The testing time

As Russia attacks Ukraine, Jim assesses the appetite of people in the West for paying the cost of sanctions, leave alone fighting Putin's forces. He also concludes that the Prime Minister is safe for now.

Jim Hancock

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ARE WE UP FOR THE FIGHT?

Unlike the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, western politicians have to take into account what their people want. It isn’t war after the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan. Putin knew this and invaded. It is highly likely he cleared his move with the Chinese. Who’s to say President Xi Jinping won’t take this opportunity to invade Taiwan? I thought the United States had a solid treaty commitment to go to war for the island, but that’s not been the case since 1980.

All around the world there are border disputes. How many despots in a bit of difficulty at home, may now take their cue to settle things with force?

The United Nations and NATO were set up in the aftermath of Nazi and Japanese aggression in the 1940s to stop this sort of thing, but without the people behind them, western leaders are in a very difficult position. Sanctions have a very patchy history of success, although the Germans are to be praised for halting approval of the new gas pipeline from Russia.

Foreign affairs are low on most people’s list of priorities, so we will see if this flagrant act of aggression is going to see people in the West give backing to their political leaders to take a tough stand. Backing for sending British and American forces to fight the Russians, is a very high bar. So, what about the effect of an all-out sanctions war with Russia? Gas prices are already set to bring real hardship to British households. Are we prepared to see gas and petrol prices go even higher to try and cripple the Russian economy and save the Ukrainians?

A TROUBLED HISTORY

Putin has called Ukraine a fake country. It has certainly suffered because of its flat borders and its position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Mongols, Poles, Lithuanians, Austro-Hungarians and, of course, Russians have ruled parts of the large country down the centuries. However, if we are to take a modern starting point, we can see a distinct people trying to set up a state independent of Russia. That was the case in 1917, until the Bolsheviks crushed the new country inflicting famine which killed five million Ukrainians in the 1930s. Independence returned in 1991, but I have to say the last thirty years has been one of extraordinary political turmoil. The root of the tension is the desire of the western part of the country to join NATO and the EU, while the East is less hostile to Russia.

It has been a deliberate Russian tactic to destabilise the country and then claim that as a reason to invade.

We must now await the outcome which could range from a quick installation of a puppet regime to a prolonged heroic resistance that will eventually grind Russia down.

Business people, just recovering from Covid, face an uncertain time with energy and food prices likely to rise further and the likelihood of commercial cyber-attacks.

One thing is certain, Boris Johnson, will remain as Prime Minister. Anyone mentioning partygate will be directed to the destruction in Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv.

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