Useless. Craven. Pathetic.

That’s a polite way to describe Mrs May’s response to the series of murders committed by Putin’s thugs on British soil.

A couple of hours earlier I wrote I hoped against hope that the measures she would take would be appropriately punitive. I was right about the ‘against hope’ bit.

Here’s how we’ll respond to the WMD attack on Britain:

Expelling 23 diplomats

Big deal. They’ll just send in 23 more spies.

Increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight

For what exactly? A gram of powder? Good luck.

Freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents

Define Russian state assets. Is it just those listed as such? That’s either being ignorant or hoping we are.

Russian ‘oligarchs’ are only leaseholders of their assets, with the government owning the freehold. Putin can draw on their capital at any time, as he did, for example, by making Abramovich foot much of the bill for Vlad’s previous propaganda coup, the Sochi Olympics.

Ministers and the royal family boycotting the World Cup

I can just see Vlad trembling. His propaganda coup just won’t be the same without 10 seconds’ worth of Boris Johnson footage

Suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia

Now that’s scary. They kill British subjects; we aren’t going to talk to them for a while. How will Putin survive without being able to peek down Mrs May’s décolleté?

Plans to consider new laws to increase defences against “hostile state activity”

Plans. To consider. So first we’ll make plans to consider, then we’ll do a bit of considering – and then what? Oh back to normal, of course.

Advice to Vlad: just try not to have a go at Her Majesty. Anything short of that you’ll get away with.

Vlad is laughing. And we should brace ourselves for more murders.

Nerve gas isn’t the worst poison

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” says the book that in my Moscow youth was classed as anti-Soviet propaganda.

(The newly pious Col. Putin remembers those days well: he started his career in the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate, part of whose duties was to cut off the import of such subversive literature sent to Russia by Western enemies of progress.)

In Britain this book isn’t yet banned. It’s simply dismissed as irrelevant: there’s no soul, nor any hell. There’s only the body, and it must be pampered in every conceivable way until it’s no more.

Most of those ways take money, lots of it. Since society’s desiderata have been boiled down to purely material needs, pursuit of money, otherwise known as happiness, moves to the forefront of our private and public aspirations.

It follows logically that the morality of good and evil is replaced with the morality of not getting caught. Since it’s all about having a painless, enjoyable life only money can buy, why be fastidious about the means of acquiring money or its sources? You only live once.

Whatever works, as long as it’s legal. And if it isn’t quite legal, that’s fine too, provided one can get away with it. (Pecunia non olet – Vespasian enunciated that principle when the material for the aforementioned subversive book was still being gathered.)

That, however, involves a misapprehension. For no society can really get away with it. I can’t vouch for what happens in hell, but cynical amorality inevitably gets punished in earth. Body politic can survive any amount of physical damage, but not a thrust through its very heart.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” says the anti-Soviet book young Vova Putin worked so diligently to toss into the bonfire.

That gets us to the presence of the so-called oligarchs on British soil, and the high six-figure contributions they’ve allegedly made to the Tories.

That sum is downright paltry when compared to the billions in laundered cash they’ve injected into the sclerotic veins of the British economy, but for some unfathomable reason people still expect the government to be more moral than a bank.

The proof that the Conservatives received money from Russian gangsters… sorry, I mean oligarchs… is much weaker than the proof of the Russians indulging in mass murder on British soil.

But of course nothing short of prima facie evidence (or not even that) will ever satisfy our regiment of Putin trolls if their idol is shown to be a mass murderer.

Unless Putin is caught on a CCTV camera personally spraying nerve gas on a car door handle, it’s not the Russians what done it. But any factually unsupported rumour of government corruption will be accepted as, well, gospel, provided it serves the cause of our moral equivalence junkies, otherwise known as Putin trolls.

However, in this case I believe the rumour. For I detect no moral barriers that our government erects to protect itself from attacks on its very soul. They do a reasonably good job surrounding the Houses of Parliament with concrete slabs, so, their bodies adequately protected, who cares about the soul? It doesn’t exist anyway.

So why not take a few lousy hundred grand from the likes of Abramovich and Deripaska? After all, we’re happy to welcome them and their billions here. And we don’t ask how those billions were made, do we? The Faustian deal was struck, and so far HMG has kept its end of it.

It has taken a series of murders committed by Putin’s hit squads in Britain for HMG to start making noises about impounding the filthy lucre and kicking its owners out of Britain. That only shows where the government’s heart is (see above).

Never mind the poisonous presence of hundreds of Russian gangsters in the better parts of London and Surrey. Never mind the soul-destroying moral damage. It’s the physical damage that upsets us, especially when it oversteps a certain implicitly set limit.

Yet that presence has been as poisonous as they come for years. Billions in dirty money sloshing about sully as all, by dripping poison into our society drop by drop.

For there are hundreds if not thousands of bankers, stock brokers and fund managers knowingly accepting money of criminal origin. Drop!

Hundreds of estate agents flogging mansions and riverside apartments to thugs they know to be thugs. Drop!

Hundreds of property developers who know whom they develop those properties for. Drop!

Hundreds of owners of shops and boutiques in Bond Street, Sloane Avenue and elsewhere knowingly playing lickspittle to criminals and their molls. Drop!

Thousands of ‘socialites’ falling over themselves to attend lavish parties thrown by an Abramovich or a Deripaska. Drop!

Bipartisan politicians being entertained on Deripaska’s yacht (one of them now edits the London newspaper owned, through his son’s proxy, by a KGB officer.) Drop!

Hundreds of Sloanies desperately trying to wangle an invitation to Abramovich’s box at Stamford Bridge. Drop!

And so forth, ad nauseam, until all those drops converge into a mighty river of poison engulfing our soul, which, contrary to the popular error, does exist.

I do hope (against all hope) that HMG will join other civilised countries in throwing a cordon sanitaire around the source of that global poison, Putin’s kleptofascist junta. And that we’ll have the courage to make sure Russian criminals are thrown back inside that fence.

And their money? Frankly, I don’t care much about it. It would be just if we confiscated their loot – the word that accurately describes the wealth of every Russian billionaire. But at a pinch let them take it back where it came from, and hope they choke on it.

P.S. Speaking of Putin trolls, I’ve been inundated with their cretinous e-mails for the past few days. Driven to distraction, I finally replied in a language no gentleman should ever use – unless he really means it. I did, and I hope they understood every part of it.

