I like to be the first to admit when I am wrong. I didn’t think that Russia would invade the main part of Ukraine, but now they have.
It seems that Putin is less concerned about any financial repercussions than the many billionaires and millionaires in his country are. And after making a lot of noise about ‘strict sanctions’ last week, those sanctions proved to be rather lukewarm, and ultimately toothless.
This is especially true in the case of Boris Johnson, who made a great deal of the puny sanctions he imposed this week by limiting the activities of three Russian-owned banks in London. Refusing to go after billions of pounds of Russian money invested in property in Britain, he claimed that everyone who owned them was ‘on the electoral register as a UK resident’. This despite the easily-proven fact that most are owned by shell companies fronted by Russian oligarchs and registered in foreign tax havens.
All of this lukewarm response to sanctions must have assured Putin that he was free to do anything he liked, as long as his troops did not cross the border into a NATO-member country. Add to this the constant reports that no western country was prepared to assist Ukraine militarily, other than to supply them with weapons and munitions.
So, the dice has been rolled, and has not yet reached the end of the gaming table.
As I have previously mentioned, I hold no brief for any American president, and have not liked a single one I have seen during my lifetime. Kennedy was an unfaithful womaniser, and a liar. Johnson was also a liar, and Nixon topped them both by taking blatant lying to a new level. Ford was unimpressive, Reagan seemed mad, (and lied) both of the Bush family are best forgotten, and Bill Clinton was a womaniser and a liar. (That again) Obama knew how to play the game, but kept few promises, and didn’t achieve much for people of colour, the poor, or women, all of which was expected from him.
So, that covers my life from the age of 9, until the year 2016. But one thing about all those former presidents is worth mentioning. They all knew how to behave in public. They understood the ‘game’, and how to play it on the international stage. Some may have been caught out with their sexual indiscretions, or behind the scenes deals and interference in other countries. But they spoke well, and (most of the time) appeared to be dignified, and statesman-like. They represented their country as we had come to expect them to, with concern for their allies, and suitable expression of the power behind their office, at least on the surface.
The along comes Donald Trump. He throws away the rule book. He has no class or style, treating his job as if he is the CEO of The World. He is a womaniser, and he lies, so no change there, but he doesn’t really hide either fact, preferring to boast about his conquests and bad behaviour like men drinking in a bar. He doesn’t know how to speak in public, let alone how to behave. By appealing to the lowest common denominator, he attracts a lot of support in his own country, whilst alienating almost every other country on Earth. Using his daughter as The First Lady is just too creepy for words. She always looks under control, never happy to be doing what she is doing. He goes to NATO and talks to other leaders as if they work for him, and are not being productive enough. Then he comes to Britain and upsets just about everyone you can think of, even those who want to be his friend.
In 2016, I thought he might learn. He was inexperienced as a politician, but obviously no fool, nor the buffoon he was painted in the press. He made clever use of social media, and could have used his business skills to learn from those around him, perhaps really making ‘America Great Again’. But he got rid of everyone who knew what they were doing, and replaced them with a succession of yes men and women who follow his lead. I have rarely seen such displays of arrogance from the leader of a powerful western nation, at least not since newsreels of Mussolini, or the overwhelming self-confidence and condescension displayed by Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister in the UK. He lives in a world he reinvents day by day, in his own head.
A note to America. You really should try to stop him leaving your country on these visits.
After another apparent ‘chemical attack’ by the Syrian government, it might seem that the world is on the brink of the worst international crisis since the Cuban missile affair in 1962. The US President is threatening to use cruise missiles to attack Syrian military bases, and the British Prime Minister has also expressed a desire for this country to tag along on the American coat-tails. Despite claiming to have ‘proof’ that chemicals were used against civilians in Syria, the French President is adopting a ‘wait and see’ stance on whether or not France will also join in.
Meanwhile, the Russians, currently allied with President Assad in Syria, have stated that they will intercept any missiles fired at Syrian bases by the US, UK, or France. In response, Mr Trump has been bullish in the extreme, telling the Russians and Syrians that they can expect to be attacked very soon.
As far as the UK is concerned, our Prime Minister has decided that the people do not need to be consulted about military intervention that could lead to direct conflict with Russia. She is having a series of meetings with colleagues, to explain the reasons why she feels it necessary to embark on what is basically an undeclared war.
Those of us blessed with a reasonable memory will recall Tony Blair telling us that we had to attack Iraq, because they had chemical weapons that had been used against civilians, as well as the much-quoted ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that were never actually found there.
I think it is time to ask some hard questions.
