the Ukraine situation started to get nasty, I wrote that the casus belli was the interference by the EU. To expect Putin to accept that Brussels could park its tanks on his lawn was absurd. NATO would soon follow.
Since that time quite a few commentators have come round to the same view. My position was that far from treating Russia as a pariah state, the West should recognise that there was a convergence of interests in the real threat, the disintegration of the ‘Arab spring countries’, specifically Syria.
Ukraine, to quote LBJ, ‘is not worth a pitcher of warm spit’. It is a place of no significance to the West. It produces only grain and steel, neither of which we want. It is institutionally corrupt and will continue to be so regardless of who is in power. It is certainly no threat to the West, which should bring Russia inside the tent with an anti-ISIS entente.
As a first step the EU could withdraw its ludicrous and ineffective sanctions which are counter-productive. Now events have handed Putin the opportunity to restore dialogue with the West that was lost with stand-off in Ukraine.
With the Paris atrocities, ISIS has clearly changed its ‘intent’ from concentrating on creating their ‘caliphate’, and has switched to payback-time on the West’s home ground. So much for the post-9/11 pledge that never again would a global terrorist organisation be allowed to deploy terrorism away from its home base.
Whilst our waffling wimps are wringing their hands and wondering what to do next, Putin is putting a bit of stick about. It was a certainty that as soon as ISIL claimed responsibility for the airplane bombing Russia would retaliate ‘with extreme prejudice’, as the Generals are wont to say. Meaning ‘bomb to a pulp’. His prestige has risen enormously in the past few days.
The much-mocked Hollande took immediate action to deploy both naval and air forces. He has started a pretty clear rapprochement with Putin, causing a certain amount of fluttering in the Brussels pigeon loft, which is worried that an outcome might be that France is peeled away from Germany.
He has called for a Grand Alliance that will include Russia. Putin has ordered the Russian navy to co-operate with the French.
Meanwhile the Invisible Man in the White House appears not to have a position at all. Cameron goes around muttering about needing a Commons majority to deploy our six clapped-out Tornados in Syria. That’s a cop-out. Waging war is a Royal Prerogative exercised by Her Maj on the advice of the Prime Minister.
If we had sought a Commons majority in 1939, they would still have been debating it as the Wehrmacht marched down the Mall.
Two examples of the limp-wristed attitude in the West:
The Sun newspaper had the story of getting through security at Sharm el Sheik without a baggage check on payment of £20 bribe five months ago. News International’s US lawyers spiked it in case it fell foul of US anti-corruption laws. Result: over 200 dead.
Allied aircraft have been forbidden to bomb ISIL’s oil convoys, their main and huge source of funds (it seems that Iraqi government officials were on the take — no surprise there, then), because some of the drivers might be civilians. The Sunday Times printed a photo of drones observing one such convoy; it comprised around 1,000 trucks. The RAF had it in their sights but were banned from destroying it.
It appears that belatedly the US has now lifted this embargo and carried out the first raid, destroying about half of a 300-truck convoy. There is an uncomfortable resonance with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
Contrary to popular belief, this was not a single cataclysmic event when the barbarians sacked the city. It took place over centuries, between the sack of Rome and the fall of Constantinople to the Muslim hordes. The essential reasons were that Romans had become wealthy, complacent, over-confident in the strength of Roman civilisation, and morally flabby.
Most important was their increasing unwillingness to defend themselves, preferring to employ barbarians as legionaries rather than dirty their own hands with actual fighting.
And it came to pass that Europe followed the same path, with Britain and France the only two countries in NATO capable of supporting the US. Few of the others meet the ‘2 percent of GDP’ criterion for defence expenditure. They have prospered greatly by leaving it to others to defend them.
And according to the latest obiter dictum from Obama, the greatest threat to our safety is not terrorism; it’s climate change. A greater one might be two more years of him in the White House.
Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world