Useful idiots’ warped logic

The plot sickens. More and more fans of Putin are coming out of the woodwork with pathetic attempts to justify the latest WMD attack on British soil.

They stop at nothing: lies, falsified facts and the kind of syllogisms that would have had a student drummed out of a decent university when we still had decent universities.

The most popular syllogism goes like this. Thesis: Putin does bad things. Antithesis: we do bad things. Synthesis: ergo, Putin is better than us or, in any case, we have no moral right to object to his murdering anyone on British soil.

Let’s start by accepting that Britain, the US and just about everyone else in His creation are deeply flawed. So stipulated, as a QC would say.

Perfection is unattainable in this world, but there still exist degrees of imperfection. For example, stealing a loaf of bread is bad, but murdering an old woman for her pension money is worse. Equating the two is called moral equivalence, which betokens an infirm grasp on both morality and the very notion of equivalence.

I recall speaking to the faculty of a London university, and only pedantry prohibits me from describing members of that august body as rank communists.

They took exception to my branding communism as murderous and evil. What about the Inquisition, they asked with that QED expression on their faces. They burned people alive, didn’t they?

True, I said. In the 400 years it was in business the Inquisition immolated about 10,000. The most accurate estimate of communist murders is 61 million in about 45 years – and that’s in the Soviet Union alone.

There’s no difference, they said. And if I say there is, I’m guilty of moral relativism.

I’m not, I countered. I’m only guilty of arithmetical relativism in that I think that killing 1.3 million people a year is more than killing 25 people a year – although I do agree that, on general principle, burning people isn’t nice.

In the same spirit I agree with our useful idiots when they list all the rotten things Britain has done since the Roman conquest, and especially in the last few decades. Moreover, I happily add a few of my own.

This can be verified by tapping ‘Major’, ‘Blair’ or ‘Cameron’ into the search feature on this blog – or better still, at least from my publishers’ viewpoint, reading any of my books, starting with How the West Was Lost.

I do think that our modern governments have perverted Britain’s greatest gift to mankind, her political system. As a result, we’ve done many things I regard as wrong and, especially in Blair’s case, some I regard as criminal.

However, the optimist in me believes that everything perverted can be unperverted, even if the realist in me demurs. For things to be perverted, they have to be good to begin with, which leaves room for backtracking to the starting point.

Since Putin’s useful idiots see themselves as British patriots, they probably don’t think that our system of government is evil in se, even if it has done some bad things.

However, by any standards of political evil, Putin’s regime is just that: evil through and through. Let me list some of its more endearing achievements for the benefit of slow learners.

According to Olga Kryshtanovskaya, Putin’s loyal sociologist and Duma member from his party, 84 per cent of Russia’s ruling elite, including of course Col. Putin himself, are unrepentant KGB officers. (“There’s no such thing as ex-KGB,” Putin once explained.)

In other words, they are members of the same criminal organisation that ran up the aforementioned list of victims. To emphasise their lack of repentance, they continue to act in character.

The mummy of Lenin, under whom people were murdered at a brisker rate than even under Stalin, still adorns Red Square. Hundreds of statues of Stalin are going up all over Russia, and in some Russian churches his portraits are used as icons.

This is part of our history, explains Putin, to be cherished even if “some mistakes” were made. Quite. And Hitler is part of German history – yet somehow one doesn’t see much Hitler memorabilia in Germany’s squares.

To dispel any suspicions that this is just a matter of antiquarian value, the regime acts in character, with one added detail. Stalin’s regime discouraged organised crime rather terminally, while Putin’s junta is fused with it.

That started with his first political job. When the KGB assigned Putin as Vice Mayor, in effect watcher, to Petersburg’s Mayor Sobchak, he went into business. In 1992 the Council commission headed by Marina Salye investigated Vlad’s record.

Among other choice bits, the resulting dossier shows that Putin signed deals to export $100 million worth of raw materials in exchange for food. The raw materials dutifully left Russia. No food came back in return – this at a time of rationing in Petersburg.

When in due course Putin got into the Kremlin, he quickly expanded his scale by creating history’s first ruling elite fusing secret police and organised crime.

Russia’s natural resources, the richest in the world, had already been sold at derisory prices to Yeltsyn’s cronies, but there was still a lot left. Putin began to dispossess those oligarchs who were insufficiently loyal to him – and reward his own hangers-on, with the amounts involved reflecting the new-fangled oligarchs’ proximity to the throne.

In short order everyone close to Putin – his friends, family, judo partners, KGB colleagues, bodyguards, cooks – became billionaires. And they didn’t keep their money in Russia, wisely realising that their ill-gotten lucre wouldn’t survive a regime change.

By a modest estimate, a trillion of well-laundered dollars is now sitting in US banks, with about as much again elsewhere – this when, by the Russian government’s own estimate, 14 million people are living below the poverty line, drawn at about £200 a month.

(One particularly idiotic useful idiot wrote to me yesterday, listing Putin’s achievements. Among them was his putting a stop to the flight of capital out of Russia, leaving me to ponder whether it’s ignorance, cretinism or paid advocacy.)

Putin’s own wealth is estimated within a broad range of anywhere between 20 and 250 billion dollars, and it probably gravitates toward the high end.

After all, according to Western and Russian investigators, Putin owns 4.5 per cent of the world’s largest gas producer Gazprom, 37 per cent of the oil company Surgutneftegas and a majority interest in Gunvor, the world’s fourth largest oil trader.

Until recently, Gunvor operated in Switzerland under the leadership of Putin’s confidant Gennady Timchenko, lovingly nicknamed ‘Gangrene’ in some quarters. But Gangrene hastily sold his shares a couple of days before Western sanctions went into effect – forewarned is forearmed.

Still, I wish it were only green money. Alas, it’s also red blood.

Putin’s grip on power was consolidated by the Second Chechen war, yielding at least 160,000 deaths. This was precipitated by his sponsoring organisation blowing up several residential blocks in Russia and blaming it on the Chechens. For details, I recommend the book Blowing Up Russia, co-authored by Alexander Litvinenko, who later fell victim to an extreme form of literary criticism.

Thus inaugurated, Putin’s regime proceeded apace, systematically tightening the screws. Some 300 journalists have disappeared or have been murdered since 1993, most of them on Putin’s watch. Uncountable others have been harassed, beaten up or maimed.

Numerous political opponents of Putin have been murdered too, with opposition leader Boris Nemtsov spectacularly shot 50 yards from the Kremlin wall. This activity transcends Russian borders, as Messrs Litvinenko, Perepelichny, Skripal and many others (not all of them Russians) could testify.

