A stench of war is in the air

On 26 November, 1939, seven artillery shells hit the Soviet outpost at Mainila on the border with Finland.

The Soviets immediately blamed Finland for this act of aggression. Four days later Stalin’s hordes launched a full offensive, aiming to rape Finland the way they had already raped the three Baltic republics. These were the territories Stalin considered his own following his criminal Pact with Hitler.

The incident was the pretext the Soviets needed to add a veneer of legality to their international banditry. Hence they claimed that it was the Finns who had shelled Mainila.

Yet the evidence was incontrovertible: shell fragments disperse in the direction of the trajectory, which in that case came from the south, not the north. Moreover, the Finns didn’t have a single artillery position within range of Mainila.

That was a classic example of a false-flag operation, and the inspiration must have come from the Nazis’ attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, which they blamed on the Poles and used as the casus belli. The two allies freely exchanged ideas at the time, and it’s good to see that their spirit lives on.

Last week the US published a CIA report saying that the Russians are planning a false-flag attack on one of their cities as a prelude to their tanks rolling across the Ukraine’s border.

Typically, such reports are kept under wraps until after the event. Making them public at this point looked like a desperate last-ditch attempt to prevent the offensive. It was as if the Americans were saying to Putin: “We are on to you”.

Then in the early hours of last Friday, many Ukrainian government websites were hit by a coordinated cyberattack. After several hours the sites were brought back to life, but the attack had every look of a dress rehearsal.

The National Bank was among the targets, with the hackers issuing a personalised warning: “Ukrainian! All your personal data are uploaded on a single network. Once the data are wiped out, they aren’t restorable. All your personal information is now public – expect the worst and be afraid.”

I’m beginning to think that Putin wants more than just to blackmail the West into concessions. He wants war. Otherwise Russia’s demands to the West would have been couched in some sort of civilised terms, making it possible for Western appeasers to consider them.

As it was, the demands smacked, in both essence and style, not so much of diplomatic protocol as of a gangster’s ultimatum, along the lines of “if you ever want to see your children again…”.

The Russian dictator regards the West as his country’s existential enemy, and the world as too small for both. In case the West wasn’t quite getting the message, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry helpfully translated from diplomatic into colloquial. “The West,” he said, “should pack its bags and get back to the 1997 borders of NATO”.

The other day, Vice Speaker of the Duma Pyotr Tolstoy, a member of Putin’s United Russia party, put the overall strategy in a nutshell. Russia, he announced, must restore the erstwhile Empire within its borders. Annex a number of former Soviet republics for starters, he explained, and the Baltics and Finland will then realise their own “nullity” and “crawl in by themselves”.

The Winter War that followed the Mainila incident, which cost 500,000 Russian lives, should have disabused Putin’s mouthpiece of such grandiose plans. In fact, Finland is reversing her opposition to joining NATO, while the Baltics are already members. 

None of these countries will “crawl in by themselves”. They’ll fight to the last man, leaving NATO two options only. Either it stops the international gangster or disbands, eliminating the system of collective security that has served Europe so well since 1945, and leaving the continent at the mercy of Putin’s kleptofascist regime.

The signs that NATO may have to face that stark choice are multiplying every day. Russian heavy armaments are being moved westwards from the Far Eastern and Siberian areas – just as they were in 1941, when Moscow was about to fall.

Unknown drones have been overflying Sweden, and the country has reinforced patrols around her largest island, Gotland. Ann Lena Hallin, Director of Military Intelligence, says that “at the moment, Sweden’s safety situation is far from normal”.

Norway is feeling uneasy too. A few days ago one of the two underwater Internet cables connecting the mainland to the Spitsbergen archipelago was severed.

As a deliberate throwback to the 1962 Cuban crisis, the Russians are threatening to install ICBMs in Cuba and, this time, also in Venezuela. Even though the Americans are more inclined towards appeasement now than they were then, they promised to respond to that development in all seriousness, and for once I believe them. No US president will stay in office if he fails to react to that slap in the face of the Monroe Doctrine.

When Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was asked to clarify Russia’s position on another potential Cuban crisis, he left the matter open: “I will neither confirm nor deny anything.” Putin, he added, “has mentioned many times how, for example, the Russian navy may respond to America’s provocations and ratcheted military pressure”.

This is another case of a thief screaming “Stop thief!” as he runs away from his pursuers. There have been no American provocations, and no military pressure has been ratcheted up. Putin and his stooges are lying through their teeth.

The moment Eastern European countries shook off the yoke of Soviet tyranny, they came under pressure from Russia to come back into the fold. In response, they applied for NATO membership, hoping that would save them from new carnage.

By 1997 NATO agreed that 10 countries, including the Baltics, satisfied membership requirements. No one forced or bribed them into NATO – they desperately sought protection from their Eastern neighbour, and, unlike the West, they didn’t have much faith in Russia’s democratic transformation.

NATO only began to enlarge its presence in the east after Russia’s 2014 aggression against the Ukraine. That organisation has always been, and still remains, strictly defensive, set up to protect Europe and the West in general from predatory Russia.

Putin’s Goebbelses are meanwhile whipping up war hysteria, capitalising on the old Russian paranoia about being “encircled by enemies”. That too is a lie.

Only five NATO countries border on Russia, covering just about six per cent of the country’s perimeter. That hardly amounts to encirclement, does it?

People who really understand Russia have known all along that the empire President Reagan so aptly described as “evil” has never really gone away. Yet even those without such extensive knowledge ought to realise that, one way or the other, the evil empire is here now.

The world is on the brink of war, and only an immediate show of resolve and force can stop the evildoers. Westerners, including my readers, must realise that international fascistic gangsters always have designs far exceeding their ostensible claims.

When Putin’s regime pounced on Georgia and the Ukraine, the West merely responded with token sanctions and “expressions of concern”. The present situation fraught with mortal danger is a direct result of that craven acquiescence.

Should the West allow Putin to rape the Ukraine again, the turn of NATO members will come next. At some point a military response will become unavoidable, and God help us then.

Alas, history is a poor teacher – or rather people are truant pupils. All lessons fall on deaf ears, and we’ve learned nothing from Chamberlain’s “quarrel in a far-away country, between people of whom we know nothing”.

We are too ignorant and lackadaisical to realise that, if the Ukraine falls, the UK won’t remain safe for ever. History is screaming parallels, yet nobody hears the screams.

4 thoughts on “A stench of war is in the air”

  1. The salient difference between Hitler and Putin is that the former genuinely believed he was the conduit for a pagan deity, so was more than willing to take on the whole world. Putin’s psychological makeup manifestly includes a considerable philistine component. Surely at this point in his life, he must be eying the exits, calculating the odds, perhaps his inner circle will help him fake his own death. Then his replacement can begin a process of ‘de-Putinisation’ -Just a thought.

  2. “No US president will stay in office if he fails to react to that slap in the face of the Monroe Doctrine.”

    I’m not sure about that. China is making a move on the Caribbean with hardly any reaction from Washington. With Mr. Biden in office, the US is in its weakest position in a generation. Perhaps Mr. Putin feels the time has never been better to claim a piece of the action.

  3. After such a large military build-up it will be hard for Putin not to use without losing a lot of face. UNLESS he gets serious concessions from the USA and NATO he will look bad.

    His perception of NATO and the USA in particular being weak only compounded by the recent AFGHAN disaster. Jellyfish in the west will collapse with some pressure applied.

    Young Russian troops right now mandated to read a booklet that can best be titled: “Why We Fight”.

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