Once again, we are seeing hysterical reactions by the usual suspects, and just as before – with no consideration for the consequences.
Russophobe, germophobe, it’s all the same.
I simplify. But it’s striking how the loudest Russophobic voices include all the same voices which were similarly hysterical about Covid – the mainstream media, the Labour Party, and the liberal elite (which includes much of the Conservative Party), while the few voices calling for even a modicum of restraint or understanding of Russia include anti-lockdown Farage (on GB News) and Trump, both of the Right. Piers Corbyn and Jeremy Corbyn, virtually alone on the Left have spoken up, while Starmer has forced 11 of his MPs who signed a Stop The War statement to withdraw their signatures.
The Labour Party in fact has tried to outflank the Tories on the Right, demanding the silencing of RT, the Russian broadcaster.
The Ukraine crisis rubs home the same messages we received loud and clear during the Great Covid Hysteria: Left and Right are meaningless now, the default option for any untoward contingency arising is to go to panic stations, muzzle any dissent, and bring in restrictions/interventions/sanctions without a thought about the side effects, or even direct consequences.
Just as Covid lockdowns were imposed regardless of wrecking society and economy, so the West is now imposing drastic sanctions on Russia without anybody even asking the question: well, might not Russia retaliate, with cyber attacks for example? It’s not appeasement to pause to consider if our moves might backfire, that’s just plain prudence and a sense of responsibility. And what about gas and petrol prices? Collapsing stock markets? Sterling, anyone?
Nor is it appeasement to appreciate that the problem didn’t begin just yesterday, that the West was asking for trouble sooner or later when it incorporated much of the former Soviet Union into its own sphere of influence (NATO membership), and started to establish forward military positions in Ukraine even though formally Ukraine was not a member of NATO. We poke the Russian bear and then cry in horror when it responds by showing its claws.
Grabbing other people’s land is always wrong. But tell that to the Americans, who have endorsed Israel’s annexation of Palestinian and Syrian territory without even a semblance of support from the inhabitants. The Americans have also stationed military forces in North East Syria, denying access to the region’s oil by the Syrian government, pretexting a pseudo-mission of ‘keeping ISIS out’ – when ISIS no longer poses any real threat. Tell NATO ally Turkey which mounted a similar ‘peacekeeping’ mission across its border into North West Syria, killing hundreds of Syrian government forces in the process and sustaining in control a local jihadi regime. Nobody in NATO breathes a word against any of this.
It’s not all bad news. The aggravation of the already dire energy situation is creating a new equation: people are realising you can have zero emissions, or you can be warm.
However, looking at the downside, the conflict over Ukraine could harm the cause of freedom supporters if the perception grows that we are siding with the nation’s enemies. Some might even say that our support for peace is toxic. But what is there to lose? We are demonised, harassed and persecuted already. And nobody else is interested in making peace, only in pouring fuel on the flames with arms supplies and punishing Russia with backfiring sanctions.
Putin may be making the same calculation, that he has nothing to lose. The West spurned feelers he put out about a neutral status for Ukraine, application of the Minsk accords on a settlement for the Eastern areas, and revival of arms limitation treaties. Why not go the whole hog and practise the same regime change tactics the West used or tried to use in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria?
Author Peter Ford is a global affair analyst and former British Ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) and Bahrain (1999-2002).