In parallel, independent media have been suppressed, and even anti-Putin on-line magazines have been blocked. Taking their place is the most revolting propaganda I’ve ever seen, and I lived in the Soviet Union for the first 25 years of my life.

If you search ‘Soloviov’ or ‘Kisilev’ on my blog, you’ll find quotations that’ll make your hair stand on end – and this is standard fare, poured on the Russians round the clock, especially on TV. Lately, Putin’s Goebbelses have been inviting token dissidents on their shows and then encouraging the loyal guests to attack them physically. Nice.

No free press means no free elections. And anyway, didn’t Putin’s role model Stalin say that what matters isn’t how votes are cast, but how they’re counted?

So far I haven’t even mentioned Putin’s aggressive wars against Georgia and the Ukraine, with the latter claiming at least 10,000 lives, nor his shooting down Malaysian Flight 17 airliner, killing all 298 aboard. Nor have I brought up his indiscriminate bombing of Syria, with hospitals and schools being intended targets, rather than unfortunate collateral damage.

All in all, I struggle to think which criterion of political evil Putin’s junta doesn’t meet. But I’m sure his useful idiots have their own logic – of the sort that would make a reasonably clever 10-year-old blush.

David Suchet finds his own God

Notable exceptions aside, actors aren’t known for their towering intellect. Having grown up in an actor’s family, and met dozens of his colleagues, I feel qualified to make this general observation.

I don’t know why that’s the case. Perhaps because an actor’s brain has to accommodate hundreds of personalities over a career, there’s no room left for his own. It’s conceivable that a certain vacuity just may be a job requirement.

Whenever they don’t have a script to follow, and a director screaming “Can’t you learn your bloody lines for crying out loud?!?”, they tend to mouth inanities on any subject that catches their fancy.

In that endeavour they’re encouraged by our comprehensively educated public that tends to issue celebrities a licence to kill all sound thought. Somehow the assumption is that, if a chap’s face appears on TV often enough, anything he has to say is the verity to end all verities.

That’s why I only tend to comment on actors’ pronouncements when they enunciate a thought shared widely enough to be considered typical. Suchet’s take on Christianity falls into that category.

In 1986 Suchet did an Archimedes by finding the truth in the bath. I don’t know if he shouted ‘Eureka!’, but he felt the urge to find a Bible. That he did, and was converted to Christianity by Romans 8: 12-15, with Verse 14 saying, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Having thus found Christ, Suchet issued a disclaimer: “I’m not a great fan of organised religion.” That could mean either of two things: 1) he likes his religion to be disorganised or 2) more likely, his own Christianity needs no outside help, thank you very much.

Discounting 1) as facetious, we’re left with a man displaying a typical fideistic hubris, originally encouraged by all sorts of heresies that culminated in Protestantism and eventually turned into the sort of agnosticism prevalent in our own time.

At some point, a man so inspired often becomes either a downright atheist or, if his hubris is of megalomaniac proportions, a vague seeker trying to find God within himself and finding only himself there.

I’ve written a book about such a man (God and Man According to Tolstoy), who developed that tendency to the logical end of becoming not only his own priest, à la Luther, but indeed his own God.

Not being blessed with the vast scale of Tolstoy’s personality, Suchet hasn’t gone quite so far. But, like Tolstoy, he has developed his own Christianity without Christ by following a road… to where exactly?

“More spirituality: Christian spirituality because that’s where I was moved towards, but very much away now from doctrine and dogma, which I find very polemical,” Suchet said.

I’d suggest that, if he seeks the best manifestation of the spirit, he ought to try Lagavulin or some other decent single malt. An old Armagnac could also do the trick.

Being an actor, Suchet clearly doesn’t realise that “doctrine and dogma” contain all of Christianity. For Christianity isn’t so much the teaching by Christ as the teaching about Christ.

When Jesus himself speaks in the Gospels, it’s of course both. But everything Jesus is recorded to have said amounts to only about two hours’ worth of speech. Surely he must have said quite a bit more during a mission lasting between one and two years?

That’s why it has taken history’s best minds centuries to fill in the blanks. For example, it was only in 451 AD that the Council of Chalcedon determined that Jesus was neither just God nor just a man. He was both: “perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man.”

This organic synthesis of the physical and metaphysical created the greatest civilisation the world has ever seen. Its enemies have always tried to make one end of the delicately balanced seesaw shoot up skywards and the other hit the ground.

Reducing Christianity only to some ill-defined spirituality means having no Christianity left. It’s a sort of Docetism heavily tinged with nihilistic Eastern creeds, a heresy that isn’t a different view on Christianity, but its deadly enemy.

Having stepped on this eastward road, Suchet eventually landed on the doorstep of Kamal Khatib, whom the actor himself describes as “this hate preacher, really anti-West.”

Khatib definitely is that, but not only that. As befits a good Muslim he fanatically hates both Christians and Jews, especially the latter.

The Muslims, according to Khatib, must create a worldwide caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital, and in the process “eliminate the Jews from history”. Both desiderata strike me as a bit of a tall order, but Suchet doesn’t seem to mind.

When he met Khatib, says the actor, “He was a man with such conviction about Islam and the caliphate and what he took to be his vision of the Koran that I found myself leaning forward and going: ‘Really?’ I found myself empathising… The majority of Muslims that I’ve ever met are the most wonderful, spiritual people.”

Shame about the sizeable minority that tend to blow up public transport and drive vehicles through screaming crowds.

It’s that spirituality again, of the kind that would have destroyed our civilisation had the Albigensian Crusade not stopped it – but unfortunately not dead in its tracks. It pops up more and more, especially among deracinated Westerners who are neither humble enough to seek the Church’s help nor bright enough to work out the subtleties of Christianity on their own.

Eastern spirituality is attractive to those who don’t really understand Western civilisation, chaps like Suchet who seek some sort of disembodied spirit anywhere they can find it.

Few, however, ‘emphasise’ with merchants of hate who, unlike Suchet, do follow their own dogma and doctrine. Part of it is an entreaty to kill Jews and Christians, something for Suchet, who’s both, to ponder.

P.S. Much has been made of Meghan Markle’s baptism in the Anglican rite. Now as far as I know, Miss Markle was baptised in a different confession at birth, and different Christian denominations accept one another’s baptism as valid.  Shouldn’t it be ‘converted to’ rather than ‘baptised in’?

