'Utter Nonsense' For Ministers To Blame Ukraine Crisis On Syria Vote, Says Conservative John Baron

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JOHN BARON
REX Features

The Conservative MP who led the party's rebellion against proposed airstrikes on Syria has rejected as "utter nonsense" accusations from Tory ministers that the vote provoked Russia to invade Ukraine.

On Saturday Conservative ministers Sajid Javid and Nick Boles attacked Ed Miliband for torpedoing the government's hopes of joining a US-led attack on Bashar al-Assad in August.

Javid said there was a "direct link between Miliband's cynical vote against Syria motion and Russia's actions on Ukraine". He added that it showed Miliband was "completely unfit to lead Britain".

Boles said David Cameron "was right to urge parliament to stand up to Putin and punish Assad's use of chemical weapons". He added: "Look where Miliband's weakness has led us."

Miliband said the idea that his decision to oppose intervention by the West in Syria had led Russian president Vladimir Putin to believe he could do as he liked in Ukraine was "complete nonsense".

Defending the Labour leader, John Baron, the veteran Tory MP who spearheaded Conservative backbench opposition to Cameron's push for military intervention in Syria, told The Huffington Post UK today that it was "fanciful" to blame those who voted against the government for the current crisis.

"The fact that we did not throw cruise missiles into Damascus is not a sign of weakness, it showed wisdom. It's utter nonsense," he said.

"The idea that a vote in the House of Commons is going to sway president Putin on a issue such as Ukraine is fanciful. Russia sees Ukraine very much in its sphere of influence."

Baron, who along with 29 other Tory MPs voted to block an attack on Assad, said anyone linking the vote to the situation in Ukraine did "not understand politics of Russia".

He added: "I just think its fanciful to think a vote in the House of Commons would persuade Putin one way or another."

Baron, a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, warned the current situation in Ukraine was "dangerous" and that it would only take some casualties to "spark quite a bit of violence".

In August Cameron narrowly lost the vote needed to authorise military action by 285 votes to 272 - the Tory rebellion led by Baron was instrumental in his defeat.

The party remains split over the fallout from the Syria vote. Tory MP Brooks Newmark, who advocated British intervention in Syria, said while he "certainly wouldn’t be pointing the finger at Miliband", the vote did have an impact on how the West was viewed in Moscow.

"I didn’t like what Miliband did personally, I didn’t like what many of my colleagues did in voting against [intervention]," he told HuffPost UK. "The Syria vote itself did send a message to Putin that there is a lack of real resolve in the West when push comes to shove."

Former Conservative Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, who was in government at the time of the Syria vote, told HuffPost UK last week that the defeat had given Britain's enemies "extra comfort" as they would believe parliament no longer had the "stomach" for a fight.

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