You have to stand up to a bully – but will we?

Do Brits – or indeed the West – have an appetite for a war with Putin? We can’t even have a mature debate about Fracking, and we love cuts in defence spending. Frank McKenna’s latest blog reflects on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Frank McKenna

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“The British people have proved before that we will suffer economic pain at home, to protect democracy for our allies abroad – and we will again.”

That was the general message coming from our politicians following the decision of Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine this week.

Is that true? I’m not so sure. Indeed, not only have some people been complaining about the direct impact the limited sanctions the UK have taken against Russia is having through the rocketing price of petrol – I have even seen comments from supporters of football clubs swilling with Rubles, bemoaning the prospect of their Oligarch sugar daddies being caught up in this international dispute.

More generally, there is zero appetite for war from the vast majority of populations across the West. This is partly because of the misadventures into Iraq and Afghanistan, but also because the attitude, the gut instinct of a 2022 Brit or European or American, is very different to that of their sisters and brothers back in the 1930s and 40s.

‘All you need is Love’ has slowly but surely become an integral part of our DNA and cultural outlook that has persuaded us, and our leaders, to turn a blind eye to the activities of Putin over many years. At the same time electors have not simply passively allowed, but actively supported, huge government cuts to our military capability.

Not only have we failed to properly prepare to deal with the Tyrant that is Putin – but we have allowed him and his agents to integrate into our financial and political institutions – particularly here in Britain.

Further, the West’s reliance on Russian energy supplies also enabled our political leaders to swerve controversial decisions that needed to be made around nuclear energy and fracking as major and reliable, independent sources of energy. Instead, we pretended that giant windmills and solar panels could credibly and consistently keep our lights on.

Chickens are coming home to roost. Like all sane people, I am hoping that the belated sanctions that are being imposed against Russia will have the desired effect. If they do, then let’s hope the West’s leaders have learned the lesson that relying on a dictator and his mates to provide economic and political cover, allowing you to curry favour with your domestic audience, may offer short term gain – but it will certainly cause long term pain.

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