Shilling for Putin

Usually I vary my subjects day to day. But Hitchens’s piece on yet another Russian murder attempt in Britain is so nauseating that this article is a form of self-medication: it’s either comment or reach for a sick bag.

Hitchens used not to bother to conceal his almost homoerotic adulation of Putin. The general thrust was summed up in what he wrote a few years ago: “Mr Putin’s Russia [is] now astonishingly the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe.”

‘Conservative’ covers a multitude of sins. Judging by the number of Stalin statues going up all over Russia, Putin is indeed conservative in his quest to conserve and promulgate evil.

But patriotic? Millions of Russians have fled their native land in the past decade, while Putin and his junta are robbing the country blind to stuff their own offshore accounts. If by patriotism Hitchens means the deafening din of jingoistic propaganda, he should say so.

And since when is patriotism ipso facto good? “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely,” wrote Edmund Burke. Loving an unlovely country gets us to Nazi Germany, which, to be logical, Hitchens has to admire for its undoubted patriotism.

Christian? The entire hierarchy of Russia’s state church is made up of career KGB/FSB agents led by Patriarch Kirill, aka ‘agent Mikhailov’, so identified in KGB archives. No wonder church attendance in Russia is even lower than in Britain, which is seldom accused of excessive piety.

However, Hitchens is a clever chap, after a fashion. At some point he realised that such effluvia made him sound not just biased, but simply deranged. He then changed his tack: he now first refers to Putin as a ‘sinister tyrant’ and only then defends his regime from its ghastly enemies, such as Britain.

In shilling for Putin’s kleptofascism, he now displays cunning worthy of his love object in the Kremlin. To wit:

“I was reluctant to believe without proof that this [attempted murder in Salisbury] was a Russian state operation. I still think some people have jumped too readily to conclusions without facts.”

Mea culpa. I, along with every sane person, did jump to that conclusion. It’s that pandemic Russophobia that Hitchens describes as “the current anti-Russian frenzy”. Coupled, of course, with the old cui bono principle, Putin’s track record, and the difficulty of buying nerve agents or radioactive isotopes at your friendly local chemist’s.

Hitchens’s standards of proof wherever Russian murders are concerned exceed beyond reasonable doubt. And whenever the proof meets such exacting requirements, he expertly casts doubt on it: “Despite the lack of conclusive proof, [my emphasis] I have to accept that the Russian state quite deliberately killed Alexander Litvinenko.”

“Have to” suggests reluctance. One can almost see Hitchens’s heart bleeding at this admission wrenched out of him by reams of evidence gathered by Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry (which incidentally Mrs May, then Home Secretary, tried to suppress).

So fine, Putin orders murders on our territory. Hitchens is man enough to admit this, however reluctantly.

But we aren’t squeaky clean either. After all, “We are not morally perfect ourselves, with our head-chopping aggressive Saudi friends, our bloodstained Iraq and Libyan adventures, and our targeted drone-strike killings of British citizens who joined IS.”

Moral equivalence run riot is the common stratagem of Putin’s useful idiots, and Hitchens is as usefully idiotic as they come. Since Britain herself falls short of his standards of moral perfection, we have no right to pass moral judgement on Russia.

We trade with the Saudis, so who are we to protest against Putin murdering British subjects on British territory? We embark on ill-advised “Iraq and Libyan adventures”, so we’re supposed to applaud Putin’s indiscriminate bombing of Syrian schools and hospitals. And if we target British jihadists in Syria and Iraq (I actually welcome this), then what’s wrong with Putin targeting British subjects in London or Salisbury?

Alas, there’s no direct recent parallel of us grabbing other countries’ land the way Putin has done in the Ukraine. But not to worry. At this point Hitchens abandons his moral relativism and insists that Putin’s cause is just in absolute terms.

He has written it a thousand times if he has written it once: “the 2014 outbreak was a putsch and its real target Russia.” Hitchens is aghast at the “putsch” that overthrew the “legal government” of Putin’s puppet Yanukovych and finally won the Ukraine’s independence.

Under Yanukovych the Ukraine was as independent from Russia as the equally legal government of Vichy France was from Germany. Hence the target of the popular uprising against Russian rule by proxy was indeed Russia – what else was it supposed to be, Portugal?

According to Hitchens, we have only ourselves to blame for Putin indulging in a spot of murder on our territory. “Before we embark on this, could someone explain why we actually want such a war?”

God help us, the man is mad. So Britain is waging war on Russia, not the other way around. Exactly how?

Are we conducting electronic warfare against Russia? No. Did we send troops or even armaments to the Ukraine, a country fighting for her freedom in the face of naked Russian aggression – the first time since 1945 that one European country stole the land of another? No.

We did join other civilised countries in imposing the mildest of sanctions following that beastliness, but the only intent was to discourage further Russian aggression in the region, this time possibly involving NATO members.

Have we been murdering people in Russia? No. Have we turned Moscow into a crime-ridden capital of the world’s money laundering, which is exactly what Putin’s thugs have done to London? No.

So what’s Hitchens’s problem? Oh yes, we have the audacity to spy on Russia.

“Spying is a hostile, dangerous and cruel activity which infuriates its targets, including us. Remember the 42-year prison sentence for George Blake…?”

It’s that moral equivalence again. Blake spied for the most cannibalistic regime in history. Skripal spied for, well, us – a flawed, enfeebled Britain that is nevertheless a constitutional monarchy ruled by law, where basic liberties are secure, a country that doesn’t pounce on her neighbours like a rabid dog (or like Putin, come to that).

As the old saying goes, one side’s traitors are the other side’s heroes. Yet Hitchens makes it sound as if traitors to Russia are in some convoluted way traitors to Britain as well. This is astonishing in a man who values patriotism so highly. One begins to wonder who’s the beneficiary of Hitchens’s patriotism.

“What the Skripal case tells us is that, long after the Cold War ended, we still choose to treat Russia as the sort of country where we should continue active, aggressive spying and efforts to bring down the government.”

I’m not aware of any efforts on the part of Britain to bring down Putin’s government, even though I think that would be a good idea. If Hitchens knows such facts, he should either share them or shut up.

As to spying, we’d be criminally negligent if we didn’t try to keep tabs on a country whose criminal leaders threaten to annihilate life on Earth – a country that’s hysterically hostile to Britain and the West in general.

