In 1938 Britain and France went to school to study appeasement. The very next year the lesson was complete: appeasing an aggressor means encouraging him.
The lesson was costly. Its price was 50 million lives, thousands of ancient cities wiped out, tens of millions left starving and despondent, replacement of brown with red evil over half of Europe.
Yet even such compelling teaching aids have failed to drive the lesson home. Another European dictator commits escalating aggression against neighbouring states, threatening to ignite the world – yet the West’s reaction is the same one that was proved to guarantee a catastrophe: appeasement.
In 2014 Putin’s kleptofascist regime annexed the Crimea, sovereign Ukrainian territory, and then proceeded to grab several eastern provinces of that country, killing 13,000 of its citizens in the process – not to mention hundreds of Westerners aboard the Malaysian airliner shot down by a Russian missile.
The West’s response to that blatant rape of international law was meek and grossly inadequate. But at least there was a response: some slap-on-the-wrist sanctions, Russia’s expulsion from the G8 and suspension of her voting rights in the Council of Europe.
Then a few days ago those voting rights were restored.
One would assume that the actions that had caused the suspension in the first place have been reversed: the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have been returned to their rightful owner; material compensation and profuse apologies have been offered to the victims; the guilt of downing a civilian airliner has been acknowledged, and a promise to comply with any verdict of an international tribunal has been made.
Yet none of this has taken place. What has taken place is the CoE adopting a supine position of appeasement. Their explanation is truly pathetic: it’s unfair to deny Russian citizens the benefit of arbitrage in the European Court of Human Rights, which is an extension of the CoE.
In fact, wronged Russian citizens can appeal to the ECHR, UN, EU or God in heaven for all the good it’s going to do them. Anyone who feels that Russia’s record suggests she’ll comply with the rulings of international law goes beyond naivety: he’s either stupid and ignorant or, more likely, a craven appeaser trying to justify his cowardice and immorality.
Mrs May is about to find that out when, as planned, she’ll demand that the two known Salisbury poisoners face British justice. Putin will laugh in her face. As far as he’s concerned murdering British subjects on British territory is par for the course.
“Treason is the gravest crime possible,” he explained. “I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it . . . but traitors must be punished.”
The cynical effrontery of this pronouncement is hard to match, except by Putin himself. “The Salisbury incident” is exactly the way to do it as far as he’s concerned: after all, he was the one who commissioned the hit.
And Skripal had already been punished by serving six years in prison. He was then released, exchanged for Russian spies and allowed to leave the country. The law of the land had spoken – only for the law of the jungle then to take over.
Now Putin is at the G20 Summit pontificating on the death of liberalism. “The liberal idea has become obsolete,” he pronounced. “It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”
The KGB colonel then proceeded to break said obsolescence down into its constituents: rampant homosexuality, crime getting out of hand, uncontrolled immigration and so forth.
Most of the points Putin made are valid. What isn’t valid is his right to make them.
Thus the care for old people in Britain is often inadequate, but we wouldn’t want Dr Shipman to rail against that iniquity. Children too often receive little attention, but it’s not up to Rosemary West to make that point. Reverse discrimination in America may be getting out of hand, but it’s best that this argument be put forth by someone other than the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The right to criticise must be earned, and Putin hasn’t earned it. He has created history’s unique regime out of an organic blend of secret police, government and organised crime. The unique blend is so homogeneous that it’s impossible to tell its components apart.
Its methods, however, aren’t unique, common as they are to all evil regimes: suppression of free speech, justice always at the dictator’s beck and call, imprisonment of dissidents on trumped-up charges, harassment and murder of opposition politicians and journalists.
The matchless touches come from the economy, corrupt from top to bottom like no other major economy anywhere in the world. Russia has become the world leader in money laundering, and the whitewashed cash is used to buy palaces and yachts for government officials, gangsters and government officials who are gangsters.
Against the background of 20 million Russians living under the poverty level of about £150 a month, Putin has amassed a fortune making him the world’s richest man. To the Russians’ credit, they are beginning to peek through the thick fog of nauseating, stupefying propaganda.
Comparing the numbers of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ on Putin’s recent direct-line Q&A with the nation, one sees a real approval rating of about seven per cent, a far cry from the mythical 86 per cent bandied about.
However, Putin’s approval rating with his Western stooges, such as Donald Trump, is much higher. Yesterday Trump hailed his “very, very good relationship” with the chieftain of a kleptofascist state, adding: “It’s a great honour to be with President Putin”.
Such panegyrics go beyond diplomatic protocol, bespeaking true admiration. Honour? A half-decent man would refuse to shake hands with that creature or, if he had to, would wash them immediately afterwards.
This was followed by a quasi-Masonic handshake, after which Trump winked at Putin with a conspiratorial smile and said: “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”
Let’s turn this into a joke by all means. Putin’s gang is actively subverting the political process in all Western countries, using Western technology to undermine Western values.
Specifically, the Russian manipulation of US presidential elections is a proven fact. And here is the US president playing the game of nudge-nudge, wink-wink with the man whose actions are threatening world peace more than it has ever been threatened since the Cuban crisis.
I fully expect Mrs May to emerge from her plane waving a piece of paper in the air. And if she doesn’t, Trump will. No wonder Mrs Merkel is shaking all over: Europe’s security may soon be threatened.