Putin highlights English pundits’ moral and intellectual failings

Don’t ring for the men in white coats yet.

I haven’t suddenly fallen in love with Putin, and neither do I think he’s qualified to pass judgement on any serious matters.

What shows how deeply we’ve sunk into a hole isn’t anything Putin has said. It’s what he does and what he is. And specifically how we respond to what he does and what he is.

I know this parallel has been flogged to death, but the last time so many Westerners got things so cataclysmically wrong was in 1938.

Then well-meaning idiots talked about “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”.

Today’s ‘useful idiots’ are different from yesterday’s well-meaning ones. They don’t acknowledge ignorance – even those who make illiterate statements in every paragraph know it all.

That, however, is half the trouble, as the Russians put it. No one can be expected to be in full command of every fact, and people like Christopher Booker and Peter Hitchens certainly know enough to form a coherent opinion.

What spells trouble with a capital T is that their moral and intellectual premises are so staggeringly wrong.

Since both men get most other things right, one wonders why they talk wicked nonsense on this subject. Then again, many clever men were just as wrong in 1938.

I’ve commented on Hitchens’s Putinophilia often enough, and today he’s again talking about “the Kiev junta whose violent, lawless seizure of power we so stupidly backed last winter.”

Hitchens has been saying exactly the same thing for months now, and since he obviously has nothing to add to this gibberish, neither do I have anything to add to my earlier comments.

However, Booker’s article in yesterday’s Telegraph deserves a comment. After all, one seldom sees a piece that gets everything so wrong. Everything – every little thing.

In the lead paragraph Booker refers to Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine as “the civil war”. One is supposed to infer that one group of Ukrainians is fighting another, like the Americans did in the 19th century or our own Roundheads and Cavaliers in the 17th.

But surely anyone who has been following the events knows that most of the fight is carried to the Ukraine by units of the Russian army, such as the 76th Airborne Division?

That even the original Ukrainian ‘separatists’ were trained, armed and led by Russian officers? That their first commander, Igor Girkin-Strelkov, is a Russian Muscovite born and bred who has never even lived in the Ukraine? That Putin’s proxy troops include people from all over the former Soviet Union?

Pontificating out of ignorance is never commendable, but then of course there’s another possibility. Booker may ignore the facts he knows for the sake of indulging in ideological demagoguery. If so, that is a serious problem bespeaking a tragic character flaw.

If Booker can get so many things wrong in just two words, ‘civil war’, imagine the depth of the hole he can dig for himself in a longish paragraph. To wit:

“It cannot be said often enough that what triggered the crisis was not Mr Putin’s desire to restore the boundaries of the Soviet Union, but the ludicrously misguided ambition of the West to see Ukraine absorbed into the EU and Nato. There was never any way that either Mr Putin or all those Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and Crimea were going to take kindly to seeing the country which was the cradle of Russian identity become part of a Western power bloc. Russia would be even less happy to see the only warm-water ports for its navy taken over by a military alliance that had been set up to counter Russia in the first place.”

A reader of mine expressed a similar thought more crudely by referring to Putin’s “pacifist statesmanship” which is “in stark contrast to the degenerate warmongers in Washington, Brussels, Kiev and NATO.”

The foray into the Ukraine is the third war Putin has started in less than 10 years, Chechnya and Georgia being his previous victims. That’s pretty good going for a pacifist, and one can only guess what kind of mayhem he’d wreak if he were bellicose.

As to ‘degenerate warmongers’, that’s exactly how Hitler described England and France in 1938, just as they were desperately trying to appease him. (That tired old parallel again, it simply won’t go away.)

But at least my reader chose private correspondence as his medium. Booker, on the other hand, went public, which was a mistake.

Chaps, the Ukraine is an independent European country of 45 million souls. She hasn’t been independent, or indeed unified, for long, and neither did she have long spells of independence and unity throughout her history.

Yet the same can be said about many other countries in the world, and certainly in Europe. Remember the seven lands that used to add up to Yugoslavia? Fourteen out of 15 Soviet republics? Most African countries? Quite a few Asian ones?

We may snigger at their present status, but few of us would regard it as casus belli. What matters is that those former provinces of larger entities are now sovereign countries.

Not all of them are nice. Not every one of the governments was elected fairly if at all. Yet, unless they threaten us or our allies, none of this is our business. As sovereign countries, they can run their affairs as they see fit.