Hitchens seems to think we should do nothing while the Russians murder people in Britain, for otherwise we are the aggressors. And anyway, we’re completely impotent:

“What will we do? Withdraw from the World Cup? Break off diplomatic relations? That will make them cringe, in the SVR’s Yasenevo headquarters in the birchwoods on the south-western edge of Moscow, won’t it?”

Note the expertise-signalling: Hitchens knows his Russia. No dummy, he. Why, he even knows there are birch trees in Yasnevo. Can’t pull a fast one on old Peter.

But if he really wants an answer to his question, I’m happy to oblige. The answer is, we should do both of the above – for starters. And then we should detoxify Britain by expelling all Putin’s cronies and confiscating (not just freezing) their purloined assets, including those houses in Belgravia and Knightsbridge.

At the same time we should arm ourselves to the teeth and drum up the support of all our allies in communicating a simple message to Putin: we have experience in standing up to evil regimes, and we’re ready to do it again.

Expressing a mild disapproval of multiple ‘whackings’ on our land is, according to Hitchens, tantamount to waging “a war our government chose to fight. What answer do we have to it that will not make it worse?”

Our government hasn’t yet chosen to resist the war Putin is waging on us – but I hope it will. And one good measure will be to make it clear to Hitchens that, if we’re indeed, as he claims, at war with Russia, his drivel is treasonous.

Dr Strangevlad, new release

Vlad Putin, starring in the new film. An Oscar beckons.

Vlad Putin has put fire into Russia’s belly with his star turn in a documentary entitled The World Order 2018. The film opened to great acclaim, both public and critical, the other day.

At some point, Vlad broached strategic issues from, as he hastened to add, a purely hypothetical perspective. Suppose for the sake of argument that a nuclear missile is heading for Russia. Well then, Vlad wouldn’t hesitate to order a global nuclear Armageddon – in the full knowledge that this is what he’d be doing.

“This would certainly be a global disaster for humanity, a calamity for the whole world,” commented Vlad dispassionately. “But, as a citizen of Russia and head of the Russian state, I have to ask myself: What good is the world without Russia in it?”

Interesting question, that, as far as hypothetical questions go. Replying in the same hypothetical spirit, I’d say that a world without Russia would still be able to muddle through somehow.

Moreover, had Russia not existed over the past century, the world would be distinctly better off. For one thing, tens of millions wouldn’t have been annihilated for the good of the state.

Without Russia’s help Hitler would have remained a marginal extremist unknown outside Bavaria. And he certainly wouldn’t have been able to start a world war without his Russian ally watching his back and supplying vast amounts of strategic materials.

Mao wouldn’t have come to power in China, nor Kim in Korea. The West wouldn’t have had to spend trillions protecting itself from the Russian threat. And even today the world would sleep a bit better knowing that no one is threatening to nuke it to kingdom come.

I know this might upset Vlad but, if he doesn’t like the answer, he shouldn’t have asked the question. And anyway, the view that Russia is a lot less indispensable to the world than he thinks isn’t new.

Writing a century before Rutherford split the atom, the first Russian philosopher Pyotr Chaadaev commented: “Alone in the world, we have not given anything to the world, nor have taken anything from it. We have not added a single thought to the wealth of human ideas, we have not in any way promoted the advance of human reason, and we have distorted everything this advance has given us.”

At that time no red button existed at the push of which Russia would have ceased to exist. But had the possibility occurred to Chaadayev, one gets the impression he would have felt that Russia’s absence from the world would be no great loss.

I’m only sorry that Vlad left many details out, opening the door to idle speculation. Usually he expresses himself more exhaustively. For example, when he says that traitors to Russia will “swallow poison”, no questions arise. And Vlad is always happy to stage a little demonstration for the benefit of slow learners.

But the Armageddon message raises a few questions. Vlad mentioned a single missile approaching Russia as a sufficient reason for destroying life on Earth. How will he be sure that the missile is nuclear? And in any case one missile, whatever its payload, wouldn’t destroy all of Russia, would it?

At most, it’ll take out a big city, which makes Vlad’s hypothetical response a bit of an overkill. And what if that missile was launched by accident, in a scenario similar to that shown in Dr Strangelove, the prequel to Vlad’s film? Still wipe out the world?

And shouldn’t there be some attempt to contact the responsible government? As that actress said to Harvey Weinstein, “Can we talk first?”

Then again, presumably the incoming missile would have been launched by one state, rogue or otherwise. Shouldn’t the retaliatory strike be directed at that state only, rather than the whole globe? Isn’t that pushing collective responsibility too far, even if the Russians do think that the whole world is united against them (for no conceivable reason of course)?

Too many loose ends, Vlad. But one can discern the central thought: if Russia goes, she’ll take the world with her. In this connection it’s interesting to juxtapose the statement by Vlad with an earlier one about Vlad.

A few years ago, Vyacheslav Volodin, the present Chairman of the Duma, explained that enemy action wasn’t the only threat to Russia’s continuing existence: “If there’s Putin, there’s Russia. If there’s no Putin, there’s no Russia.”

The logical inference from the juxtaposition of the two statements is irrefutable. If there’s no Putin, there’s no Russia; and if there’s no Russia, there’s no life on Earth.

Suddenly the situation is no longer hypothetical. It’s a loud and clear message to enemies internal and external that any attempt at a regime change in Russia would have calamitous consequences. Vlad would bang the door on the way out so hard that the whole house would collapse.

Hypothetical, yes, but there’s an element of bone-chilling reality to it. I for one am scared, and I don’t scare easily.

This sort of thing makes one reassess the ledger sheet of modernity, its credits and debits. Let’s chalk up in the credit column analgesics, painless dental work, longer life expectancy, my car – and anything else you care to mention.

But then let’s also inscribe in the debit column the technical possibility of an evil humanoid acting on an apocalyptic threat – or at least blackmailing the world with it. Which sign will the balance have, plus or minus? Will we be in the black, as in the heart of Putin’s Russia, or in the red, as in blood?

The next two questions are addressed to all those Putinistas on our hard Right, all those ‘useful idiots’ yearning for a strong leader like Putin. What kind of man can issue such a threat? And what kind of nation would bellow its delight at it?

Don’t bother to answer. I know what you’re going to say.

Let’s celebrate all communist holidays

On this day every year I feel duty-bound to say a few words about International Women’s Day, a communist holiday nowadays astonishingly recognised in Britain.

