War Notes

It’s been over a month since the last post. My main excuse is that I had Covid, which was unpleasant, but far from the worst I’ve experienced, and on the whole not really worth the couple of trillion that’s been spent on it, let alone the misery occasioned by the lockdowns employed in fighting it. But I have a number of ancillary excuses, chief among them that I only write when I feel I have something to say about the world that hasn’t already been said, and in a world teeming with fallen emperors, clutching their willies and looking for cover, being the first to declare them naked is a tough task.

One such emperor whose nakedness has received less attention than it should is ex-Chancellor Merkel. By conveniently retiring just before the outbreak of the Ukrainian war, Mutti dodged a lot of bullets that ought to be coming her way. But seriously, was there ever a more over-rated politician? As a failure of statesmanship, her stewardship of Germany’s craven dependence on Russian energy supplies beats even her stupefyingly unwise laying of a Welcome mat in 2015 to any Syrian who could afford the smuggler’s fee and make the journey. It becomes clearer every day that continued trade with Germany in hydrocarbons was a sine qua non for Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine. Germany’s continued refusal to take what ought to be its medicine and boycott Russian energy is shameful. Yes, I know it would severely damage the German economy, and have a lot of Germans shivering next winter, but tough – it would serve them right and remind them that self-serving stupidity has consequences – consequences that right now are being visited on Ukrainians.

Perhaps the Germans can be shamed into doing the right thing, but I wouldn’t bet on it. In the meantime, the West seems to be getting used to the idea that there can be no negotiating with Russia while it is led by Vladimir Putin, and that a necessary consequence of that fact is that he must either be killed, or defeated in the field.

As far as Putin being killed is concerned, opinion seems to be divided. The sanctioning of expatriate oligarchs only really makes sense if they have the capacity to bring about such an outcome. Yet Russian experts line up to tell us that the oligarchs no longer have the power they used to have. Putin, they say, has tamed or eliminated them. Me, I have a good deal of faith in the power of money to stimulate the creative juices. With that in mind, I just hope that leaders like Boris Johnson, as well as wielding the stick of sanctions, have created a whole department devoted to fashioning carrots – get a 9mm round into Putin’s head, they should be told, and all your yachts, jets and bank accounts will come back to you.

Meanwhile, the terrifying business of defeating Putin in the field must continue, notwithstanding the grim calculus that the worse things go for him in conventional warfare, the more tempted he must be to use unconventional weaponry. If we allow ourselves to be cowed by the threat of chemical or nuclear warfare, then Putin wins. In this regard, it’s encouraging to note that Joe Biden’s minders seem to have given up trying to manage what comes out of the old fool’s mouth when he appears in public, and seem to be confining him to his quarters, so we no longer have to squirm while we listen to him informing Putin of all the things he won’t do to oppose him. Nor do we have to cringe while Kamala reveals the vertiginous depths of her ignorance.

Instead, leadership of America’s war response seems to have passed down to the next tier of the Administration, where, thankfully, it appears there may be some grownups to be found, notably the large, black, and reassuringly military-looking Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, who visited Kiev yesterday. If he is as military-minded as he is military-looking, I trust he is expediting the lend-lease program and furnishing Ukraine with all the weapons it can use.

So those are my war notes, for now. One last Harrumpf, though. What is it with this ‘Keef’ business? It may well be that that’s the way Ukrainians pronounce their capital city’s name, but so what? When I visit France, I don’t fly to ‘Paree’, I fly to Paris. When the French visit the capital of the UK, they go to ‘Londres’, not London. The capital of Ukraine has always been pronounced ‘Kiev’ in English, and to do otherwise is an affectation. Same goes for Mumbai/Bombay, and Chennai/Madras, and – well, you get the picture. Harrumpf!!

Tom Forrester-Paton

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