Unhappy anniversary

Two years ago today, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine. Putin declared the war would be over in three days, which has turned out be the longest three days in history.

That blitzkrieg immediately claimed a large chunk of Ukrainian territory, at which point the Ukrainian forces began their heroic fightback. Before the attrition phase began last autumn, they had reclaimed some 50 per cent of the lost territory, inflicting heavy losses on the invaders.

The West sprang, or rather trundled, to the Ukraine’s defence. President Zelensky issued a Churchillian plea for the tools to do the job, which regrettably didn’t elicit any response on the scale of the Lend Lease. The tools did come, but nowhere near enough to do the job that really needs doing: driving the fascist aggressors back to the 1991 borders established by both bilateral and international treaties.

Having had their tails pinned back, the Russians bared their fangs and began a war of annihilation. In addition to savage (and well-documented) brutality towards civilians in the occupied areas, they systematically proceeded to destroy Ukrainian cities and infrastructure burying thousands under the rubble.

Putin’s intention is clear: since the Ukrainians have the temerity to resist, the country and its people must be exterminated. Cato’s demand, Carthago delenda est, has been reiterated in a different place and at a different time by an evil dictator who has never heard of Cato.

Western aid has been trickling down to the Ukraine, but at a level that testified to only two possibilities: either the West was mortally petrified of Putin or it wasn’t aware of the full magnitude of the threat Russia posed. The first was craven; the second, stupid.

If NATO presented a united front of countries deadset on stopping Russian aggression in its tracks, Russia couldn’t even consider a conventional assault on any NATO member. It’s doubtful Russia could successfully take on even Poland on her own, never mind the combined might of all NATO countries.

Putin knows that, which is why both he and his stooges incessantly threaten the West, in fact the world, with nuclear annihilation. If we are made to leave, they keep saying, we’ll bang the door on the way out with such force that nothing will remain standing anywhere.

In other words they resort to the “I’m a psycho!” ploy I described the other day. That was how weaker boys used to keep bullies off their backs in Russian dark alleys. Now, I have neither the intelligence data that would confirm or deny the probability of such a scenario nor the military knowledge to judge its likely outcome.

But considering the relative military, economic and technological strengths of NATO and Russia, one can confidently predict that, while the former would suffer horrific losses, the latter would be wiped off the map. Putin knows this and, more important, those who form his power base know it. Another player opposed to the game unfolding in that way is China, which has much to lose and nothing to gain from a nuclear exchange between NATO and Russia.

That makes Russia’s nuclear retaliation against the West highly improbable, though of course not impossible. Nothing is impossible for evil dictators.

However, if that remote possibility forced the West to surrender to evil, the West would remain Western only in the strictly geographical sense. Everything that used to amount to the moral, intellectual and metaphysical strength of our civilisation would have had to fall by the wayside.

Since I believe – or rather hope and pray – that this isn’t the case, the second possibility is more likely. The West doesn’t see Putin as enough of a threat to anything other than the Ukraine’s sovereignty. And that isn’t a sufficient inducement for the West to commit itself fully to her support.

If so, then this misapprehension can be kindly called myopic or, more realistically, idiotic. Watch what evil dictators do, chaps, and especially listen to what they say. For, unlike Western politicians, people like Hitler or Putin don’t have to fear an electoral backlash. So they are never reticent about their intentions. Putin hasn’t yet written his own Mein Kampf, but what he and his spokesmen have said could easily be collated into a book that size.

The Ukraine, they are saying, isn’t the final destination but only a step along the way. Putin regards the Ukraine as strictly a NATO proxy whose rearguard action is holding up the Russian offensive. Its strategic objective is returning to the halcyon days of the Soviet Empire.

That means reincorporating the former Soviet republics and re-establishing the Russian domination of Eastern Europe. Since almost all Eastern European countries are NATO members, such an objective is tantamount to NATO being disbanded or at least emasculated.

Refusing to take Putin at his word spells criminal irresponsibility, far exceeding the West’s craven response to the Nazi threat in the runup to the Second World War. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst – this homespun truth is indeed truthful, and the West ignores it at its peril.

