Russia's invasion of Ukraine: How Vladimir Putin has sown the seeds of his downfall – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

In 1994, American astronomer and author Carl Sagan wrote a book called The Pale Blue Dot, inspired by the most distant photo ever taken of the Earth.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 4:55 am

Captured from ​nearly four billion miles away by space-probe Voyager 1, our world takes up less than a pixel in snowstorm of other pixels. In describing the tiny blue fleck as it appears, he asks the reader to remember that it holds the sum of human history, our knowledge, our cultures, our victories, and our disasters.

In it he writes: "The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”

Last Thursday, Vladimir Putin tried to sweep into Ukraine in both glory and in triumph, but so far he’s been deprived of both. Blood is being spilled, but the heroism of the people of Ukraine is preventing him from becoming their master.

By so doing, he has shattered the long peace that has existed between the nations of continental Europe for a generation. He has violated the territorial integrity of a democratic nation and destabilised the security of our entire planet. He doesn’t belong in the Kremlin, he belongs in The Hague.

The urge for normal people to do something is almost overwhelming. I know, I spoke at three demonstrations this weekend alone, but what can we practically do from our tiny fraction of this pale blue dot?

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Well, we can start by removing any impediment to Ukrainian refugees finding sanctuary in our shores. The city of Edinburgh has been twinned with Kyiv since 1989.

The gun turret of a destroyed Russian tank lies on the road near the city of Kharkiv, which has come under heavy attack by Vladimir Putin's finances (Picture: Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)

In this, their greatest hour of need that relationship needs to mean something. We must follow Europe in waiving all visa requirements for those fleeing the conflict and then prepare to offer them safe harbour in the villages and towns of Scotland. Open the border and we will open our homes.

In Scotland, we must recast our laws, to ensure that there are no loopholes for the targets of our sanctions to evade their force.

We must open the land registry to understand where Russian state interests lie in property in Scotland. And we must divest our financial institutions, investment portfolios and pension funds of all ties to the Kremlin, no matter how painful that might be.

The outpouring of international love for Ukraine and condemnation of the Russian regime has been swift and it has been colossal. So too has the crippling price exacted on the Russian economy and Putin’s cronies.

But make no mistake, this is going to hurt, months and very likely years of economic pain and sacrifice lie ahead for the free democracies who stand with Ukraine.

Germany must quickly contend with how to end its reliance on Russian gas in a move that could be punishing for both households and industry.

A new era has begun on our pale blue dot but it is not the one that Putin imagined he was creating.

He has re-invigorated a consensus amongst free democracies that had all but fallen apart and ignited a global determination to bring his time to an end.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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