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Nigel Farage has a point about the effect of Nato expansion on Russia. But the Reform UK leader missed the one he should be making.

He caused outrage with his assertion that the West “provoked” Vladamir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by parking its tanks next door to Russia’s lawn. He got it in the neck because that is one of the justifications Putin himself uses.

I think I know what Farage was trying to say. But by choosing the wrong word his attempt to sound like a world statesman made him look like a prize plonker.

Russia, not Nato, is the aggressor in this war which is why it cannot be justified.

The concept of just war dates back to medieval Christianity beginning with theologians Augustine of Hippo in the Fifth Century and polished up by Thomas Aquinas in the Thirteenth.

Their definition is the one which has been broadly used since. A war must be in a just cause which is not a box Putin can tick. It must be lawfully declared. No tick there either. The intention behind the war must be good. Another miss.

All other means of resolving the problem must be tried first. Nope. That didn’t happen either. And there must be a reasonable chance of success. No guarantee of that given how Putin’s forces have been bogged down.

Public opinion is usually a good test of whether a war is just or not. Argentina was the aggressor in the Falklands in 1982 and the public was overwhelmingly behind sending a task force to turf out its troops. The phrase which resonated then was: “Aggression cannot be rewarded.”

The public was broadly behind the Gulf War in 1991 following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, but against the re-run in 2003 because he didn’t invade anywhere.

Our justification that he was hiding weapons of mass destruction (which he wasn’t) is not so far removed from Putin’s one about Nato encroachment. A hypothetical threat is never enough to go to war. That’s why public opinion turned against Tony Blair.

But a threat will inevitably cause unease, and that is the point Farage should have made. We need to see ourselves as others see us.

We also need to see others as they see themselves. The West is constantly looking for political solutions to Middle East conflicts without taking into account the religious differences that are also at the heart of them.

It was why Blair set up his Faith Foundation. He argued that religion plays a part in most wars, from Gaza to Northern Ireland, Syria to Serbia. Political peace deals need to be accompanied by religious ones.

It seems cruel and irrational to us that Kim Jong-Un should spend billions on developing nuclear weapons when North Korea is such an impoverished country. But put yourself in the position of someone living in a dingy Pyongyang bedsit.

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They will have seen what the West did to Iraq and Libya which didn’t have nuclear arsenals. Is it so unreasonable to think that having missiles capable of reaching the US west coast might act as a deterrent against something similar?

Which brings us onto two-bedroom flats in Moscow. Are we sure that those who live in them take for granted what we believe - that Nato is purely a defensive alliance not an offensive one? What is a given in the West may not be so in the East.

Military alliances are by their nature threatening. During the Cold War, we were terrified the Warsaw Pact might roll forces across East Germany into the West. Nato was there to stop them.

The Warsaw Pact was disbanded in 1991, but Nato has continued to grow. When Finland signed up last year it joined Estonia, Lithuania and Poland in sharing a border with Russia. And doubled the length to more than 1,500 miles.

Russia got antsy about this. But then Putin should reflect that it was the invasion of Ukraine which made the Finns more enthusiastic about membership. They can’t be sure Russia will not come for them next.

And that is the fundamental argument Farage should have made. It is the absence of trust between East and West which makes the world such a dangerously volatile place.

Putin needs to learn that war is rarely the answer to anything. Look at the aftermath of Iraq. It turned the country into a petri dish in which Isis could grow.

There are more lessons from recent history. In 1983 Nato launched an exercise called Able Archer designed to simulate the beginning of a nuclear war. It almost started one.

The Russians misread it as the real thing under the guise of a trial run and readied their nukes for action. That near miss taught us to communicate better with them.

A year later US president Ronald Reagan tested his mic for a radio interview with the stupid joke: “We begin bombing in five minutes.” The Russians didn’t find it funny.

Politicians, above all people, need to choose their words with care. And even an election should not provoke Nigel Farage into using “provoke” carelessly.

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