We have reached the nightmare scenario. A deranged world leader, Vladimir Putin, in control of nuclear weapons. A deluded country that generally seems to be supporting his ghastly atrocities, and opponents who are racing to accommodate themselves to the new world order.
I don’t want to be alarmist, but we really are on the brink of a dangerous escalation in the Ukraine crisis.
For how long are we prepared to stand by while the heroic Ukrainian people see more and more of their territory occupied by the marauding Russian Army? In a horrible way our supplying of arms is prolonging the agony. It certainly gives rise to the accusation that we are letting Ukrainians die for our interest.
The escalation can come in a number of ways. What if a stray Russian missile lands on Polish territory? It could be an accident. Lviv is only a few miles from the Polish border, and it is very possible that an incompetent Russian soldier could put inaccurate guidance information into the targeting mechanism.
How would we know if it was an accident or yet another effort by Putin to test our resolve? Would we accept Russian assurances it was an accident? I hope not because that would make a mockery of our warnings to Putin not to attack an inch of NATO territory.
So, a military response would be necessary. It is likely we would conduct one attack on Russia in the Donbas. Then the world must hold its breath and hope Putin takes his “punishment.”
If not, I can see the conflict rapidly escalating beyond Ukraine’s borders. In a conventional war I believe NATO will prevail. China will not get involved and we would knock out Russia’s air force and liberate Ukraine.
However, it is highly unlikely Putin would not resort to chemical, biological and ultimately nuclear weapons to prevent such a humiliation.
Another trigger for war could be an incident in the Baltic Sea as Putin attempts to dissuade, or protest against, Finland and Sweden, joining NATO. And finally, we may just be shamed into taking action if Russia conquers the Donbas and then attempts to take the rest of Ukraine.
ARE WE READY?
One has no sense that people in the West are prepared for war with Russia. Most people seem to think, awful as it is, it will be contained in the Donbas. Well, I hope I have shown this could be wrong thinking.
NATO has shown considerable resolve since the invasion but there are questions over two key allies France and Germany. As Frank McKenna explains in his blog this week, an unlikely victory for Marie Le Pen in France this weekend would confuse things mightily. And Germany which should be at the forefront in this crisis is compromised by dependence on Russian energy and on underspending on its armed forces.
Despite these concerns, I still maintain that NATO, with the United States fully engaged, can prevail.
However, we need to get mentally prepared for what a full-scale war means.
I hope desperately I am wrong and other scenarios will play out.
It may be that Putin will take the Donbas and stop. A low-key war of attrition may go on for years, but he will have succeeded in taking land by force. In those circumstances we must maintain full sanctions. We don’t want the spectacle of nations and business slowly returning to business as usual.
Sanctions must be maintained and increased until surely the army, oligarchs or the people of Russia depose Putin and decide against all the traditions of their history that the West is not an enemy and wants to embrace the ordinary Russian people in the international family.