“I didn’t honestly believe in my heart of hearts that they would invade all of Ukraine. I thought there was a possibility they would invade part of the country and even then that would be very dangerous.”
Deputy Howlin said the spectre of a modern democratic European country being attacked in 2022 is shocking. ”It's just mind numbing and stunning. It’s a wake up call for us all. What is at stake now is the established political order of Europe.”
Describing the Russian leader as delusional in how he is harkening back to the dark era of Soviet times, Deputy Howlin said: “It would be like some deranged British suggestion that Ireland has gone awry and it has to come back under English control again. The benighted people of Ukraine are fighting for all of our independence and liberty, not just our own. That is why there is such a sense of solidarity from Tokyo to Australia to Europe around this.”
With Finland considering joining Nato, Deputy Howlin says Putin has provoked other countries into action.
"I think it's a game changer. Look at the transformation in policy in Germany over the last week. That has been nothing short of breathless.”
He said Putin has upended the once solid economic infrastructure of Europe, and his own country is paying the price. Likening Putin’s regime to the Nazi’s, he said opponents have been poisoned or killed by a ‘despot’.
“We have to shout out to the inner bravery of the Russian people who are protesting this war, and who will be jailed for treason.”
He fears a major response from ‘that cornered individual’.
"I have no idea what Putin will do now. He is capable of anything. I think Putin didn’t expect Europe to unite in this way.”
He welcomes the sanctions, but is not sure they will have a deterrent effect.
"He sees himself as a modern Catherine The Great, a builder of the Russian empire and a spreader of Russian might. He wants to preserve that and not be washed away by history.
"Russia is prone to revolution. There comes a time when the strong man or woman fails and is swept away in Russia and you just hope that that day is not too far away, but in the interim we are in dangerous territory.”
Deputy Howlin said morale is low among Russian soldiers, and he sees a major fresh offensive coming.
"I don't think it’s the nature of the beast to accept defeat. The only thing that can happen is that he is defeated. The Ukrainian people will continue to resist.
"I have no doubt he would retaliate with nuclear weapons; that is how vulnerable things are. We have to ratchet up the pressure, but in a measured way, which I know is extraordinarily difficult for the world, when you are watching bloodshed, which is the price of freedom. we will all have to endure hardship.”
Deputy Howlin said MEP Mick Wallace’s comments regarding Russia being victims prove ‘that now he is an echo chamber for Russia's acolytes’.