I despise the EU, and distrust Nato, every bit as strongly as Messrs Hitchens, Booker et al. Nonetheless a sovereign nation’s desire to join either organisation or both doesn’t give its more powerful neighbour any legal or moral right to launch an aggression. The Ukraine provoked Putin’s aggression in the same sense in which a man wearing a bespoke suit provokes a mugger.

It’s a gross fallacy to regard only a universal democratic vote as a legitimising factor of a nation’s founding. How many Americans voted for independence in 1776? How many Germans voted for unification in 1871?

Does Hitchens talk about the American junta or the German one? Does Booker, along with other democracy mongers, feel the two regimes are illegitimate? Then why do they describe the overthrow of the petty criminal and Putin’s puppet in such terms?

In his democratic fervour Booker actually goes so far as hailing the “96 per cent of Crimeans [who] democratically voted in March to join Russia.”

He probably doesn’t know that the indigenous Tartar population boycotted the referendum, that the option to preserve the status quo wasn’t on the table, that the actual turnout was closer to 30-40% than to the 83% claimed, or that every poll conducted over the last three years showed only a 34% support for reunification with Russia.

These facts may have slipped his attention. But surely a lifelong political commentator should smell a rat when any proposition polls 96%, especially in a place occupied by foreign troops? Apparently not. Ideology can override the olfactory sense.

Neither is the Ukraine ‘the cradle of Russian identity’. Kievan Rus was founded and run by Scandinavian conquerors, and neither Russia nor especially the Ukraine was even a twinkle in their eye.

True enough, the statue to Grand Duke Vladimir erected by Ukrainians in Holland Park identifies him as “ruler of Ukraine”, but this is another example of ideology trumping facts. The word ‘Ukraine’ was never even mentioned in history until half a millennium after Vladimir’s death (1015).

As to the possibility of Nato taking over the Russian naval base at Sebastopol, this is a figment of Booker’s inflamed imagination. The Russians maintained a long-term lease on the base, and no Ukrainian government, Nato or no Nato, would have cancelled it – any more than Cuba can cancel the American lease on the Guantanamo base.

When otherwise intelligent people start uttering ignorant drivel, one should examine not their minds but their psychology. Though this isn’t my field, I can recommend the services of my psychiatrist friend. He’ll be glad to help.

Lies, damned lies and UN statistics on sexual violence

As a credulous sort, I’m prepared to believe anything people tell me: the cheque is in the post, Islam is a religion of peace, Damien Hirst is an artist – you name it.

So much more the reason for me to accept as gospel the results of the latest UN study on sexual violence.

The greatest survey of its kind ever undertaken, it covered 190 countries, which by my calculations means more or less all of them.

This is yet another reason to accept the findings without demurring – if UNICEF, which we know is a force for good, as are all international agencies without exception, goes to such trouble, surely they wouldn’t release any slipshod data to an eagerly awaiting world.

The findings, one must admit, do stretch one’s credulity, but not quite to breaking point. The study says that at least one out of 10 women have been sexually assaulted by the time they turn 20.

That’s quite a lot. I recall all the women I know or have even known, trying to figure out which of them found themselves in the unfortunate percentile. One out of 10?

Hard to believe, that, but then this is just one man’s experience. I’ve never visited more than 20 countries, never mind the 190 scrutinised by UNICEF. They are the experts, and a credulous sort like me must take them at their word.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as easy-going as I am. Some people – including, I’m mortified to admit, my friends – may have doubts. They may ask awkward questions, an annoying tendency that UNICEF dignitaries do little to discourage.

Quite the contrary, those doubting Thomases may regard as positively encouraging the comment proffered by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

Sexual violence, he said, “cuts across boundaries of age, geography, religion, ethnicity and income brackets”.

Presumably this means that the swath thus cut is of equal width and depth everywhere. It has to be, for otherwise such an important man could be accused of uttering meaningless drivel.

For if the swath width varies from, say, one in a 1,000 in one place to 65 in a 100 in another, then Mr Lake’s statement is idiotic or else deliberately deceptive. Naturally, any decent man must reject either possibility indignantly.

So fine. I’m prepared to believe that a middleclass, middle-aged American churchgoer or a demographically similar Israeli Hassid is as likely as a Somali Muslim or a Jamaican pagan to force his attentions on a prepubescent girl.

