On the 21st of February Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising two territories of Ukraine as ‘independent territories’, at the request of said territories. These regions have been host to Russian-backed ‘rebels’ for several years, and it is extremely convenient for these rebels to make their plea at a time when Russia has amassed thousands of troops at Ukraine’s border. The pretext for an invasion – Russia has already announced it plans to cross the border under the guise of ‘peacekeeping’ – is in place.
It seems to me that war between Russia and Ukraine is now inevitable. Ukrainians will pay a heavy price for Putin’s ambitions and notion of revenge, whilst Putin himself may come to regret how many Russian soldiers die, and how many hearts get broken due to his imperialism. It is impossible to say if the sanctions being prepared will have any tangible impact on Russia, and even if they do, will they be enough to stop Putin’s war efforts? If not, where does this end? To be ultra clear, I do not want a scenario where we end up in a full-scale war with Russia, not least because Boris Johnson’s ineptitude is likely to lead us to utter ruin in such a scenario. The Tories have underfunded the UK armed forces and left us woefully ill-equipped to fight if it comes to it.
That said, I have my doubts that Russia wants a full-scale war. This isn’t like the days of the USSR when the Red Army was huge and well-equipped. Russia would end up squaring off against Europe and possibly the US via NATO, and that’s not a fight Russia can win. The most likely scenario that unfolds is one where everyone loses, because things turn nuclear. That is one very big reason to want to avoid getting into a war.
The problem is, if Putin is left unchecked he will inevitably eye up other former Soviet territories he feels belong as part of Russia. He is happy to violate the sovereignty of other countries and if the West does not display some resolve he will carry on doing so. It is difficult to see a situation unfolding where that resolve is not in the form of an armed confrontation.
I don’t know a way out of this that doesn’t involve some form of fight. I wish I did.