BY EFFIE DEANS
Ukraine as a truly independent state has already ceased to exist. It may end up as a Russian vassal or it may largely be absorbed into Russia, but it is hard to see how it can truly regain control over its territory in the near future if ever. The Russians have taken over the second largest country in Europe. They cannot take over the first largest, because that is Russia.
There isn’t going to be World War Three. There will be a lot of hysteria about what has just happened, but NATO is not going to declare war on Russia, and Russia is not going to declare war on NATO.
The problem with NATO is that it has expanded beyond its real red lines. We were never going to fight for Ukraine or Georgia. So why offer membership? When Russian tanks went into Georgia in 2008 how was NATO supposed to stop them?
In theory we now are obliged to declare war if Putin decides to close the Suwalki gap between Belarus and Kaliningrad. This narrow strip is all that keeps the Baltic States from being annexed too. But are we really going to fight Putin over places that were part of the Soviet Union? It is unclear we are even going to fight him over places that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact.
The real NATO red line is where it always was. Germany. But if that is the case then expanding NATO eastwards was senseless. We were making promises we could not keep.
It could be that NATO intends to fight a conventional war if Lithuania is threatened, but it is hard to see how it could win given the geography and the troops available to each side. But if it cannot win a conventional war NATO would then be forced to use nuclear weapons. Seriously are we going to have World War Three and destroy the world over a town called Suwałki that most of us would struggle to find on a map, let alone pronounce?
The West needs clear realistic red lines just as we had in the Cold War. The Soviets understood what they could do and what they could not do and it kept both sides safe. We didn’t care much when the Soviets went into Hungary or Czechoslovakia because the Warsaw Pact was their business not ours. So too now. We defend what we can realistically defend and we return to the realpolitik of great power international relations.
We must deter aggression from the Russians in the way that we always have. We must focus on what is our real strategic interest and defend that by deterrence. But that doesn’t mean trying to defend everything. That way you stretch yourself too thin and your deterrence ends up looking weak. It is then no deterrence at all.
Putin has taken advantage of the West’s weakness. We have been weakened by a lack of seriousness about international relations and war. We have expanded our military actions into regions that we cannot realistically control such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The result is that Western forces have been defeated because of a lack of willingness to lose causalities or to inflict them. This sort of attitude would have guaranteed defeat in every previous war in history and guarantees it now too.
The Russians fight differently. They do not care about the casualties they inflict on Ukraine and are perfectly willing to lose a significant number of their own troops. This is why they win.
The West has fried its brains with dope and woke and particularly in America it has been fighting a cultural battle against itself which has left it with a President showing signs of dementia unfit to lead anything.
But America has an inherent strength that it showed in 1941, coming back from initial disaster to prevail and become the strongest power in history. But to do so again it has to ditch what divides it and what makes it weak, obsessing over gender and race. The same applies here.
In order to bring NATO power back to the level where it could defeat the Soviet Union, it is crucial that France and Britain cease squabbling over Brexit. Germany which was man for man the finest military power in the world for a hundred years between 1845 and 1945 must again become a serious armed force. German pacifism since 1945 has left Central Europe free from threats of German expansionism, but also free from a defensive force that might protect it.
The Americans and the European Union must make clear to those who threaten the UK politically, that this will not be tolerated when the whole of Western European security is threatened. Breaking up the UK, which is the aim of both Ireland and the SNP would also break up the British armed forces which are needed now more than ever to deter Russian aggression. Scottish unilateral nuclear disarmament makes no more sense now than it did when Michael Foot proposed it in 1983.
I strongly suspect in the days ahead it will be made quietly clear to Nicola Sturgeon that there will be no further referendums in Scotland for the foreseeable future. She can pretend to her followers in order to keep them sucking on the pacifier, but that is all.
We must now treat Russia just as we treated the Soviet Union. We must protect what we can, defend what we must. The goal in the short term is to contain Putin and then gradually to undermine Russia from within just as we did the Soviet Union.
When we defeated the Soviet Union in 1991, we treated it gently, but it meant that Russia retained its taste for war just as Germany retained it in 1918 because we neither invaded nor destroyed German cities. If we defeat Russia a second time then we must teach it the pacifism that both Germany and Japan learned in 1945.
Russia has become the new Germany that threatened all of its neighbours from the 1860s to the 1940s. It may take just as long to neuter Russia.
For the moment we are flying in from Miami Beach B.O.A.C. Back in the USSR.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.