Even more likely actually: an earlier UNICEF study points an accusing finger at Americans, who seem to be inveterate rapists far in excess of the global average.

It was found out in 2011 that 35 per cent of adolescent American girls and 20 per cent of adolescent boys reported suffering some form of sexual violence during their lives.

Now I’m really worried, especially since one can confidently predict that a future study will show that every woman in the world has been raped at least once. (Does a gang rape count as one or should it be multiplied by the number of assailants? I’ll ask UNICEF and get back to you on that one.)

I have family in America, including grandchildren, both female and male. None of them is anywhere near 20, so they’d better move somewhere safe before they reach that cut-off point. Perhaps Africa or Latin America.

Oops, that may not be such a good idea after all. Reading the report’s small print, one finds a coy admission that sexual violence appears to be particularly prevalent in such countries as the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Panama, Brazil and Colombia, “though by no means limited to them”.

A doubting Thomas’s antennae would be twitching now, and he would again be forced to play the numbers game. What does this mean? One in 10,000 in Canada versus 99 in a 100 in Columbia? The naysayer is clamouring for a geographic and demographic breakdown, but none is forthcoming.

Moreover, according to the report at least a third of the sex without permission is perpetrated by the victim’s husband or cohabitor.

(The report actually uses the word ‘partner’, but I have problems with it. Partners don’t do sexual assault, in my experience. During my business life I had at least a dozen of them, and not one ever tried to rape me. Either they were undersexed, or I’m singularly unattractive.)

Another close look fails to detect any distinction drawn between various types of sexual violence. The lifelong champion of political correctness in me rejoices: pinching a girl’s bottom on a bus and raping her at knifepoint in a park are equally criminal in today’s ethos.

It’s the naysayers I’m worried about, those reactionaries who insist that the definition of sexual assault in general and rape in particular has become rather loose. It includes, for example, a woman asking her husband to withdraw in mid-stroke and him neglecting to do so.

According to not just the ethos but also the law, the husband is a rapist. As such, he falls into the same rubric as a knife-wielding degenerate assaulting a girl at a bus stop.

As I’ve been saying, I have no problems with any of this. It’s just that I know many people who might.


The Torygraph gloating at the suicide of the Tory party – how very confusing

Not so long ago the spectrum of our mainstream press shone brightly enough to be clearly visible.

The Mail stood for the Thatcher brand of oxymoronic conservative radicalism, with a slight American accent overlaid on its lower-middleclass lilt.

The Telegraph enunciated the traditional God, king and country Toryism, and its accent was born in top public schools, only to be flattened out in later life.

The Times was a residually Tory paper, however one whose allegiance was not so much to the Tory philosophy as to the Tory party. Speaking in the accents of minor public schools, it would vote for Fidel Castro, if only he agreed to sport a blue rosette.

The Independent belied its name by being a committed Labour, which is to say socialist, paper. It was nostalgic for the 1970s, when Britain was ‘the sick man of Europe’. The paper’s accent was similar to that of The Times, but straining to move into the phonetic area signposted by glottal stops and dropped aitches.

The Guardian was The Independent with cultural pretensions. Hence no glottal stops or dropped aitches. No commitment specifically to socialism either – the paper was ready to tout any ideology hostile to what Tony Blair called ‘the forces of conservatism’, which is to say traditional England.

Then the world went topsy-turvy: Labour under Tony and later the Tories under Dave converged in the middle.

This convergence went by the name of modernisation, which, in common with most words in the modern political lexicon, meant something other than what its name suggests.

As wielded by Tony and ‘the heir to Blair’ Dave, the word really stands for replacing the two parties’ core principles with unadulterated powerlust.

Labour ‘modernisers’ were prepared to compromise their socialist superstitions for the sake of acquiring power. Tory ‘modernisers’ worshiped the same deity and hence were ready to sacrifice their party’s erstwhile convictions at the same altar.

However, Tony and later Dave didn’t have a free ride.

The parties’ leaders were ready to devour their principles, but the principles proved too big to swallow whole. Their leftovers survived at the grassroots and on the back benches – and they began to bite back.

As a result, Tony’s ‘New Labour’ was supplanted by Miliband’s old-fashioned Marxists in hock to the unions.

But Marxism, which is to say the urgent desire to destroy the West, had never disappeared from the modern Labour party. Tony had just dressed it up to look good to the country.

