AND so it begins.
Nobody can say that the war now starting in Europe is a surprise.
It is a year since Vladimir Putin started to amass Russian troops on the borders of Ukraine.
From March 2021, around 90,000 soldiers sat perched ready for action.
Putin’s angry speech this week did not provide any new insight into his thinking, it merely confirmed what his actions have already proved.
That he believes that Ukraine is “a made-up state” that belongs to Russia.
And that he will send troops into the Eastern part of the country to begin with.
All under the claim that the Russian army is going in to “protect” Russian-speaking areas of the country.
It is typical Putin. And a lie, of course. One of many he spouts daily. For instance, Putin talks of Ukraine and Nato being the aggressors.
But it is him, not us, amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. It is he who pretends that an invasion of a sovereign country is, in fact, a “peacekeeping” operation.
Nobody except stooges of the Kremlin, like our very own Stop the War, could possibly fall for any of this.
The question is, what is the rest of the world to do about it?
The first thing is to acknowledge that we are partly in this situation because of weak leadership from Washington.
President Macron of France and other European leaders have spent recent weeks taking futile trips to Moscow, all play-acting at serious diplomacy.
But only one person in the world can really deter Putin and that is the President of the United States.
Say what you like about Donald Trump, but he was the only recent US President during whose term in office Putin invaded no one.
Trump’s unpredictability and strong-man deterrence persuaded Putin that it was not worth the risk while he was in the Oval Office.
Joe Biden’s presidency has been a different matter. Putin has watched the weakness of the deteriorating President.
He watched America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer.
After 20 years of war, he saw the US and its Nato allies abandon Afghanistan again to the Taliban — a withdrawal that made the Soviet retreat from the same country 30 years earlier look orderly.
Biden has not been on top of the Ukraine situation. Any more than he has been on top of anything.
Just last month he seemed to be saying he would allow Russia to take a portion of Ukraine.
A “minor incursion” seemed to have his go-ahead. The White House rowed back on that remark, saying (as so often) that Biden had merely misspoken. As he tends to do when he opens his mouth.
Then, this week, as war looked imminent, Biden sent his even more inept Vice President Kamala Harris to try to sort out the Ukraine situation. Which is worse than nothing.
To date, during her time in office, there has been no problem that Harris has solved. Not one.
In Munich earlier this week, she said to her European counterparts: “I mean, listen, guys, we’re talking about the potential for war in Europe.
“I mean, let’s really take a moment to understand the significance of what we’re talking about.”
Profound stuff. Perhaps Harris is hoping to bore Russia into submission, launching banal verbal missiles like that until everyone puts their hands up.
Leaders such as Harris simply cannot rise to the moment. There are now a number of possibilities of what Putin might do.
Perhaps he will seize “only” the eastern portion of the country. Or perhaps he is actually mad enough to try to take Kyiv and from there occupy the rest of the country.
(And we must seriously consider that he is genuinely insane. As former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said of him, he is “not wholly rational” and “you have to deal with the five per cent chance that he might in fact be delusional”)
If he does attempt to occupy, he will face a significant land war. Ukraine is not Crimea, which Putin seized under the Obama presidency.
Ukrainian troops may be outnumbered, but they will fight. And both sides will take significant casualties.
Putin might then discover that even if he has the manpower, he does not have the money to sustain a long war in Ukraine, however much he wants to fulfil his long-standing desire to unite the old Soviet Union.
So what can the rest of the world do now?
The likelihood of Nato countries sending troops to Ukraine is small. Unless Putin’s war begins to spill out further. But Europe, America and the rest of the world must now cripple Russia.
Not just increase sanctions against members of Putin’s regime but destroy the Russian economy. Send the ruble crashing. Make Putin’s foreign adventures cost him.
The untrustworthy and compromised German government have finally done something by halting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was going to increase European reliance on Russian energy. The time may have come to do this and much more.
But what a senseless and stupid thing for Vladimir Putin to do. It may be him and the Russian people who pay the price, but so will the whole global economy.
The world has only just started to come out of the Covid slump. It needs all the help it can get to get going again. And just at that moment the madman Putin decides to start a ground war.
The Ukrainians will suffer first. Putin next. But the whole world is likely to be thrown into an economic slump. The useful idiots will pretend this was Nato’s doing. Or Ukraine’s. It was not.
What is to come is the fault of many people. But most of all it sits with one man. The madman sitting in the Kremlin.