Do we actually want the Syrian rebels to win?
Will the world be a safer or better place if Assad is removed?
Will any intervention not just stir up the hornet’s nest of anti-western feeling that already exists almost everywhere?
Is NATO actually capable of defeating Russia in a conventional conflict, albeit one fought by proxy in another country?
My own answers to these are No, No, Yes, and No.
Syria is a sovereign country, engaged in a civil war against various groups, including some of the same Muslim fundamentalist organisations that we have supposedly tried so hard to eradicate elsewhere. Their war is not our business, other than for the fact that western leaders would like to see Assad removed from power. If they succeed in doing this, the chances are that they will be back fighting whoever takes over from him, as they will surely be no friend of NATO and its allies.
So what is the point of this escalation, something that might drag us into a global conflict? As always, follow the money. More arms, more money for arms companies, more money for the companies that supply the logistical needs of armies, and more money for the companies that supposedly ‘re-build’ after the conflict has stopped. Add to that some school playground-style chest-thumping from inexperienced ‘world leaders’, and we are in danger of seeing a powder keg ignited, becoming a war that will surely not stop at the Syrian border.
Senseless, in my opinion.
Maybe it’s the change in seasons, and the arrival of colder weather, but don’t you feel that it has all gone a little quiet of late? I refer of course to the predicted end of life as we know it. The war in Syria was supposed to herald a crisis of immense proportions. Assad had to be removed, Isis were going to sweep away western values and take over the world, and the Russian involvement in Syria was almost certainly going to provoke a nuclear war. The tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine must surely end up involving NATO troops on the ground somewhere, everyone was sure of that too.
Then there was the influx of Syrian refugees. They would change the face of Europe as we know it, radicalise the youth in the countries where they settled, and undermine the very fabric of Christian society, changing all the churches into mosques within a generation. It was alleged that most of them were simply fifth columnists, ready to rise up against the nations that had given them shelter, bringing jihad to the centre of Europe. And even if none of this happened, western economies would collapse under the weight of supporting this ‘human tide.’
In the UK, Corbyn’s election as Labour leader would destroy the constitutional monarchy, restore nationalisation of all industry, and plunge this country into a spiral of debt from which it would never recover. He alone would return us to the bad old days of the 1970s, and his closeted Marxist agenda would leave us defenceless and vulnerable, with no more influence than Switzerland or Lichtenstein. Scotland would cecede from the union, and Britain would cease to be a United Kingdom.
Nothing happened of course. The media and politicians did their best to stir everyone up into a state of terror, fearing for the future of their children. (And their investments too, of course) The Syrian refugees continue to make their long trek to a better life in the west, but somehow it hasn’t been as bad as we were told. No need to order your copy of the Koran just yet then. Life carries on all over Europe, just as it had before all this happened. The British Prime Minister even tells us that our economy is improving, not collapsing as we were assured that it would. The Russians are still propping up Assad, but we seem to have stopped rattling our sabres for now, and put them back into the sabre cupboard. Isis fighters haven’t managed to get any further than they had when they were stopped, and the prospect of a nuclear war has returned to its normal state of mutually assured destruction.
Russia and Ukraine may have cancelled domestic flights, but behind the scenes they are brokering a deal about The Crimea. Putin stood up to all the threats and rode out the hysteria. He proved that he wasn’t a man to be messed with, so the west stopped trying to mess with him. The press even started to write about things that might actually be true. Such as Isis is supported by the CIA, and funded by the Saudi government, (read Royal Family) just as Bin Laden was. The question is now finally being asked, ‘Who is the real enemy here?’
And as for Britain, they forgot one important point. Corbyn is not in power, and is unlikely to ever be. His radical policies are so much hot air; and even if Labour won the election in five years time, they would never get through the process to become official policies anyway. And he is not a Marxist, far from it. He is a vegetarian Liberal with some Socialist ideas that are unlikely to ever see the light of day. And I say this as one of his supporters…The Scots might vote for independence when they next get the chance. Then again, they probably won’t. The Union is secure as it has ever been, whether we like it or not. The proposed referendum on leaving the EU is going to be watered down to a vague ‘agreement,’ and by the time the vote happens, if it ever does, everyone will be so terrified of leaving, the country will surely vote to stay in.
So you can book your holiday for 2016, cancel the Hijab to add to your daughter’s school uniform, and stop worrying about your teenage son being called up to fight in some foreign land. Feel free to order the 50-inch curved screen TV you lust after, and get it delivered in time for Christmas. With any luck, the iphone 7 will be out soon, and there will be some good new programmes on Netflix too.