Putin declares war on Europe

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an effective declaration of war against Europe.

This will no more stop at Kyiv than Hitler stopped at the Sudetenland.

Tragic sites of refugees fleeing Russian bombing and helicopter-borne invasion forces occupying Hostomel Airport military airfield, 15 minutes outside the capital.




All of this could have been avoided if the West had shown more resolve.

Kicking the can down the road

The West has been kicking the can down the road for the past 15 years hoping that the problem would go away. Ever since Vladimir Putin laid out his agenda at the Munich security conference in 2007, the West has tried to buy him off with reset buttons and lucrative gas contracts, looking the other way as he embarked on his expansionist plans, starting with invasion of Georgia the following year.

From Ambassador Daniel Fried and Kurt Volker in Politico, seven days ago:

What is more surprising is how the U.S. and Europe, despite Putin’s obvious warning in Munich and Russia’s many actions over 15 years, have nonetheless clung to the notion that we can somehow work together with Putin’s Russia on a strategic level. It is finally time for the West to face facts. Whether or not Putin launches a major new invasion of Ukraine, he has rejected the post-Cold War European security architecture and means it. He is on a deliberate and dedicated path to build a greater Russia, an empire where the Soviet Union once stood…..

Following the speech, Putin matched his words with actions, dismantling the structures designed to keep peace in post-Cold War Europe. Russia formally announced in July 2007 that it would no longer adhere to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. It continued to reject the principle of host-nation consent for its troop presence in Georgia and Moldova, and began ignoring Vienna Convention limits on troop concentrations, exercises and transparency.

Judge a tree by the fruit it bears

Europe continued to build a trade relationship with Russia, in the hope that prosperity would mellow Putin. Instead the Kremlin used its oil and gas profits to rearm and modernize its military while cracking down on political opposition and a free press. Deaths of journalists and opposition politicians climbed. Eastern NATO leaders who repeatedly warned the West about the need to confront Russia were dismissed as “warmongers”.

By this stage, the Kremlin had even taken its war against opposition figures abroad, with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Alexander Litvinenko

In 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers had publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested the following year but acquitted before being re-arrested. The charges were again dismissed and Litvinenko fled with his family to London where they were granted asylum in the UK. He later wrote two books accusing the Russian secret services of staging the Russian apartment bombings in 1999 and other acts of terrorism in an effort to bring Putin to power. He also accused Putin of ordering the assassination of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006. Litvinenko died of polonium-210 poisoning that same year, in London.

A UK public inquiry concluded in 2016 that Litvinenko’s murder was carried out by the two suspects and that they were “probably” acting under the direction of the FSB and with the approval of president Vladimir Putin and then FSB director Nikolai Patrushev.

The Obama Reset

On his election in 2009, Barack Obama sought to reset the relationship with Russia, as if the West was to blame for:

  • the attempted assassination of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during his 2004 election campaign — he was poisoned with a potent dioxin that disfigured him but later made a full recovery;
  • widespread denial-of-service cyber attacks on Estonia in 2007; and
  • invasion of Georgia in 2008.

The reset failed badly, with Russia annexing Crimea and invading the Donbas in 2014. Next was Syria in 2015. Responses by the West, including limited sanctions, proved ineffective.

The Salisbury poisonings

In 2018, Russia was the first state to employ chemical weapons against private citizens in a foreign country. In Salisbury, England, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, a Russian citizen, visiting him from Moscow, were poisoned with a Russian-developed Novichok nerve agent and admitted to hospital in a critical condition. UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of responsibility for the incident and announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation. A former Russian intelligence officer, Skripal had settled in the UK in 2010 after his conviction on espionage charges in Russia before being exchanged in a spy swap. Both Skripal and his daughter eventually recovered. Moscow refused to cooperate in the interrogation of the two prime suspects, identified by Bellingcat as Alexander Mishkin, a trained military doctor, working for the GRU, and decorated GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, a trained military doctor, working for the GRU


The signs have been evident for a long time but were largely ignored.

This was always going to end badly. The longer that the West delays, the worse the eventual toll in lives and human suffering.

Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt sums up the situation:

Carl Bildt

The Putin invasion of Ukraine that we now see unfolding is the worst outbreak of war that we have had since Hitler invaded Poland in September of 1939. The same motives, the same techniques, the same lies leading up to it. What will happen now remains to be seen. Sanctions will have to be imposed, although that particular deterrence has obviously failed, but it was good to try. We must help the fight in Ukraine. We must treat the Putin regime in the way that it deserves, in all respects. We are heading for bleak days when it comes to the security of Europe. Transatlantic security will be absolutely key.

Afghanistan: The worst kind of cowardice

I would have expected the former Swedish prime minister to have a better appreciation of the challenges political leaders face when confronted with a choice like Afghanistan:

Carl Bildt

Colin Twiggs

The media focuses on the 12,000 casualties and more than $1 trillion spent over the past 20 years. A complete waste. Especially when you consider the end result. But the alternative is even worse: to continue spending good money after bad, wasting more lives unnecessarily in the process. Your first duty as a leader is to avoid another young soldier returning home with his/her legs blown off or with brain trauma from an IED.

Sacrifice is necessary when there is a clear and attainable end goal in mind. But the worst kind of sacrifice is the kind politicians make because they don’t want to take a hit in the ratings. That isn’t courage, it’s cowardice.

A long, long time ago I served in a counterinsurgency operation where one of my fellow 18-year olds had his legs blown off above the knee when his horse stepped on a landmine. He died several years later. I often think of him in times like this because the conflict has long since been forgotten, the outcome was inevitable and time has marched on.

No one has the right to ask young men and women to serve in those kind of circumstances. Not you, not me, nor Joe Biden.