This year is no exception, but when I sat down to write I realised that there was nothing I could add to what I wrote last year. Since paraphrasing just for the hell of it seems pointless, and repetition is said to be the mother of learning, I’m republishing my last year’s piece verbatim.

I’m man enough to admit that laziness and indisposition are also contributing factors in this self-plagiarism.

First we had Mothering Sunday, a religious holiday Western Christians celebrate on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Then, under the influence of the US, Mothering Sunday was largely replaced by Mother’s Day, a secular holiday without any religious overtones whatsoever. That’s understandable: our delicate sensibilities can no longer accommodate any Christian festivals other than Christmas Shopping.

Now that secular but basically unobjectionable holiday has been supplemented by International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated by all progressive mankind on 8 March. Our delicate sensibilities aren’t offended at all.

Actually, though the portion of mankind that celebrates 8 March calls itself progressive, it isn’t really entitled to this modifier – unless one accepts the propensity for murdering millions just for the hell of it as an essential aspect of progress.

For, not to cut too fine a point, 8 March is a communist event, declared a national holiday by the Bolsheviks in 1917, immediately after they seized power and started killing people with the gusto and on a scale never before seen in history. A few wires were expertly pulled after the war, and IWD also got enshrined in Soviet satellites.

The event actually originated in America, where the Socialist Party arbitrarily chose that date to express solidarity with the 1909 strike of female textile workers. Yet the holiday didn’t catch on in the States, doubtless because the Socialist Party never did.

Outside the Soviet bloc, 8 March went uncelebrated, unrecognised and, until recently, unknown. I remember back in 1974, when I worked at NASA, visiting Soviet astronauts made a big show of wishing female American employees a happy 8 March, eliciting only consternation and the stock Texan response of “Say what?”

The event was big in the Soviet Union, with millions of men giving millions of women bunches of mimosas, boxes of chocolates – and, more important, refraining from giving them a black eye, a practice rather more widespread in Russia than in the West.

But not on 8 March. That was the day when men scoured their conscience clean by being effusively lovey-dovey – so that they could resume abusing women the very next day, on 9 March. For Russia was then, and still remains, out of reach for the fashionable ideas about women’s equality or indeed humanity. As the Russian proverb goes, “A chicken is no bird, a wench is no person.”

Much as one may be derisory about feminism, it’s hard to justify the antediluvian abuse, often physical, that’s par for the course in Russia, especially outside central Moscow or Petersburg. Proponents of the plus ça change philosophy of history would be well-advised to read Dostoyevsky on this subject.

In A Writer’s Diary Dostoyevsky describes in terrifying detail the characteristic savagery of a peasant taking a belt or a stick to his trussed-up wife, lashing at her, ignoring her pleas for mercy until, pounded into a bloody pulp, she stops pleading or moving. However, according to the writer, this in no way contradicted the brute’s inner spirituality, so superior to Western materialistic legalism. Ideology does work in mysterious ways.

The Russian village still has the same roads (typically none) as at the time that was written, and it still has the same way of treating womenfolk – but not on 8 March. On that day the Soviets were house-trained to express their solidarity with the oppressed women of the world, or rather specifically of the capitalist world.

As a conservative, I have my cockles warmed by the traditionalist way in which the Russians lovingly maintain Soviet traditions, including the odd bit of murder by the state, albeit so far on a smaller scale. Why we have adopted some of the same traditions, at a time when communism has supposedly collapsed, is rather harder to explain.

But why stop here? Many Britons, especially those of the Labour persuasion, already celebrate May Day, with red flags flying to symbolise the workers’ blood spilled by the ghastly capitalists. May Day is celebrated in Russia, so what better reason do we need? None at all. But why not spread the festivities more widely?

The Russians also celebrate 7 November, on which day in 1917 the Bolsheviks introduced social justice expressed in mass murder and universal slavery. I say we’ve been ignoring this glorious event far too long. And neither do we celebrate Red Army Day on 23 February – another shameful omission.

But at least we seem to be warming up to 8 March, an important communist event. At least we’re moving in the right direction.

A reader of mine suggested that those who celebrate IWD should perform the ballistically and metaphysically improbable act of inserting the holiday into a certain receptacle originally designed for exit only. While I don’t express myself quite so robustly in this space, I second the motion.

Cherie (Mrs Tony) Blair once predictably expressed her support for IWD, ending her letter to The Times with “Count me in”. Well, count me out.

Sport and politics? Perish the thought

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is a rank blasphemer. Yesterday he offended Britain’s second religion (the NHS being the first).

Commenting on yet another Russian murder attempt in Britain, Boris alluded to the possibility of boycotting the football World Cup to be held in Russia this summer. “Thinking ahead to the World Cup,” he said, “it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way.”

He might as well have said that the NHS should be disbanded. Window panes all over Britain are still shaking from the ensuing thunder of protests. Typical among them was the tirade issued by Gary Neville, ex-footballer cum commentator and a knee-jerk leftie (footballers’ beliefs in anything outside football are knee-jerk by definition).

Speaking of our loquacious Foreign Secretary, Gary screamed on Twitter: “He’s a useless idiot! Why bring football into it?” If I were Gary, I wouldn’t throw the first ‘idiot’ – his own IQ drops to below room temperature whenever he ventures outside the subject of overlapping fullbacks.

Boris writhed under Gary’s attack, fortified as it was by a universal chorus of condemnation. He didn’t mean, God forbid, that our football team should boycott the World Cup, cried his spokesman. What do you think he is, a godless pervert?

Of course England footballers must go through the quadrennial ritual of losing in the last 16. All Boris meant was that there shouldn’t be a retinue of royals, FA officials and politicians trailing in the ball-kickers’ wake.

Since Prince William is president of the Football Association, his absence would really show Vlad what’s what. A commensurate response if I’ve ever seen one: they murder people on our soil; Will stays at home to entertain his pregnant wife. Vlad must be quaking in his jackboots.

Now Gary seems to think that football, and presumably sport in general, shouldn’t be brought into politics under any circumstances. I agree: there’s no need. For politics is already brought into football and sport in general.

Now here’s a question for the quiz night at your local. Which country has ever hosted both summer and winter Olympics in the same year?

This will catch out all but the most fanatical of trivia hounds. The answer is: Nazi Germany in 1936. First came the winter rehearsal at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which was followed by the grandiose spectacle at Berlin.

The latter was captured with technical mastery and moral decrepitude by Leni Riefenstahl in her film Olympia, starring the Führer grinning from ear to ear each time a German won a medal.

