The Ukraine & Putin
Not your tram enthusiast blog today.
Its not as if the western nations were in ignorance of the malevolence of Putin's Russia, nor its sidekick Belarus with its decades old dictator, nor indeed of the ominous growing discord in relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). Much like Mr Chamberlain of old the diplomatic dance performed on stage in New York and varied European capitals including Moscow, took place on assumption that Mr Putin was a 'gentleman' who observed the rules, written and unspoken, of the global 'club'. Not so.
Just like Mr Chamberlain following on the Munich so-called 'Agreement' in 1938, Putin has torn up the rule book this week to pursue his own agenda in eastern Europe. Tanks rolling into the Ukraine can be equated with Hitler's panzers rumbling into Prague to take over that violated democracy. If Putin and his cohorts are allowed to get away (so to speak) with this aggression then none of Europe's capitals are safe from Moscow's diktats.
The testing of the NATO Alliance is about to begin. This time with a quietly spoken ex KGB spook posing as 'President' of the Russian Federation (or whatever title he has chosen to adopt in more recent years) western member states are going to have to get real in facing up to an alien force. I served on the front line during the Cold War patrolling the markers and fencing splitting Europe in two with Russian dominated eastern states on one side and western democracies on the other. Fortunately it was indeed a 'cold' confrontation with threats and animosities carried out covertly - tanks thankfully kept inside their hangars.
This time things are slightly different with a Russia seemingly in the grip of singularly unbalanced mindset and western Europe uncertain as to its strengths and resources. Huffing and puffing in Parliament does not make up for steel and muscle on the ground whatever the level of rhetoric. The UK's armed forces have diminished in size, scale and potency year on year - relegated to colourful ceremonial events and a lingering fondness for years when 'Britannia Ruled the Waves'. Our Defence Secretary being caught on camera harking back to when the Scots Guards kicked the backside of the Tsar's army during a most recent briefing at the Ministry of Defence. Sad to say, were it not for our attaching ourselves to American firepower, the UK's now modest military establishment would become laughable in any real conflict in the 'European Theatre'.
Above : patrolling the 'Iron Curtain' a routine check of the border between east and west Germany by a Ferret Scout Car patrol of the 17th/21st Lancers in the mid 1960s. Left : A German sign on the west german side of the border - Germany does not end here - or words to that effect. Photos : Corporal Woodman
So back to the Ukraine and Putin. This test of wills in Europe is not going to end well for any of the participants, or indeed lookers on. Pretending that there is no case/cause for NATO forces to come to the aid of a democratic Ukraine facing overwhelming aggression by its neighbour simply because the Ukraine is not a fully signed up member of the NATO Alliance - is farcical at best; and in good part the very reason why Putin has determined to chance his arm through an invasion. Moaning about the sanctity of NATO Membership became something of an open invitation to Moscow's elite to sign on to Putin's view of the world. One which does not bode well for other countries in Europe. We are not dealing with a rational mindset in Moscow; just as Mr Chamberlain found out when he waved a signed piece of paper on arriving back from his 'Peace in our time' mission to Munich. Ironically it was another piece of paper which brought Britain, its Empire and a good many other countries including the USA, into the Great War. That time it was the invasion of neutral Belgium by a large number of field gray clad troops marching towards Paris in 1914. This was repeated in 1939. Only by removing a tyranny was the same story put in cold storage from 1945 to the present day.