Time to wake up and smell the cordite. Like shockwaves from an exploding missile, Vladimir Putin’s war on Europe’s edge is rapidly rolling westwards, blasting its way through the front doors of homes, businesses and workplaces from Berlin to Birmingham. Its fallout seeds a toxic rain of instability, hardship and fear.
The idea the Ukraine conflict could be confined to Ukraine – Nato’s politically convenient grand delusion – and that western sanctions and arms supplies would stop the Russians was always a nonsense. Now, enraged by Kyiv’s stubborn resistance and hell-bent on punishing his punishers, Putin’s aim is the immiseration of Europe.
By weaponising energy, food, refugees and information, Russia’s leader spreads the economic and political pain, creating wartime conditions for all. A long, cold, calamity-filled European winter of power shortages and turmoil looms. And like a coin-fed gas meter, the price of western leaders’ timidity and shortsightedness ticks upwards by the hour.
Russia’s destabilisation operations, social media manipulation, cyber-attacks, diplomatic double-talk, nuclear blackmail, plus its unrelenting slaughter of civilians in Ukraine, will only intensify Europe’s state of siege in the months ahead. The west’s fanciful belief it could avoid continent-wide escalation is evaporating fast.
Though not entirely due to Putin’s war, Europe now faces fundamental challenges as big or bigger than the 2008 financial crash, Brexit, or the pandemic. Yet many EU and UK politicians skulk in denial. If, as predicted, the gas stops flowing and the lights dim, it will not just be a matter of closed factories, lost jobs, and depressed markets.
Freezing pensioners, hungry children, empty supermarket shelves, unaffordable cost of living increases, devalued wages, strikes and street protests point to Sri Lanka-style meltdowns. An exaggeration? Not really. Blowback, fanned by the Putin-admiring far right, is already gathering strength in Greece and Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. [Continue reading…]