Each victory, clamoured Goebbels’s hacks, struck a blow for the superiority of Nazism and the Aryan race. All German winners responded by giving the Nazi salute on the podium, that went without saying.

But pornography watchers among you will also enjoy the footage of the England football team saluting Hitler in the same fashion. For purely protocol reasons they shouted neither “Heil Hitler!” nor “Sieg heil!”. But, had the protocol demanded it, they would have been in fine voice.

Football wasn’t brought into politics then, Gary. It was the other way around.

Following on that fine tradition, I wonder what will happen at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? Will the England team drop on the ground and shout “Allahu akbar!” if the muezzin happens to sing during the opening ceremony?

Since 1936 politics has been inseparable from sport, especially but not exclusively in the more disgusting countries. Just as Hitler used the Olympics as propaganda for Nazism, so did the Soviets and their satellites use it as propaganda for communism.

Every gold medal won by a Soviet weightlifter on steroids or an East German woman swimmer turned into a man by drugs advanced the noble cause of transforming the whole world into a giant concentration camp. I still remember the nauseating din accompanying each such triumph in the Soviet press.

And I’ll never forget the bone-crushing abandon with which Czech hockey players defeated the much favoured Soviet team at the 1969 world championship, a year after Soviet tanks rode into Prague. Anybody who didn’t see it wasn’t just about ice hockey was indeed a ‘useless idiot’, to use Gary’s locution.

Nor is boycotting sport events for political reasons unheard of. One recalls the boycott by some Western nations (Britain went along only partially) of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, followed by the Soviets retaliating at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

It was understood then, as it should be now, that politics and sport have become inseparable. It’s for political reasons that Putin’s junta has turned their international athletes into junkies, showing that the fine tradition of state-sponsored doping hasn’t gone the way of the Soviet Union (most other Soviet traditions are just as resilient, but this is by the bye).

The easiest way to deny tyrants the opportunity to use sport as propaganda of evil is not to put major sporting events into their countries in the first place. But, since both FIFA and IOC rival Putin’s junta in corruption, this option is unavailable.

Boycotting such events when the tyrants do something particularly revolting is more difficult. But it’s an excellent punitive measure to be held in reserve.

If the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was grounds for boycotting the 1980 Olympics, why doesn’t the Russian invasion of Georgia and the Ukraine call for boycotting this World Cup? And considering that Putin has turned Britain into a killing field, this time we should go the whole hog.

If evil acts aren’t punished so it hurts, there will be more evil acts. Surely even Gary Neville can get his head around this simple logic?

The world doesn’t revolve around football or, if it does, this is an abomination. The world does revolve (to a much greater extent at any rate) around discouraging and punishing political evil.

And yet so far not a single public figure has demanded a boycott of this World Cup. Not by Prince William but by the England team, including the overlapping fullbacks so dear to Gary’s heart.

Nor has any bank said it will impound Russian assets and refuse to accept more. God forbid the monthly influx of over a billion in purloined and laundered cash will slow down.

That leaves only one question unanswered. Whom will Vlad ‘whack’ next? In Britain, publicly, proudly – and to the accompaniment of trumped-up rage only surviving until the next news cycle.

P.S. Turns out Skripal’s wife and son didn’t die in car accidents, as was previously reported. The former died of cancer; the latter of liver failure; and Skripal’s brother also died recently. Natural causes of course, but all surviving family members would be well-advised to watch out.

Vlad bags another one

In a court of law the evidence against my friend Vlad would be regarded as strictly circumstantial. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

But between us boys we know that Vlad murdered (well, tried to) Sergei Skripal as surely as we would had he been caught running away from the scene, toxic aerosol in hand.

Vlad’s outlook on life was formed in street gangs and later refined in the KGB. In that street gang with megalomania, officers are taught that, if coincidences number more than two, they aren’t coincidences. And in Skripal’s case, coincidences abound.

Col. Skripal, GRU, was in 2006 caught spying for MI6. He was sentenced to 13 years in a hard labour camp, the slow version of capital punishment. Four years later he and a few others were exchanged for a gaggle of Vlad’s spies led by the femme fatale (that’s the French for whore) Anna Chapman.

Skripal was first flown for a debrief in the US, but then settled in Wiltshire. That’s when coincidences began to pile up.

First Skripal’s son was killed in a car accident. Then, last year, the same fate befell his wife. And now he and his daughter are fighting for their lives, having been poisoned with an unknown substance in a Salisbury shopping mall. A few months before that, Skripal had reported threats to his life.

I don’t know what the odds are in favour of one family suffering all these misfortunes within five years, but they can’t be very high. If you disagree, start buying lottery tickets – you’re bound to win millions quickly.

However, I stand corrected. A highly credible, nay unimpeachable, Russian source indignantly denies any FSB role in the attempted murder.

“The English suffer from phobias. Whatever happens to Russians, they immediately look for a Russian connection… It shouldn’t be excluded that the media are trying to fan around this incident yet another scandal involving Russian special services.”

This highly credible, nay unimpeachable, source is Duma deputy Alexei Lugovoi who in 2006 poisoned in London another Russian, Alexander Litvinenko, with polonium-210. Lugovoi’s guilt wasn’t established in a court of law because Vlad refused to extradite him for questioning. However, the evidence against Lugovoi is enough to convict 10 murderers, which of course doesn’t mean that his current protestations lose any of their credibility.

Vlad learned how to deal with enemies in his two schools of life: street gangs and the KGB. Accordingly in his inaugural address he promised to hunt terrorists down wherever they may be. “If they hide in the bog, we’ll whack’em in the shithouse,” explained Vlad in the only idiom that comes naturally to him.

(One would think that a chap possessing two post-graduate degrees would be able to express himself somewhat less trenchantly, but don’t be misled by diplomas. Just the other day, the daughter of the Chancellor of Petersburg’s Mining University described how her father wrote, cut and pasted Putin’s doctoral dissertation. Since then the academic has become a billionaire, which, considering his salary, testifies to extreme frugality coupled with a successful investment strategy.)

Enlarging on that presidential promise, Vlad later said: “Traitors always end in a bad way. Usually from a drinking habit, or from drugs, right in the street.” Or else from the world’s first act of nuclear terrorism, one should add.

The substance used to whack Col. Skripal is unknown, and consequently so is any possible antidote. In Litivinenko’s case, polonium-210 was detected by sheer luck, and, one suspects, that elusive commodity will be required here as well.

