Political Observer comments.
At The Telegraph:
Headline: The West has been too slow to confront Russia
Sub-headline: At a time when leadership is needed, the UK Government deserves full credit for offering it
TELEGRAPH VIEW20 February 2022 • 6:00am
These past few weeks we have seen a Western alliance that has been slow to get its act together, with some of its members failing to realise the principles at stake in the Ukrainian crisis. A threatened assault on a democratic state – justified by bunk history and manufactured complaints about Nato expansion, which is not currently on the table – is by itself a moral outrage, made shabbier by the deployment of false-flag pretexts. Ukraine has looked to the West as a model for its development, as it should be free to do, and whether or not Moscow tolerates this should be irrelevant. Nations must be able to choose their own future.
Moreover, the strategic consequences of Vladimir Putin’s gamble are enormous. Other rogue statues are watching. China, which has ambitions to seize Taiwan, is taking notes on how the West reacts to aggression – as is Iran.
The idea that the Kremlin is only interested in guarding a historic and regional sphere of influence is nonsense. The Russian president has not hidden his desire to see the post-Cold War international order dismantled.
As the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, reminds us, the former KGB agent has permitted cyber attacks on the West and even the use of a nerve agent in Britain. We have known for many years the true nature of Mr Putin’s regime.
But one of the key reasons why the West has been so hesitant in confronting him is that too many countries have allowed themselves to become dependent upon Russian energy, deployed by Moscow as a political weapon. It is not just Germany. Last week Italy insisted that energy be excluded from a list of sanctions. The West’s failure to ensure the security of its supplies, worsened by its dash to net-zero and the German shutdown of its nuclear power stations, has left it dangerously exposed.
Headline: Toothless President Biden is failing the West
Sub-headline :His hapless leadership and utter lack of vision has diminished America on the world stage
NILE GARDINER 20 February 2022 • 7:00pm
The increasingly likely Russian invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call for the West, a shattering of the illusion that the spectre of war can be banished from modern-day Europe. Tens of thousands may die on the altar of the vainglorious imperial ambitions of a vicious regime in Moscow headed by a brutal tyrant. Kyiv, one of the biggest cities in Europe, could be conquered by invading Russian troops in what might be the biggest urban battle the European continent has witnessed since the Second World War.
The impending war in Ukraine has exposed not just the impotence and shameful appeasement mindset of Europe’s ruling elites in Brussels, Berlin and Paris. It has also sharply illustrated the tragic decline of American leadership on the world stage.
It is no coincidence that Vladimir Putin has mobilised more than 150,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders while Joe Biden is in the White House. Clearly, Mr Putin views Biden as a pushover, a weak-kneed president obsessed with his sinking domestic agenda while Rome burns across the Atlantic.
At The Times :
Headline: Ukraine crisis is a wake-up call for the West
Sub-headline: If Putin invades there can be no return to normal relations and we must aggressively set about disrupting his regime
William Hague Monday February 21 2022, 5.00pm GMT, The Times
Whenever Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, came to London, we used to retire after our talks to a wine cellar beneath St James’s Street. The one reliable way we had discovered to improve UK-Russia relations was through consuming several glasses of Scotch whisky — Highland Park Malt from the Orkneys had a particularly positive effect. Over the first glass we would complain about each other’s intelligence agencies. During the second we’d deride our respective political systems. By the third relations always seemed to improve.
Unpleasant though it felt to work on repairing links with an increasingly untrustworthy regime, it was — and has remained until now — the consensus in the West that our national interests and a functioning international system required it. Humanity is beset by issues that call for global co-operation, from climate change to arms control and rivalry in space. Russia and the West have had much to gain from expanding trade and trusting each other on defence and security. Therefore, we’ve always tried to move on from aggravating problems, to find a way forward, to make it to the third whisky.
Those efforts are continuing as I write, and rightly so. Yet the indications are that Russia is about to embark on the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, with all the catastrophic human consequences that will entail. If it does so, our instinct to mend fences once the immediate outrage has passed must be abandoned. The entire question of how we deal with Russia will need a comprehensively different answer. For Putin’s Moscow will have assaulted not only tens of millions of people who want to live in peace, but also any notion of law, truth and civilisation in international relations. They will have expanded their aggression from the level of the opportunistic to the unashamedly premeditated and upgraded their criminality from personal to global.
What the Times can offer, that The Telegraph can’t even begin to match, is ‘access’ , of a kind, to one of actors in the Ukrainian Melodrama: the well connected William Hague, who has a ‘personal relationship’ with Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Hague opens his essay by bragging about it , what to name it? A journalistic coup? Lavrov is a diplomat, and Hague is a journalist, so their meetings are, in sum, a mutual masturbation session. The ‘Highland Park Malt from the Orkneys’ acts as the lubricant!
Later in his essay Mr. Hague periphrases ‘The Center for American Progress’ :
The Centre for American Progress, a Washington think tank, has argued in a recent report for such a “paradigm shift” in policy towards Russia and listed some of the measures this would entail. These include targeting and uprooting oligarch wealth and influence; strict export controls to stop western technology from going to Russia; a campaign of economic sanctions that are regularly adapted and updated; a big effort in Europe to decarbonise and reduce dependence on Russian gas; support for resistance in Ukraine in a protracted conflict; bolstering Nato and European security; and engaging in a diplomatic offensive to isolate and compete with Russia.
What can The Reader make of this essay about the AEI & CAP alliance?
Headline: The Unholy Neocon–Liberal Alliance
Sub-headline: They may be united in their opposition to Trump, but the coalition may backfire.
By James Carden, September 11, 2018
On July 31, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) issued the second of two joint reports focusing on what they describe as “President Donald Trump’s assault on Europe” and “the current populist backlash against international cooperation, multilateralism, and the transatlantic alliance.”
For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the topography of Washington, DC’s small but influential universe of think tanks, the teaming up of AEI and CAP is noteworthy. After all, AEI has long served as the Beltway’s home to some of the leading lights of the neoconservative movement, while CAP is resolutely Clintonian in its policy preferences. Founded by longtime Democratic lobbyist John Podesta and run by former Hillary Clinton aide Neera Tanden, CAP sponsors the liberal-leaning Think Progress blog, among other projects.
But the CAP/AEI alliance is just the latest example of liberal Democrats’ teaming up with neocon hard-liners. Another widely remarked-upon merger was unveiled in July of 2017, when the German Marshall Fund of the United States launched its Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), which brought together Laura Rosenberger (an Obama and Clinton foreign-policy aide) and neoconservative think-tank operative and former Marco Rubio adviser Jamie Fly. The advisory council of the ASD pairs neocons like Bill Kristol and former John McCain aide David Kramer with liberal hawks like Podesta and former Clinton campaign advisers Jake Sullivan and former ambassador Michael McFaul.
The final paragraph of Mr Hague’s polemic proclaims ‘A new age of hardened and permanent resolve must begin.’!
It will be too easy, after a few months of sanctions and strong words, to try to move on from an invasion of Ukraine. On both sides of the Atlantic there will be commentators and governments who say we should do that. We will have to understand that international order and the security of free societies will be at stake. The time for having another whisky and being friends again will be over. A new age of hardened and permanent resolve must begin.