Is Vladimir Putin the criminal they make him out to be? Or is the West losing its marbles in their assessment of a man who has certainly outwitted them so far in a brilliant strategy which turned him into an unassailable hero in his own country?
The Western Alliance has not been wise in the first instance by encouraging the Ukraine to join NATO, which is, at least in the eyes of the Russians – and for good reasons – a threat to their sovereignty.
With the collapse of their empire, the Russians find themselves surrounded by potential enemies who have not forgotten the maltreatment they endured under the Communist regime after the Second World War – and who in turn fear a repetition of the past.
Both sides have a valid reason to be fearful of the intentions of the other. Poland, and the rest of the Eastern bloc, are particularly in awe of the Russians as they find it extremely difficult to wipe that past from their psyche having suffered semi-enslavement at the hands of a brutal Communist regime which destroyed the very notion of civil liberties.
But one must also remember the heavy price Russia had to pay to rid itself of the Nazi invasion of their land and the heavy casualties they endured in order to defeat the most formidable and deadly war machine their enemy possessed. The West proved insensitive to these factors by their handling of the present crisis and by invoking their show of strength when diplomacy was the best route to solve the problem.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry from our side used threatening language with a view to cowing the Russians into submission whereas, in comparison, Putin’s rhetoric vis-á-vis the West was more guarded and less likely to inflame the situation. In other words, the West blew their top while the Russians obtained their objectives in real terms.
The economic measures against Russia will prove painful but these alone will not bring peace to the region. The more harm we inflict on the Russians, the more intransigent they will become. Putin will have to be convinced that it is not in his long-term interest to play with fire in the Ukraine.
It is only through goodwill from all sides that this potentially blood-letting conflict will simmer down to give peace a chance. An all-out war is not an option for no one will win, but civilisation as we know it will cease to function.
So, beware the Ides of March for they are now on our doorstep.