That’s why Labour’s reversion to radical socialism hasn’t destroyed the party’s unity any more than changing from a blazer into a T-shirt would destroy a man.

The Labour cause was bolstered by Zeitgeist, the spirit emanating from Britain’s largely corrupted populace. The country seems to have reached the critical mass of corruption, with sufficient numbers dependent on a socialist state ready to vote Labour as an election-swinging bloc.

The Tory party, on the other hand, has chucked its heritage altogether, with the ardour of a neophyte.

Under Dave’s subversive leadership, people with traditional Tory views have lost their pride of place within the Tory party.

Unlike old-fashioned Marxists who still sit at the left elbow of the leader, old-fashioned conservatives, those unwilling to betray everything they hold dear, have to get up and leave.

Hence the rapid rise of Ukip, a party positioning itself as a haven for real conservatives betrayed by the Tories. After the recent defection of Tory MP Douglas Carswell, Ukip is about to become a parliamentary party, and it’s certain to acquire a few more MPs in the next election.

Hence also the brewing insurgency on the Tory back benches, where some 100 younger MPs don’t really believe that homosexual marriage is as good as any other, or that Britain would be better off as a province of the EU.

Unlike the purely tactical divergences between the socialists and the ‘modernisers’ within Labour ranks, the fundamental conflict among the real and ‘modernising’ Tories is tearing the party apart – to a point where it’s likely to lose the next election.

This on-going game of musical chairs has confused the papers on the right of the political spectrum. They no longer know whom – or what – to support.

The Times, which has for years put party allegiance before any principles, seems to be convinced that the Tories must become like Labour if they want to win an election in the name of conservatism.

To that end the paper is running the kind of stories that 20 years ago Guardian editors would have spiked for being too leftwing. The Times has left its cherished centrist position to become downright sinister – or gauche, if you’d rather (notice how foreign words for ‘left’ all have pejorative connotations in English).

The Mail sympathises with Ukip, and only its well-justified dread of the catastrophe, which the Milibandits will surely wreak when in power, prevents the paper from endorsing Nigel Farage in so many words.

That leaves The Telegraph, and it’s hard not to feel its pain. Caught between the Scylla of Tory ‘modernisation’ and the Charybdis of its traditionally conservative readership, the paper is trying to feed both animals, leaving both hungry.

This explains the presence of someone like Dan Hodges among its columnists. The son of Glenda Jackson, Britain’s answer to ‘Hanoi’ Jane Fonda, Hodges vindicates the old proverb about an apple and the tree.

In a recent article this career Labour apparatchik bemoans the less than dominant position of Tory ‘modernisers’, positively gloating about the impending demise of the party.

“Who are the Tory equivalents [of Labour ‘modernisers’]?” he asks. “The people who understand that 21st century Conservatism cannot be built upon isolationism, Fifties-style social puritanism and reheated Thatcherism? …Where are the articles… arguing not that Carswell is an electoral and tactical nuisance, but that he and his Ukip colleagues are fundamentally, ideologically wrong?”

“There is still hope for the Left,” rejoices The Telegraph through Hodges. Indeed there is. I’m less sure there’s hope for England.

Carswell ‘and his Ukip colleagues’ are real conservatives, something that’s anathema to Hodges and Dave, who openly admits that Glenda’s boy is his favourite columnist.

That’s the Tory PM openly admiring a professional and not very bright leftie, on the staff of a traditionally Tory newspaper. No wonder I’m confused and disgusted at the same time.



Beheadings in Iraq: consider the source

Religion of peace is getting ever so slightly out of hand, wouldn’t you say?

Suddenly a seditious question crosses one’s mind: can it be that perhaps Islam does have something to do with IS monstrosity, if only a teensy-weensy bit?

No, surely not. In the aftermath of the twin towers collapsing, George W. Bush explained that Islam isn’t to blame for anything Muslims do, even if they claim to be acting in the name of Allah.

One wonders. We don’t see many Buddhists lunching on human organs, nor many Confucians engaged in terrorism and general mayhem all over the world, attacking anyone within close proximity.

Neither do many Christians publicly behead journalists, this in spite of the severe provocation provided by the entire editorial staffs of The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and the BBC.  

Sorry about sounding facetious about this, but my first editor all those years ago taught me not to rant, instead using irony as a defence mechanism.

Such self-restraint isn’t easy in the face of the monumental stupidity, cowardice and moral corruption happily co-existing within the breast of our leaders.