It’s known that FSB laboratories have been working hard on developing undetectable toxins and methods of their delivery. This effort goes back to the first days of the Bolshevik power.

One of the first acts of that young, idealistic republic was to establish two laboratories within the CheKa structure: one specialising in counterfeiting, the other in poisons. The latter is still in business and by all accounts doing famously, and it would take unlikely credulity to suppose that the former isn’t.

Hence from 1917 onwards Russia’s presence in the world has been toxic in both the narrow and broad senses of the word. It has to be said that Russia had never been a particularly nice country – it’s not for nothing that back in the nineteenth century she was called ‘the gendarme of Europe’ and ‘the prison of nations’.

But neither was she a downright criminal state. That metamorphosis was perpetrated by the Bolsheviks, aggravated by the Soviets and is now being further advanced by Putin’s kleptofascist junta – to the applause of ‘populists’ everywhere.

Trained in both street and state crime, Vlad will always push as far as he can get away with. He’ll steal Russia’s natural resources, other countries’ territory, doctoral dissertations and anything else within reach.

And he’ll do murder at home and abroad – provided he goes unpunished. This presumably is what makes him the strong leader some of our pundits who’ll remain nameless, such as Peter Hitchens, wish we had.

A statesman’s strength would indeed be welcome, but not the strength of a mafia godfather. If our leaders were strong, they’d immediately freeze all Russian assets in Britain, expel their holders and sever diplomatic relations with Vlad’s bailiwick.

Instead they’ll mumble casuistic half-truths about insufficient proof and, at best, slap Vlad on the wrist with a few more or less painless sanctions. To someone of his pedigree this is tantamount to an open-ended licence to kill on British soil.

And this used to be such a decent place…

Swayze’s lesson to Trump

Patrick Swayze, to be nominated for a posthumous Nobel Prize in economics

“Trade wars are good and easy to win”, declares Donald Trump. He should heed the lesson taught by that famous actor and, evidently, closet economist Patrick Swayze.

In his film Roadhouse, where he plays a two-fisted bouncer, his character is asked if he has ever won a fight. “No one ever wins a fight,” replies the bouncer cum philosopher cum closet economist.

Replace ‘fight’ with ‘trade war’, and the statement is unassailable. Yet Trump assails it in word, and possibly soon in deed.

If he doesn’t hold Swayze’s economic nous in high regard, perhaps he should listen to the founders of modern economics Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Say what you will about them, but they did understand economics rather well.

Thus for example Smith: “To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry… must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be bought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful.”

Ricardo went further, arguing in favour of even unilateral free trade. If a foreign country wants to punish its population by making our exports more expensive, let it. That’s no reason for us to retaliate by punishing our people as well.

The logic here is simple, and remains so until modern economists move in with their incessant effort of self-perpetuation. The economy is too simple for today’s economists to understand.

Using all sorts of graphs, charts, computer models and, their favourite word, paradigms, they’ll unfailingly complicate the bleeding obvious, typically pushing the economy towards ruin. If we listen to them, before long we’ll march to the soup kitchens, singing “Brother, can you paradigm”. (If you understand the pun, don’t admit it – you’ll date yourself.)

In this case, by slapping tariffs on imports in an attempt to protect domestic industry (which is recommended by many ‘liberal’ economists), the country will make imported goods more expensive for the consumer.

The consumer will thus have less money to buy other domestic goods, those that don’t have to rely on protectionism to compete. Funds will thereby be channelled away from the most, and into the least, productive areas. The jobs saved in the flagging industries will be lost in the successful ones, and they’ll soon stop being successful.

If, for example, Trump goes ahead with his plan to impose a 20 per cent tariff on imported steel, the price of goods made of this metal will go up (manufacturers tend to pass cost increases on to consumers). This will affect construction, motor trade, domestic goods and many other sectors.

Consumers will have to pinch in other areas, such as high-tech in which America excels, if with a little help from her Asian friends. The knock-on effect will kick in, and those dominoes will fall one by one – to the detriment of the whole economy.

Hence trade wars are neither good nor easy to win. What Trump should have said is that, if one side practises protectionism, a trade war is inevitable.

There’s no rational reason for it to be so, but people aren’t always, and never merely, rational. If attacked, and protectionist tariffs are doubtless offensive, human nature calls for retaliation in kind – whatever sage things Ricardo had to say on the subject.

Then there are also practical considerations. For in today’s world economics is inseparable from politics. That’s why political economy is a more valid academic subject than economics on its own.

A country is bound to respond to aggression, in this case economic, as a way of deterring further aggression, which may also manifest itself in other areas. That’s why protectionism seldom goes unpunished, whatever the purely economic reasons in favour of turning the other cheek.

Here we approach an important difference between the USA and the EU. The former, while seeking global political aims, still has to make good on the founding promise of happiness, which the Founders understood in economic terms.

The EU, on the other hand, is a predominantly political contrivance using economics as a smokescreen to hide each new step to its ultimate goal: the creation of a single European state. Hence it doesn’t mind having its member states suffer economic hardship as long as they march in step towards the bright future.

The EU doesn’t care whether or not its members, especially the marginal ones, are prosperous. It just wants to pretend it’s doing everything possible to make sure they are. That’s why the EU was conceived as a protectionist bloc: its subjects are told protectionism keeps their jobs safe so loudly that they don’t realise the actual damage they suffer because of it.

Trump, being a populist, has to make a good show of make-believe as well. He campaigned on the promise of protecting jobs in the Rust Belt, and the easiest way to do that is imposing tariffs on imports. On the other hand, he can’t allow all other economic indicators to dip too sharply, as the EU can.

This explains why the US retaliates against EU protectionism, but also why the tariffs it imposes tend to be lower than the EU’s tariffs on American products. For example, the EU slaps a 10 per cent tariff on American cars, while the US imposes only a 2.5 per cent one on European ones.

Trump’s threat of hiking the tariffs may come either from a perceived political need or, more likely, from ignorance, which is demonstrated by his statement about trade wars being good and easy to win. It’s no wonder Mrs May is running scared: at Brexit time Britain can ill-afford a trade war with America.

One way to avoid it would be to leave the EU immediately, without any shilly-shallying transitions. If Britain then removes tariffs from American goods, Trump would have to be especially bloody-minded to keep his own in place.

But in the end, both sides in a trade war end up losing. No one ever wins such a fight – the late Patrick Swayze was right about that.