THE RUSSIAN invasion of Ukraine is a despicable act of imperialism that can’t be defended on any count.

I remember studying at the world-renowned International Politics Department at Aberystwyth during the 1990s and debating NATOs eastern expansion following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The key question was the strategic problem expansion aimed to address and who was the target of its deterrence.

Russia was the target; however, any paranoia induced within the Kremlin concerning further possible expansion, including Ukraine, cannot justify the invasion launched by President Putin.

NATO and Ukraine were not planning any incursion into Russian territory. Therefore, there has never been a case for the Russian aggression we have witnessed.

Foreign policy is often multi-faceted and hugely complicated.

The breakdown in diplomatic routes will now herald a far more destabilised age on our continent.

There has been much rhetoric from Western governments about a tough response to this week’s tragic events.

Still, the reality of the situation is that western powers have not influenced or deterred Russian foreign policy.

In my contributions to the House of Commons this week, I called on the British Government to concentrate on those areas where it is possible to make a difference.

The focus should be on helping neighbouring countries deal with the inevitable humanitarian crisis facing Eastern Europe. Ukraine’s neighbours will need significant help to house and feed displaced people.

The UK Government should also focus on dismantling Russia’s ecosystem of influence in the UK.

Much firmer action needs to be taken against the Londongrad actions of the City of London.

Strategies also need to target lobbying activity, the direct payments made to UK political parties and elected politicians, the extensive public relations infrastructure built up by Russia, including the funding of political think tanks.

As I said in the House of Commons, I fear the UK is taking a pea shooter to a bazooka contest.

Economic warfare measures by the UK on a few individuals, banks, and politicians are countered easily by the Russian Government. It can sit back and allow oil and gas prices to increase, affecting every household in the UK.

Furthermore, Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe; therefore, we should prepare for further food price inflation.

I fear we are now facing a protracted proxy war with Russia, which I pray does not spiral into a direct conflict.

The UK’s NATO commitments mean that we will be intrinsically linked to events in Eastern Europe.

As long as President Putin stays in power, the European continent faces an unstable and uncertain future.

In a further contribution in the House this week, I highlighted the strategic malfunction of the Tory party’s obsession with the European Union over recent decades. In particular, the negative energy of political discourse consumed over the last six years by the fallout of the Brexit referendum. Whilst the focus should have been on the Kremlin, the focus – alas – has been on creating friction with Brussels.

We are entering a dark period, but we must start to think long-term. In particular: how do we hope to shape the post-Putin future of Russia

Governments must build ladders from conflict to allow actors to climb down.

In the long term, this could be based on offering a European future for Russia, post-Putin, built on closer economic, diplomatic and, yes, security ties.

Forget global Britain and the so-called Asia Pacific pivot.

The priority of the British Government should be on normalising and formalising economic relations with our European partners.

The aim should be different levels of integration on the continent. An inner core of the Eurozone, followed by the EU, and then an outer European economic ring including the UK, potentially including Russia.

As we face a very worrying future, carrots can be just as powerful as sticks.