It’s thanks to this confluence of character traits that they refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Those IS animals, including the now famous product of our comprehensive education, wouldn’t be committing their midnight horrors on such a scale if they were Buddhists, Confucians or Christians.

They commit them because they are Muslims. Unless we realise this, and act accordingly, things will get much worse and we’ll find ourselves on the receiving end – yet again.

The copout so beloved of our spivocratic leaders, that only a minority of Muslims cut off people’s heads, doesn’t wash.

Only a minority of Dresden dwellers were SS murderers, yet that fact didn’t queer the aim of US and British bombardiers. The Soviet communist party had a total membership of under 10 per cent of the population, yet this didn’t deter us from training nuclear missiles on Soviet cities.

Violence on a massive scale is always initiated by a radical elite, the red-hot end of a largely inert mass. The rest follow half-heartedly or at least acquiesce, until they too get into the spirit and become indistinguishable from the elite in their murderous ardour.

These aren’t theoretical abstractions. They are premises for a coherent strategy executed by appropriate tactics.

When the first American journalist was decapitated on camera, President Obama said “We don’t have a strategy yet” and went off to work on his golf swing.

When the second American pundit lost his head, Obama didn’t say anything. Our own Dave wasn’t particularly forthcoming either – he was too busy fuming about Israel’s ‘deplorable’ occupation of an area roughly equal in size to the parks between London’s Westminster and Kensington.

By all accounts our great leaders are busily working behind the scenes in an effort to put together an ad hoc anti-IS coalition, including the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Kurds and anyone else willing to join.

As far as I know, neither the IRA nor the Tamil Tigers have been asked. They must feel terribly left out, wondering where they’ve gone wrong.

It has to be said that Dubya and Tony were considerably more decisive back in 2003, when committing US and British troops in the Middle East. It was thanks to them that democracy came to Iraq, though it has since left.

The vacuum thus formed was filled by Islamic terror, now threatening to engulf our countries as well. Yet God forbid we should act decisively and unilaterally to stamp out those IS thugs like cockroaches – we only ever go in when we shouldn’t, when doing so is guaranteed to set the world aflame.

A rapid unilateral offensive might look as if it’s us against them, the post-Christian West against the Islamic East. How multi-culti would that be? Not very. Certainly not enough to mollify The Guardian, The Independent, The Times – and, I hope you’re getting up to salute, the BBC.

Turn those chaps against you, and you can kiss the next election good-bye, Dave has no doubts on that score. Nor is Obama in much doubt on the electoral prospects of the Democrats should the TV networks, The New York Times and The Washington Post fall out of love with them, however temporarily.

Hence the urgent need to form a coalition with Muslim wolves, on this occasion donning synthetic sheep’s clothing. Look, we’ve got the Kurds on our side, they are Muslims, so who are you calling anti-Islamic bigots, Mr Voter?

This is all terribly wrong. The proper way for our countries to act is to straighten out the mess of our own creation.

It’s thanks to our own criminal stupidity that Islam has entered an impassioned phase, a development kept in check prior to that by the secular thugs we’ve removed. The region and the religion are now on fire, and only fire can put it out.

Rewind the clock back 100-odd years and ask yourself this question: How would Britain and the USA have responded then to public murders of Englishmen and Americans in Islamic lands?

How likely would those prime ministers and presidents have been to ponder whether or not it was justified to hold a wide group responsible for the crimes committed by a few of its members?

The question contains the answer. They would have hit the whole region with all they had, laying about them with rather indiscriminate violence and without giving a second thought to extraneous considerations. No one murdered Englishmen or Americans and got away with it.

In 1904, when the Moroccan brigand Raisuni kidnapped a Greek-American named Perdicaris, President Theodore Roosevelt (also involved in an election campaign at the time) immediately sent a squadron of warships to Morocco.

The ships levelled their guns on Rabat and flew the signal “Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead!” No poll was conducted to determine the proportion of the Rabat population sympathetic to Raisuli or complicit in his crimes.

How far should the West go to protect its citizens and allies against Islamic barbarism? There’s only one geopolitically viable or indeed moral answer to this question: as far as it takes, and never mind multi-culti rectitude.

Yet we in the West have lost the knack for providing such answers. Nor do we realise any longer that those who won’t fight for their civilisation don’t deserve to keep it.











Is Finland next?

Col. Putin is a tragically misunderstood figure, not least by me.

