‘Judge a man by the company he keeps’. My friend Vlad ought to have familiarised himself with this Euripidean maxim before attending yesterday’s festivities in China.
Communist China used the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in the Second World War to parade its muscle. Over 12,000 soldiers marched through Tiananmen Square, where the same army massacred a peaceful demonstration in 1989.
According to China’s sources, 80 per cent of the military technology on show was brand-new, including missile systems operating from space against groups of aircraft carriers. Reading about it, I heaved a sigh of relief.
Mercifully Britain is safe from this cosmic threat for we have no such groups. After all, a group made up of our solitary carrier would sound shamefully tautological. How Americans feel about this technological breakthrough may be a different matter altogether.
Anyway, it was appropriate that China’s armed forces celebrate in style their triumph of 70 years ago. Defeating imperial Japan is something Chinese communists can take pr…
Ouch! An ice-cold shower has poured down to douse my enthusiasm. For Chinese communists, whose descendants rule the country now, were in effect Japan’s allies, not her conquerors.
It was Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomingtang that fought a guerrilla war against Japan. Mao’s communists were fighting a guerrilla war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomingtang, thus helping Japan no end.
It wasn’t China – and certainly not communist China – that defeated Japan, but the combined might of the USA, Britain and, in the last week, the Soviet Union. Therefore for China to hail that victory as her own is downright mendacious.
That’s why Vlad was the only major foreign leader to accept Xi Jinping’s invitation to attend the parade. The Soviet Union doesn’t exist any longer, and the other real victors gave the extravaganza a wide berth.
That, however, didn’t make the government stands empty. Posing next to the grinning Vlad and inscrutable Xi were the leaders of those other countries that made such a decisive contribution to the glorious victory: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Burma, the Congo, Venezuela, Pakistan, Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos.
That should tell Vlad exactly where Russia falls in the pecking order of nations. And it should tip the West to the strategy Vlad is pursuing.
Emulating his role model Stalin, who in 1939 struck an alliance with the other evil power of Europe, Vlad is now hoping to get into bed with the other evil power of Asia.
Having found the hard way that the West, for all its obvious weakness, is unlikely to succumb to Russia’s nuclear blackmail, Putin is hoping to recruit China to his cause.
Hence his recent pronouncements on the essentially Eastern nature of the Russian people and Russia’s historic mission to unite Eurasia under her banners.
Vlad’s retired colleague Gorbachev used to bang on the same theme, when he defied geography by talking about ‘our common European home from the Atlantic to Vladivostok’. But at least Gorby speaking ad orbi didn’t threaten to enforce such a geographic solecism by nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, our social networks are singing hosannas to Putin. One picture catching my eye was of Cameron and Putin together, with the caption asking rhetorically which one of them “cares about his people”.
My answer would be ‘neither’, but the implication was that one of them does, and it isn’t Dave. I have to agree: Putin does care about his people. Except that he defines that group more narrowly than his Western champions think.
Putin’s people are the ruling junta of the KGB/FSB fused with the criminal underworld. That’s why the top one per cent of Russia’s population own 71 per cent of the country’s wealth, as opposed to an average of 32 per cent in Europe.
The ruling elite operates according to the unwritten laws of mafia gangs, with the godfather aware that losing face will be quickly followed by losing his life. And Putin is in danger of losing face over his aggression against the Ukraine.
His idea was to launch a staggered offensive, testing the West’s reaction every step of the way. In Step 1 the West reacted to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 with roughly the same insouciance as it displayed towards Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938.
Thus emboldened, Vlad’s ragtag army of psychotic criminals and regular Russian troops without insignia moved into the eastern Ukraine. Had the West again shrugged its indifference, all of the Ukraine would have been occupied, probably followed by the Baltics.
However, though the West didn’t respond with appropriate resolve, it did respond – by introducing sanctions and pledging its support for the Ukraine and the three Baltic Nato members.
Vlad stopped and looked around. What he saw was many a KGB caporegime looking at him askance to check if il padrino’s face was still where it should be.
Vlad knew he wouldn’t survive a humiliation. Not only would he lose power but he may not even be allowed to enjoy his ill-gotten billions in quiet retirement, Gorby-style.
This explains the crescendo in his overtures to China, which he hopes will end in the rousing finale of a military alliance. Vlad is reluctant t to take on the West by himself – the military odds don’t look promising even despite the West’s demob-happy lassitude.
I doubt that alliance will ever materialise: China’s interests probably lie elsewhere. Even so, there’s every sign that Putin is gearing up for war. In the good tradition of Soviet leaders, he cares about his people so much that he’s prepared to lose millions of them in pursuit of his own criminal ambitions.