WEST Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin writes for the Observer..
MANY readers will now have met some of the Ukrainian refugees who have now made their way to our lovely part of the world. I want to thank all the kind-hearted local people who have offered their spare rooms to those fleeing from the terrible war in their country. It remains an absolute priority that we must stand up for Ukraine and stop Putin’s war of choice.
I’ve just come back from Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, as part of my duties representing our Parliament scrutinising the work of NATO. For over 70 years, the organisation has had an important role to play protecting us and our allies, and with the illegal invasion of sovereign territory by the tyrant Putin, this north Atlantic alliance could not be more vital.
I argued for further anti-corruption measures across all thirty NATO countries. Putin’s hybrid warfare has included attempts to weaken our economies and our democracies by using his ill-gotten gains to fund corruption. Russia is a resource-rich country and too many Governments allowed themselves to be over-reliant on its oil and natural gas. Lithuania realised this many years ago and has completely ended its historic dependence on Russian oil and gas. We too have been at the forefront of developing our own domestic energy security. But as we saw this year, our own country had turned a blind eye to Russian money piling into ‘Londongrad’, even allowing oligarchs to buy popularity by, for example, purchasing a football club. Since Putin’s invasion we have been quick to sanction these kleptocrats.
Let’s be clear. They are not uniquely successful businessmen and women. They are individuals benefitting from a kleptocracy that has robbed the assets of the Russian state and handed them to a small group of individuals – all of whom have close ties to Putin, himself believed to be the richest man in the world by far.
There’s more we can do here with more transparency and better identity checks at Companies House. A fearless free press at local and national level is also vital. But I do think that our constitutional monarchy, vigorous Parliamentary democracy and excellent journalism give us a strong basis to ward off the worst excesses of corruption.