David Duff across the pond at Duff and Nonsense penned an excellent piece, “So, huffing and puffing aside, what do we do next?”, exploring Putin’s geopolitical ambitions and possible western responses:
So, huffing and puffing aside, what do we do next?
Before reading my uninformed guesswork it would be best if you began by reading Fraser Nelson’s very shrewd assessment of Putin’s 21st century geo-political ‘warfare’:
So, that’s the way the world works today, by a judicious mix of money, sedition and soldiers – at a distance! The lands bordering Russia are excellent testing grounds for this new strategy because amongst the indigenous population there are large-ish numbers of Russian ethnics. Ukraine is perhaps the perfect example.
By coincidence I have just finished reading the chapters in Margaret MacMillan’s terrific history of the Versailles peace conference in 1919 which deal with the efforts of the victors to sort out the hideously complicated problems of who owns what in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. It is a problem beyond solvability! However, ‘Vlad’ thinks he can solve some of it simply by chewing up the Russian-speaking enclaves whilst standing at a distance, whistling quietly and looking ‘shocked, I tell you, shocked’ when anyone suggests that he is the one stirring things up. Like a naughty schoolboy he simply says, “Who, sir? Me, sir? No, sir! Him, sir!” The question then arises that if he is successful what will he try next? And the second question is what do we do about it?
Well, we tried economic sanctions, or at least, some pathetic semblance of them, and they appear to have been a ‘Big Fail’. Not the least of the reasons for their failure is that ‘Vlad’ doesn’t give a stuff if the standard of living drops in Russia. He will, like political charlatans always do, lean on his secret police whilst appealing to his people’s patriotism and claim that poor Mother Russia is being bullied by the West. They, being as stupid as every electorate anywhere, will swallow it whole! The other reason for the failure of economic sanctions to really hurt Russia is that the West is not united in their application. Suddenly, the Western politicians have realised that sanctions cut two ways! You stop Russia using your banking system so they stop exporting gas to you. In addition, western unity is under-mined because each country in the West has a different pain threshold vis-à-vis Russia. For example, the French were on the point of selling two large warships to the Russians when this kicked off and they were under enormous pressure from their ‘friends and allies’ to cancel the sale. (I never did quite find out what happened but my guess is that the deal went through in the end!)
Needless to say, here ‘in this our septic Isle’, the cold-war warriors are out in force squeaking that we must build up our armed forces to face the threat. What threat, exactly, I ask, and how do you propose to deal with it militarily with an army, navy and air force that, even if you doubled it, would be miniscule compared to what the Russian behemoth could put in the field? (And anyway, given the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan would you trust our ‘Brass’ to manage an exercise on Salisbury Plain let alone Eastern Europe?)
Ah, cry the warriors, but in conjunction with our allies in NATO we would be a force to be reckoned with. To which I would reply – what allies? The Germans decided decades ago to minimise their army and instead to invest their money into Mercedes-Benz! Well, lots of other German industries as well but you take my point. They were able to cut their defence budgets and concentrate on making money whilst they nestled under the warm, comfortable protection of America throughout the cold war. Consequently, their military today is even more pathetic than ours! Not that they really want to get involved in a punch-up with Russia because they sell several ‘zillion’ Mercedes-Benz cars to them as well as relying on Russian imports of gas!
Needless to say, the most vocal people agitating for ‘strong counter-measures’ against Russia are the Euro fanatics in Brussels. They realise that one of the outcomes of this Russian pressure could be the implosion of the European Union. At this point, I would ask the more militaristic of my readers whether they are prepared to risk war with Russia for the sake of Mr. ‘Juncker the Drunker’? The ‘Eurocrats’, of course, being almost totally concentrated on Europe have not quite realised that the great, big, magical, American umbrella under which they have lived so comfortably for so long has been quietly rolled up and put in a cupboard somewhere in the White House and no-one is quite sure where!
So, a new century and a new set of problems. But at least let us try and face them intelligently and without recourse to old solutions to old problems. Above all, let us deal with them realistically. And by “us“, I mean Britain, not this mystical entity they call ‘Europe’. I see absolutely no British interests at risk in Eastern Ukraine. My advice is the same as that offered by Cpl. Jones to his platoon leader, “Don’t panic, Capt. Mainwaring!”