot be compared to Ukraine invasion

There can be no comparison between Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine and the United States-led invasion of Iraq, which the UK government backed almost 20 years ago, former British prime minister Tony Blair said in an interview with EURACTIV’s partner EFE and three other European news agencies.

“The idea that removing a dictator who has brutalised its people and engaged in two regional wars in breach of several UN resolutions,” Blair said, is completely opposed “to invading a country that has got a democratically elected president, that never, as far as I know, started a regional conflict or has done any act of aggression against its neighbours”.

In a speech to announce Moscow’s so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine last year. President Vladimir Putin made a reference to what he called the “illegal invasion of Iraq”, in which Blair’s government was a key US ally, and defined it as “one of the most flagrant examples of disregard for international law”.

Putin made a point about the fact that the invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council and that it was not in accordance with the UN’s founding charter.

“If it wasn’t that, he [Putin] would use another argument to justify his attack,” Blair said.

“We should never forget what Putin himself has done in the Middle East, in Syria. At least you can say we are removing a despot and trying to introduce democracy,” he said.

“But his intervention in the Middle East was to prop up a despot and refuse a democracy so we should treat all that propaganda with the lack of respect it deserves,” he added.

Visibly uncomfortable with evoking the war in Iraq, Blair defended his position by saying that “when you are prime minister, you take these decisions and take responsibility and that comes with the job and if you are not prepared to do that, to take the decision or to take the responsibility, you shouldn’t do the job.”

Blair added that in the current international political climate, “it is very difficult to have an international rule-based order” because two of the UN’s security council members, Russia and China, have veto rights.

With the war in Ukraine, he argued, there was no reasonable justification for invading an independent sovereign country and negotiations should therefore start from the notion that the aggression is wrong.

According to Blair, for a peace process to be successful, Russia’s aggression must not succeed and a negotiated deal to the conflict would be the most efficient solution.

“The problem is that you cannot have such a solution if either a) it rewards Russian aggression or b) it leaves Putin in a situation where he retires temporarily and then comes back again because that has been the rhythm of his actions over a period of time,” the former prime minister added.

This nuance is of particular importance for the countries of Eastern Europe who need guarantees that it will not happen again, he added.

“Not merely that it (Russia) is defeated as a result of its aggression against Ukraine, but that it is defeated in such a way that Putin or any other Russian leader is not going to revisit these essentially imperialist types of ambitions”, he added.