There I was, thinking that the good colonel is desperate to rebuild the Soviet Union, whose demise he once described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”.

How wrong I was! A reader has kindly sent me an excerpt from an interview given to the Swedish paper Svenska Dagbladet by Putin’s former economic advisor Andrei Illarionov.

According to Mr (formerly Comrade) Illarionov, who should know, Putin couldn’t care less about the Soviet Union and the reconstruction thereof.

Granted, he does think that Khrushchev was criminally negligent when gerrymandering the Crimea out of Russia and into the Ukraine.

But Vlad has neither any quarrel with Nikita nor any desire to correct his mistakes. It’s Lenin’s dismemberment of the Russian Empire that gives Putin sleepless nights.

According to Illarionov, the good colonel sees himself not so much as another Stalin as a harder version of Nicholas II, a sort of Nicholas I Lite.

This ambition explains his constant references to Russia’s glorious imperial past, admittedly viewed in a different light by just about every other part of the Empire. Putin’s professed piety, even if it postdates his political elevation, also fits in nicely with such cravings.

More and more, the phrase ‘Third Rome’ crops up in the colonel’s speeches, and he no doubt fancies himself as the next emperor of Holy Russia. One must admit that Emperor Vladimir I has a better ring to it than KGB Colonel Putin.

As part of his ambition to bring the Empire back to life, Putin intends to reclaim the Ukraine, this goes without saying.

But there was more to that great commonwealth than just the Ukraine. The Russian Empire also included, among others, the three Baltic states, Georgia, Belarus – and Finland.

Since Col. Putin is nothing if not consistent, Illarionov claims that these countries are next on his list of conquests.

“None of the listed territories are NATO states,” comments The Guardian, “and some analysts suggest that this makes them ripe for Russia’s picking. As countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are only likely to become militarily involved if Russia is to attack a NATO nation, it appears unlikely as of now that any significant deterrents are blocking Putin from invading as he pleases.”

The comment raises an interesting question: is it Illarionov who is ignorant, or is it The Guardian? For the three Baltic states are definitely NATO members, and the charter of that organisation stipulates that an attack on one member constitutes an attack on all.

Yesterday Putin kindly informed the world that, if such were his wish, he could take Kiev in a fortnight. In response, NATO is deploying a formidable 5,000-strong force, spearheaded by Britain.

Not being an expert strategist, I wouldn’t venture a guess on how much this regiment (that’s what 5,000 soldiers add up to) would slow down the several armoured divisions Putin could deploy on short notice. Let’s just say the delay wouldn’t be unduly long.

Yet, if history is anything to go by, once such a conquest has been achieved the fun is merely beginning.

Soviet troops retook the Ukraine from the Germans in 1944, or rather liberated it, as the official term had it. Amazingly, not all Ukrainians welcomed the liberation.

In fact, many sought another liberation: from the liberators. To that end the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) continued to fight guerrilla warfare against the Russians throughout the ‘50s – for more than a decade after the end of the war.

Most of the fighters, including their leader Roman Shukhevych, were eventually killed by the NKVD, but not before taking thousands of Russians with them, including one of the top Soviet generals Nikolai Vatutin.

All that drama was unfolding in conditions that were considerably less favourable to the Ukrainians than they are at present. One can confidently predict that, now that they’ve tasted independent statehood, the Ukrainians will exact a heavier toll on the Russians than they did in the ‘50s.

Can the Russians afford to pay it? Obviously Putin has his doubts, for otherwise he would have pushed the button for the magic fortnight already.

As to Putin’s desire to reincorporate Finland into the Russian Empire, it lacks novelty appeal. Stalin already attempted it in the winter of 1939-1940.

Then too his generals were promising a decisive victory within a week, two at the most. After all, they had a 100 to one superiority in tanks, not to mention every other conceivable rubric.

Stalin magnanimously let them take a month, after which all of Finland would again belong to Russia. Instead the war took four months and cost the Russians half a million dead (against 20,000 Finns).

They succeeded in grabbing merely 11 per cent of Finland’s territory, but lost something much more significant. Instead of having as its neighbour a neutral, if generally disgruntled, Finland, Stalin got an implacable enemy.

Finland declared war on the Soviet Union on 25 June, 1941, three days after the German attack. It was largely thanks to the Finnish troops that the Germans managed to close the loop of siege around Leningrad, which ended up costing the city 1.5 million lives.

