Let Putin eat gas

Any punishment for any crime should ideally serve two purposes: properly punitive (serving justice) and deterrent (preventing the criminal from doing it again).

These days many, including some of our top judges, disagree. They think that the prime purpose of punishment is rehabilitation: improving the criminal’s character.

That’s why they routinely pass derisory sentences, claiming spuriously that “prison has never done anyone any good.”

First, this is factually wrong: throughout history, there have been numerous examples of criminals emerging after a prison term better men than before. Suffering in general is a personality builder – in fact, an essential one.  

Second, rehabilitation isn’t so much a secondary purpose of punishment as tertiary. If it happens, so much the better. If it doesn’t, well, we have prisons mainly not to improve those inside but to protect those outside.

The same logic applies to dealing with international criminals, rogue states committing predatory acts. The circumstances are different, so is the scale, but the purpose remains the same two-fold: punishment and deterrence.

Which of the two has been achieved by the sanctions imposed on Putin’s Russia, or rather on her 21 minor officials? Obviously, lamentably, infuriatingly neither.

Putin is rapidly creating a fascist state, with himself as a Mussolini-type figure, mutatis mutandis. This is clearly linked to his desire to rebuild the Soviet Union to its past glory. After all, this KGB colonel with megalomania regards its dismemberment as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”.

In order to achieve this worthy aim, the good colonel needs to incorporate into Russia (or the mythical Union of Independent States, or the equally mythical Eurasian Economic Community) most of the ex-Soviet republics. Of these, in terms of size, natural resources and strategic significance, the most important are Kazakhstan, Belarus – and especially the Ukraine.

Now, since the West has every reason to believe that the past glory of the Soviet Union wasn’t all that glorious, we must do all we can to prevent the Walpurgisnacht the Soviet Union really was. After all, that charming brainchild of Lenin and other evil degenerates murdered 60 million of its own people, enslaved half the world and several times brought it to the brink of nuclear annihilation.  

This is the only context in which Russia’s action in the Crimea can be seen properly. And, as follows from their immoral, craven and suicidal response to Putin’s aggression, this is exactly the way our ‘leaders’ don’t see it.

Unchecked democracy encourages strategic myopia, with few politicians able or willing to see the world in any terms other than their next election. Since in our materialistic times this usually hinges on strictly short-term economic factors, they are incapable of thinking beyond an immediate economic gain or, as the case may be, loss.

Col. Putin has his grubby fingers on the tap controlling the flow of gas in his cherished pipeline. This is seen as Europe’s lifeblood, what with a quarter of her gas and, more to the point, a third of Germany’s coming through Putin’s pipe.

It’s the fear of the tap shutting that guides Western policy towards Russia, not any desire for justice or, crucially, deterrence.

God forbid Putin should turn the tap clockwise. Why, our heating bills would go up, with our leaders’ electoral chances heading in the opposite direction.

The very fact that this, highly predictable, type of thinking is possible re-emphasises the idiocy of depending on rogue states for our strategic resources. Every waking moment of our ‘leaders’ ought to have been dedicated to expanding every possible alternative to Russian, and for that matter Middle Eastern, oil and gas.

The only existing alternative, and no sane individual would regard sun and wind as such, is nuclear, and the most promising future (in America, already present) alternative is hydraulic fracturing.

And what do Germany and France do? Germany under the former communist apparatchik Merkel is shutting down all her nuclear power stations, France,under the socialist apparatchik Hollande, many of hers, and both are fighting ‘fracking’ tooth and nail.

This doesn’t just put a blackmail weapon into Putin’s hands, but cocks it and slips the safety off. Still, any reasonable government of any major nation would refuse to go along with the blackmailer.

Moreover, this is the kind of weapon that can backfire. Yes, as Putin has demonstrated in his previous dealings with recalcitrant neighbours, he’s capable of using the pipe as a gun barrel. If any other than derisory sanctions had been brought on line this time, Europe would indeed suffer some short-term discomfort.

But Russia’s economy is totally dependent on her exports of hydrocarbons – this would hurt her more than it would hurt us. They can’t eat their gas, and they can’t drink their oil.

Yet even minor discomfort isn’t something our ‘leaders’ are prepared to countenance.  And no state unwilling to accept some pain in order to prevent a looming disaster deserves to survive. Make no mistake about it: if Putin gets his way, our survival will become tenuous.

The mistake the West has always made towards the Soviet regime (of which the post-Soviet one is but a continuation by other means) is to believe that its party and KGB chieftains are PLUs, People Like Us.

Granted, there are rough edges here and there, and caution must be exercised – but fundamentally they can respond to the fair give-and-take of politics. We’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to us; we give, they take – then the other way around.

Any serious study of history, ideally augmented by native knowledge of the place, will tell you that this picture has nothing to do with reality. The Russians’ approach to political realities is that of take-take.

They have always treated kindness as a sign of weakness: witness the fact that every Russian tsar who attempted liberal reforms was murdered. And internationally the Russians don’t understand fair trading; the only language they understand is that of brute force.

It’s naïve to believe that slapping 21 officials on the wrist constitutes a show of such force. What it is is encouragement for the KGB colonel to accelerate his rebuilding programme.

Just think: the next on the list may be the Baltic republics, NATO members. If they are attacked and the West does nothing, this will spell the end of any resistance to international evil. And if the West does do something, it may mean war.

Historical parallels are easy to see. For Crimea, 2014, read Munich, 1938. But don’t read it at bedtime.   





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