ARE we about to go to war with Russia?
The chances are still slim. Not least for the reasons that have existed since the Cold War. Which is that nuclear-armed states do not like to go to war with each other.
But two things have happened in recent weeks that have made the likelihood of some type of conflict increasingly likely.
The first is that Russian troops and other military hardwear have been amassing on the Russian side of its border with the Ukraine.
Dictator-for-life Vladimir Putin did the same thing with Crimea seven years ago. In 2014, taking advantage of a weak Democrat President in Washington, in the form of Barack Obama, Putin sent his thugs in and took a piece of land he had always considered his.
He did the same thing in 2008, when he provoked a war with Georgia and stole the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Each time Putin took what he believed was his and the wider world did nothing. A lesson Putin noted well.
For the truth is that Putin has never got over the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the former KGB man takes the same view of the world that radical jihadists do.
Once something belonged to “him” he believes it belongs to him for all time. And that pride can only be restored by taking back what he imagines to be his. Always with the same justification.
Putin claims the West, and Nato countries in particular, are trying to take what is his.
He accuses Nato of expansionism and of trying to hem Russia in.
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Plenty of ill-informed voices in the West go along with this lie. Ignoring, always, that it was former Soviet States that looked West after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It was not that Nato deliberately went recruiting, but that countries from the former Soviet bloc feared the Kremlin and looked for a new protector.
It is not just self-pitying but a simple lie for Putin to pretend otherwise.
Putin pretends Nato is surrounding him.
In fact, as our Defence Secretary Ben Wallace pointed out this week, just six per cent of Russia’s borders are “surrounded” by Nato countries.
It is interesting to see the strongman Putin pretending to feel “surrounded” in such a situation.
His massing of troops on Ukraine’s borders is, of course, not about any genuine fear on his part.
It is part of a desire to strengthen his position domestically by once again taking what he believes to be his.
And he is doing so now because he is making the calculation (as he did in 2008 and 2014) that the West will do nothing about it.
It was not that Nato deliberately went recruiting, but that countries from the former Soviet bloc feared the Kremlin and looked for a new protector. It is not just self-pitying but a simple lie for Putin to pretend otherwise.
And the US in particular.
For Putin — like President Xi Jinping in Beijing — watched the past year’s disasters from Washington with great interest.
In particular they relished the sight of another weak Democrat President, Joe Biden. Particularly his disastrous, inept retreat from Afghanistan.
If America and her allies cannot even beat an orderly retreat from rag-tag Afghan militias, then this is a good opportunity for the world’s dictators.
The only question since the Afghan debacle was who would move first. Would Putin move in to take Ukraine? Or would the Chinese move in to take over the sovereign state of Taiwan?
It is still possible both could happen at once, spelling the start of a new era of serious global disorder. But it looks like it is Putin who is prodding first.
When the photos of military gathering on the Ukraine border first came out, they were captured by American satellite technology.
And Washington passed them straight on to Europe. As though Europe was going to do anything.
In fact, the EU is deeply torn over Russia. Mainly because Germany has had successive governments which have sucked up to the Kremlin in a way that is historically despicable.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder actually went to work for Putin after leaving office.
And his successor Angela Merkel — so moral in the eyes of her defenders — has ended up bolstering Russia by backing its new Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which links Russian gas fields to Europe.
So the likelihood of the EU actually doing anything is almost unimaginable.
But this country has decided to do something. In recent days we have sent anti-tank weaponry, among other equipment, to Ukraine.
Ominously, the military flights supplying these and other weapons have not flown using German airspace. Which demonstrates what an unreliable ally Germany once again is.
But it is right that this country is among those willing to show we will help Ukraine protect herself.
We do not need to have a full-on war with Russia. It is in no one’s interests for us to do so.
But it is also in no one’s interests to allow the world’s dictators and strongmen to gobble up whatever they want.
It has never worked out well in history. And it won’t work out well now.
We should be proud that Britain is playing her part. As we have so many times before.
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