Talk to the Finns today, and you’ll get the impression they don’t exactly suffer from historical amnesia. They will fight the Russians as desperately (and expertly) today as they did in 1939.

In those days most of the world took Finland’s side. Russia was summarily expelled from the League of Nations, becoming a pariah state allied with Nazi Germany. Who will be her allies if Putin issues marching orders tomorrow?

It probably doesn’t matter very much whether or not a target of Putin’s potential offensive belongs to NATO. Neither the Ukraine nor Finland belonged to any such alliance way back then, which didn’t prevent them from bloodying Russia severely.

Hence, even if NATO proves to be as craven and impotent as I suspect it will, Putin won’t enjoy a free ride.

It took the Russians 10 years to shed 15,000 soldiers’ lives and get out of Afghanistan, tail between their legs. The demise of the Soviet Union may have been hastened by that adventure – and, between you and me, the West didn’t even care about Afghanistan all that much.

The same won’t be the case with Finland or for that matter Poland, which was also part of the Russian Empire. Russia will find herself in total isolation, never a good place to be even in the absence of a military conflict.

All things considered, Putin would be well-advised to put his imperial ambitions on hold. Vladimir the First won’t last.







Useful idiots are out in force, armed with moral equivalence and ‘realism’

Witness Prof. John J. Mearsheimer of Chicago University and specifically his Foreign Affairs article bearing the self-explanatory title Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault.

Prof. Mearsheimer’s stock-in-trade is a foreign policy based on what he calls ‘neorealism’, and at first I thought it had something to do with those old Italian films.

Not so. Prof. Mearsheimer has simply decided to coin a new term for what’s normally called realpolitik, politics based on national interests and power play rather than ideology.

I’m with him on this one, but with a proviso. Realism, be it neo- or paleo- , can only succeed when wielded by those capable of figuring out what the national interests are and how best to advance them.

Prof. Mearsheimer evidently doesn’t fall into this category. Instead he belongs to the group Lenin ungratefully called ‘useful idiots’, Westerners who swallow and disseminate Russian propaganda wittingly or otherwise.

Prof. Mearsheimer shows that this group has outlived bolshevism and is thriving as an apologist for Putin’s kleptofascist state.

His arguments are easy to refute, and in fact he does a good job of it himself. On the one hand he castigates the ill-advised urge (incidentally more neoconservative than ‘liberal’, as he calls it) to impose democracy on places ill-suited for it.

Here I’m prepared to jump up and cheer, except in the next breath Prof. Mearsheimer hails Putin for regarding as “a last straw” “the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president – which he rightly labelled a ‘coup’.”

Prof. Mearsheimer has to decide whether democracy is a universal vindicator of virtue or not. He can’t have it both ways.

Proceeding in the spirit of neorealism, I’d suggest that neither all elections nor all coups are created equal. Not all elected presidents are paragons of virtue, nor all coups unseating them evil.

A coup against a democratically elected Hitler, for example, would have been healthy, and so was the one against Yanukovych, a petty criminal who used to rip fur hats off people’s heads in the old days, making a few roubles, and then graduated to being Putin’s puppet, making billions of dollars.

That, to be fair, isn’t the core of Prof. Mearsheimer’s argument. He sets out to prove that Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine was perfectly justified and provoked by the West.

It’s good to see that Prof. Mearsheimer allows his views to evolve. In 1993 he vociferously insisted that the Ukraine should never relinquish her nuclear deterrent. Since the new country’s independence wasn’t threatened by anyone other than her old master, by inference it was Russia that the Ukraine needed nuclear weapons to deter.

Yet now that Prof. Mearsheimer’s erstwhile view has been vindicated, he has abandoned it. Russia, according to him, never intended to attack the Ukraine. It’s the West that has provoked the aggression.

How exactly? Why, by expanding Nato membership to include former Russian colonies, such as the Baltics. When the threat arose that the Ukraine was to follow suit, Putin had to act, and quite right too.

Prof. Mearsheimer never explained why, neorealistically speaking, the expansion of Nato into eastern Europe is so threatening to Putin.

True enough, ever since 1917 Russia has been bellyaching about being encircled by enemies craving her extinction. That vile category was in the past defined as all non-communist countries and now it’s supposed to mean… well, whatever Putin says it means.