We, citizens of Western countries, should thank our lucky stars (we’ve forgotten how to thank God) that we aren’t called upon to do our own fighting. The Ukrainians are happy to do that for us. All they are begging for is weapons: artillery, AA defences, air superiority warplanes, tanks, long-range missiles and above all ordnance for the systems already in operation.

What happens when they don’t even get enough artillery shells was demonstrated at Avdiivka, a key town in the Donetsk area the Russians managed to capture after four months of non-stop fighting. The Ukrainians fought brilliantly, killing at least 14,000 Russians and in the end managing to break out of the encirclement. That was the best they could do because their cannon fell silent. They ran out of ammunition.

Over the two years, the US has been the biggest supplier of aid, averaging about $1.5 billion a month. That was a drop in the ocean for a country spending the better part of $800 billion a year on defence. But even that drop dried out in December, when the Democrats and the Republicans began to play their little games while the Ukraine was bleeding white.

The difference between the two parties is mainly rhetorical. Biden pledges undying support for the Ukraine and calls Putin a “son of a bitch”, while the congressional Republicans inspired by Trump make frankly isolationist noises along the lines of “not our war” and “let’s sort out our own problems first”.

In that spirit, House Speaker Mike Johnson kept refusing to put the aid package to a vote, trying to delay doing so as much possible. Yesterday he sent the House into recess without that vital vote ever taking place.

Meanwhile, Biden is currying favour with his electorate by talking tough yet doing nothing. He tries to score electoral points against the Republicans while refusing to provide to the Ukrainians the $4.5 billion already allocated in the budget for this fiscal year. That’s equal to three months’ worth of aid – at a time when Russian murderers are claiming hundreds of Ukrainian lives every day.

Every Putinversteher, in fact Putinfan, justifies delivering the Ukraine to Putin by explaining that the country is less than perfect. Only fanatic Putinistas like Hitchens repeat Putin’s lies about the Ukraine being Nazi, but they all point out she is corrupt.

Of course she is. What do you expect after 75 years of communism? I assure you that the level of corruption even in the most westernised post-Soviet republics, the Baltics, is higher than anywhere in the West. But whoever said the West should choose as its allies only angelic countries where none of the nation’s wealth is ever pilfered?

The Ukraine is good only relatively speaking, but the critical thing to understand is that Putin’s Russia is evil absolutely. The moral choice is clearcut even if we are so foolhardy as to ignore the strategic considerations.

Understanding that the Ukraine is more corrupt than Britain should affect only the nature of the aid we provide, not our determination to provide it. For example, I’d keep cash transfers to the Ukraine down to a minimum, channelling most aid into armaments. Whatever cash is sent can come from raiding the ill-gotten Russian lucre, some $300 billion of it, sitting in Western banks, although that money could be better used to rebuild the Ukraine after the war.

But not to supply armaments the country needs to stem the onslaught of evil is the height of strategic myopia and moral decrepitude. The Ukraine may be an imperfect country, but she is our imperfect country.

Today, on this tragic anniversary, every decent person must join the Ukrainians dying for us all in crying “Glory to the Ukraine!” Today, that is the battle cry of the forces of good.

2 thoughts on “Unhappy anniversary”

  1. I found my sympathy for Ukraine waning last year. But the more I think about it I think you are right. Although my heart goes out to those young Russian men being fed into a meat grinder for the sake of some deranged historical fan-fiction. God knows what the true death toll is for either side. It seems like the Ukrainians were faring pretty well during 2022 but things seem to be getting worse and worse for them. Although that could just be Russian propaganda. What do you consider the best source for information regarding the war?

    1. If I were you, I’d reserve my compassion for the victims of Russian fascists, not for “those young men” who invaded unprovoked other people’s country to murder, torture, rape and loot. As to sources, the more, the merrier. I like to crossreference information from several British papers and also some Russian and Ukrainian sources (those are, alas, in Russian). I wouldn’t rust any single source.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.