It is neither surprising nor blameworthy that the media, and all of us have been fixated by domestic matters for the last few weeks- inflation, the cost of living, strikes, the Growth Agenda in the mini-Budget, personalities in Government. It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, about which the least said the better it will be. But let’s just put it all aside for a moment and take a look over the European horizon to Ukraine.
The Ukrainians have been through a living hell which makes our troubles look pretty insignificant by comparison. Hundreds of thousands of women and children have fled their homes, leaving their menfolk behind to fight for their country. There have been thousands of military casualties and this week we saw a brutal bombardment of many cities including Kyiv.
Now I very much welcome the military progress the Ukrainian forces have made. The Russians are looking disheartened, ill supplied, undernourished. Thousands of young men have fled across various borders to avoid being called up; and last week the partial destruction of the Kerch bridge was a serious blow to Vladimir Putin’s reputation and war effort. So let us be glad about all of that; let us continue to supply the brave Ukrainian army with the supplies and weaponry they need; and let us not waver in our determination to remove the invader from all of Ukraine. War and compassion weariness must not make us forget that Putin has broken International Law in every possible way; that he has been responsible for war crimes and atrocities of the worst kind for which he must be made to pay a heavy price.
But Monday’s blitz-kreig is but a taster of what may be next. The smelly little rat Putin is cornered, humiliated, made to look a fool. What will he (and the generals and FSB who surround him, who are far worse than he is) do about it? Will they accept defeat? Certainly not. That would be the end of Russia. Will they try to find some kind of cease-fire, or negotiated outcome? Perhaps. But we should never trust any such approach short of removing the Russians entirely. So the third and most likely option is that the rat and his friends will lash out one way or another, to try to win the war, or at very least to be seen to die in a muscular and aggressive way. They will “escalate to de-escalate” as their defence doctrine has it.
There is always the risk of what they describe as ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. Let us pray that they cannot be that mad, or at least realise what the consequences would be for Russia and for all of them. Much more likely seems to me to be ’hybrid warfare’. Surprise attacks on our infrastructure (eg the bombing of the gas pipelines); acts of terror or murder (Skripals in Salisbury), incursions into NATO countries (Latvia, Gotland, Svalbard spring to mind) to test our resolve. Cyber warfare is a very real threat – imagine what would happen if our banking system, the NHS, or other Critical National Infrastructure was brought to a standstill. What would be the result if GPS, or even perhaps the Worldwide Web were destroyed? The West would be crippled.
And who do you think is behind many of the domestic troubles of the last few weeks- inflation, shortages, oil prices and the rest of it? It is classic economic warfare, and it stems directly from the Kremlin. Putin will try to bring us to our knees, and we must be resolute against it. The in-fighting, economic squabbling, strikes and protests we are seeing in the West play into his hands. We are at war in a very real sense and must try to remember some of the determination of previous wars. We cannot flinch. Vladimir Putin is a dictator, a murderer and a criminal. He must be defeated and held to account for his crimes.