It’s true that most nations within Russia’s reach tend to fear her, can’t imagine why. This didn’t start in 1917. Back in the 19th century, Russia was widely called ‘the gendarme of Europe’ and ‘the prison of nations’, soubriquets that indeed didn’t bespeak excessive affection.

But in those days Russia didn’t openly proclaim her intention to conquer the world, or at least Europe to begin with. This changed in 1917, when the Bolsheviks began to cull their own people, promising to do the same to the world at large.

Nato was eventually formed to preempt this. Its aim was defensive: to prevent Russia from turning all of Europe into the same contiguous concentration camp Russia herself was.

After Russia downscaled the camps (a development known as perestroika), Nato didn’t disband just in case. The West, this side of Prof. Mearsheimer and his ilk, still harboured residual suspicions.

These proved justified when Putin embarked on a giant rearmament programme. This was accompanied by his outspoken laments about the demise of the Soviet Union, which he described as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’, one that he, Putin, was out to reverse.

True to his word he butchered Chechnya, attacked Georgia and now the Ukraine. Fair enough, Putin may see Nato, even in its present enfeebled state, as an obstacle in the way of Russian expansionism.

But containing Russia’s predatory intentions is a far cry from being a threat to the Russians, and only a pro-Putin ideologue would fail to see this.

No sane Westerner would think for a second that Nato could ever attack Russia. If it didn’t do so when the USA had a nuclear monopoly, it’s sheer madness to suggest it would contemplate anything like that in conditions of approximate nuclear parity.

Yet Prof. Mearsheimer, at his neorealist best, takes Putin’s side of the argument, repeating verbatim and without attribution most of his points.

Russia, he says, is a great power that has a right (the kind made by might) to control what happens in her backyard. Moral equivalence rules, okay? Didn’t the Americans threaten nuclear war when the Russians installed missiles on Cuba?

Cuba was an independent country and, as such, claimed she was entitled to form alliances with anyone, whichever form such alliances took. Yet the USA, correctly pursuing her national interests, made sure Cuba’s right to possess weapons capable of wiping out Washington, D.C., was curtailed.

Likewise, argues Prof. Mearsheimer, Russia is within her right to prevent, by force if need be, her neighbours from forming alliances Russia finds objectionable.

This is a bit too realistic even for an old cynic like me.

The Soviet Union was the most murderous state in history, and one that made no secret of its plans to conquer the world. It was thus entirely possible that Soviet missiles 60 miles from Miami were a factor of danger to the USA and hence the West.

Conversely, Nato bases in Poland or Lithuania are there not to launch an aggression but to contain one. They would only present a danger to Russia if Russia revived the Soviet ambition to conquer Europe or portions thereof.

Yet Russia, what with her “one-dimensional economy and declining population” doesn’t need to be contained, claims our neorealist from the height of his academic credentials.

I don’t know exactly which one dimension Prof. Mearsheimer has in mind. If, as I suspect, it’s hydrocarbons, then he’s leaving another significant – and relevant – dimension out: arms production. Russia is arguably second to none in both the quality and quantity of new weapon systems, and it’s way ahead of Nato in the most vital weapon of all: the will to fight.

Her population is indeed declining. In 1900 the population of Russia proper (not including the Empire) was 132 million, versus 87 million in the USA. Today the respective numbers are 142 and 318 million.

Much of this disparity is owed to the 1917 advent of Social Justice, what with its propensity to murder millions of Russians and wage wars with no regard for the human cost.

Most of the millions were murdered before the Second World War, when the Russian population was declining at its most precipitous rate. That, however, didn’t keep Stalin from creating an army outgunning and outnumbering the rest of the world combined.

Nor did Russia’s perilous demographics prevent her from planning a war of conquest against Europe, an ambition only nipped in the bud by Hitler’s preemptive strike.

The Russians lost a further 27 million in the ensuing war, exacerbating the demographic catastrophe. Yet they still managed to grab half of Europe, nonetheless failing to teach Prof. Mearsheimer a lesson in realism.

A Western nation in the same economic and demographic position as Russia’s wouldn’t be a danger to anyone. Russia, on the other hand, is at her most dangerous precisely in that position.

With her economy failing and her population declining, Russia may well see conquest as a way of either solving both problems or at least banging the door on the way out.

Any realist would realise this and consequently call the West to arms. Instead, Prof. Mearsheimer blames the West for not making things easier for Putin. If that’s realism, I’ll take idealism any day.