For the first time in decades we’ve seen state piracy in Europe with our own eyes. Warplanes commanded by Belarus’ dictator intercepted a civilian aircraft and forced it down on Sunday. Raman Pratasevich, a political refugee who has chronicled the crimes of the Lukashenko regime, was arrested and disappeared along with his girlfriend. Who knows when we will see them again.

The scrambling of fighters was no empty threat. In 2014 Lukashenko’s last ally, Russia, shot down MH-17, a Malaysian airliner, killing hundreds over Ukraine. Despite Bellingcat proving the crime, it has gone unpunished.

This isn’t just an attack on a dissident who had been given asylum in the European Union, but a threat to air passengers around the world. Even those who haven’t drawn the anger of tyrants should be wary – you never know who you’ll sit next to on a plane or who could prompt a rogue regime to force jets out of the sky.

In Europe’s last two dictatorships violence and corruption is weakening our security, not just their freedom. From cyber attacks on Estonia and the kidnapping of a border guard, they’ve graduated to the occupation of parts of Georgia and Ukraine, the attempted assassinations of prime ministers and the use of chemical weapons in London, Salisbury, and around the world. This is a pattern of aggression that has become normalised over the past decade.

Too often we have acted as though we are powerless, but the reality is quite different. These failing regimes lack legitimacy based on anything except fear. They are Potemkin powers ruled over by aging monarchs. We don’t need to push them over, we just need to pull back the curtain.

Our next action will show if we are serious in facing down the abuses of the Minsk and Moscow mafias. We can – because sadly our institutions have been conduits – expose the cash stashed in banks and property around the world. We can draw spider diagrams with connections and corruption going from the Kremlin to the Caribbean, too often passing through the City. We can reveal the wealth stolen from the Russian and Belarusian people.

We can choose green energy – including nuclear – to reduce our dependence on the gas and oil fields that finance both regimes. We can opt out of the pipelines that generate the wealth that enables repression. We can choose not to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline today – it is only generating excess capacity that will allow Russia to salami-slice Eastern Europe. But choosing not to buy from Russia’s Yamal fields that funnel their energy through Belarus to keep Germany and Austria warm and lit is only possible if we set out a new energy agenda that takes a realistic look at what petro-power costs.

That’s where the direction of policy needs to lead and can only be delivered by decisions we make today.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen chemical weapons used in London and Salisbury, assassinations in our hotels and towns and we’re now witnessing attacks on airliners that could kill hundreds – including Brits. We have a choice in dealing with dictators, and as history shows there’s no point in talking like Churchill if you’re going to act like Chamberlain.

Over the next few months we need to build on the no-fly decisions taken in London and Brussels and work with our allies in the US, France and Germany, and many more to defend our interests against the corruption that is seeping through the borders of the last European dictatorships. We need to ask for the release of all prisoners, the Pratasevichs and Navalnys, but more than that, we need to stand up for ourselves. As they weaken, Putin and Lukashenko are trying to demonstrate strength by exporting violence. We don’t have to watch as they lash out, we can expose them for what they are.