Many thanks to David Duff for allowing me to repost his latest blog post. He chronicles failed western foreign policy in Ukraine and Russia quite succinctly and with a bracing dose of honesty. For more of David’s wit, military history writing and piercing foreign policy analysis, please stop by his blog, Duff and Nonsense.
Pity the poor statesman!
by David Duff
Oh, go on, give it a try because sometimes, just sometimes, you have to feel sorry for them. Take the Ukrainian imbroglio for starters. No-one can be certain until the history books are written – and by then will I give a toss? – but in my uninformed opinion it has been foolish western, and mostly European, over-reach which has provoked the current belligerent response from Russia. Instead of gradually edging ever closer to Russia’s exceedingly sensitive borders, western leaders should have leap-frogged over the old Warsaw pact nations decades ago and made every effort to entice Russia itself to become part of Europe. Instead, by our gradual advances we have stoked their fears and resentments and driven them into the arms of the Chinese as well as providing their ‘gangsta‘ government with yet more excuses to harden their grip on the populace.
Well, we are where we are and now our ‘statesmen’ – who giggled? – need to decide how to proceed in the face of increased militarism from ‘Vlad the Impaler’ in eastern Ukraine. I have just read two articles on the subject, one from The Streetwise Professor and another from Max Boot at the Commentary site. Both are gung-ho to send in serious military aid to the Ukrainian government particularly in regard to sophisticated anti-tank missiles. Their deployment and use would not only inflict serious material losses but would also cost the Russian suppliers a small fortune which, happily at the moment, they do not have! Alas, shipping them, setting them up and training the Ukrainian army in their sophisticated use would take a considerable time and that may be one commodity we do not have because ‘Vlad’ seems determined to seize and hold the eastern Ukraine.
Let us suppose he succeeds, what then? Possession is, famously, nine tenths of the law, so will we encourage the Ukrainians to beef up their army and counter-attack in order to take back what is rightfully theirs? Well, if ‘Vlad’ is feeling down the back of his sofa to find the odd rouble to finance his war-games then the Ukrainians do not even have a sofa – they burned it to stay warm through this winter! There-in, perhaps, is our way out. The Ukrainian government is dead broke and will require enormous financial assistance from the West just to get its economy on the move. We might be able to help a bit with that but re-arming and re-training its army would be prohibitively expensive. Certainly there would be some complaints in Britain whose political class is determined to slash our own armed forces to a sort of ‘Dad’s Army‘ level.
The critical question is simple but deadly – are we prepared to fight for eastern Ukraine? If the answer is ‘no’ then we should stop bluffing. Then the next question rears up. Are we prepared to fight for western Ukraine should ‘Vlad’s desperate need to distract his impoverished people from realising they have a kleptocratic loony in charge drive him to ‘go, west, young man, go west’? In my view the answer is still ‘no’. But then ‘Vlad’s ambitions will have been well and truly whetted and he will begin to flex his pecs in the direction of the Baltic states, all of whom contain large Russian populations eager to suckle Mother Russia’s teats again. Do we fight for them?
Yes, I think on the whole being a blogger with absolutely no responsibility is infinitely preferable to being a prime minister or a president.