In the news report from which that image above of a German tank was taken, the reporter leads with, “Who would have thought Germany would be criticized for not sending tanks to fight Russia?” Indeed.
Here in Budapest, I’m hearing a sense of dark resignation around the Russia-Ukraine war. A Hungarian said to me the other night, “The Americans want a war. And they’re going to get one.” He meant that the US, in his view, is bound and determined to fight a war with Russia, and is going to do whatever it needs to do to make that happen. Maybe he’s right about that. But if he’s not right about the US’s motivations, he is certainly right about the effects of US policy. And the US is going to generate a lot of resentment from Europeans as more people come to understand that America’s supposed interests in fighting Russia do not line up with European interests. Few Europeans, in my experience, have any sympathy for the Putin regime and its invasion of Ukraine. But they are quite worried that the war could easily spiral out of control, and cost them immensely.
Peter Hitchens gets it. In his powerful column today, he calls out the madness of Washington policymakers and their European supporters in the UK and continental European governments. And he decries the obscene fact that nobody can have a debate about it without being shouted down as Putin simps. Excerpts:
This was the moment at which we began the unstoppable descent into terrible danger which so many of us will bitterly regret in times to come.
I won’t waste time here going over the question of who started the Ukraine war, or even why. Most people don’t want to know and refuse to think about it, or to look up the facts. They defame and abuse anyone who tries to tell them. So to hell with that. I’m bored with trying.
So it is left to me to tell you that it is an act of grave stupidity for the West to supply Ukraine with modern tanks. Unlike everyone else in the media and politics, I am not a military expert. But I know what tanks are for, and it is not defence.
What we have just decided to do is to prolong and deepen the war. Maybe Ukraine’s new tanks will sweep all before them. Maybe they will bog down. Maybe they will try to take Crimea. Maybe they will soon be taking part in a Victory Parade in Red Square. I don’t know. But if they cross into what Russia regards as its own territory, then do not be surprised by anything which happens.
Look, Vladimir Putin is obviously a sinister tyrant and, in my view, went off his head completely during the Covid panic (look at those huge tables he sits at). I think he is probably capable of authorising the use of battlefield nuclear weapons if cornered. But it could be worse. If he is overthrown in a midnight putsch, he will not be replaced by some jolly, liberal-minded chap. He will be replaced by someone who might view it as a positive pleasure to press the red button.
So there is the real possibility that a large chunk of Europe might be turned into a radioactive graveyard and that American conventional retaliation for this (which will be furious and powerful) will take us a stage further into the world of horror, loss, flight, pestilence and poverty which always follows war. If this happens, maybe more people might want to find out why it began.
As Hitchens goes on to say, Americans are thousands of miles away from what would become the battlefield if this war expands, and, God forbid, goes nuclear. We are messing with a nuclear power here! We ought to be doing everything we can to bring Russia and Ukraine (and the US) to the peace table. Saying so does not make you a Putinista — but those who want war sure would like you to believe that.
Europe must fight. The realisation has been slow in coming. Yet almost one year after Russia invaded Ukraine, most western governments finally understand Kyiv’s war for survival is their war, too. It’s a fight to the death for Ukraine, but also for European democracy, rights and values. It’s a fight against the historical evils of fascism and imperialism embodied by Vladimir Putin, a dictator for our age.
Europe must fight. It really has no choice.
Yes it does!
Fears of an escalating, even nuclear conflict, most often expressed by Germany’s government, are daily trumped by the horror of Putin’s relentless butchery.
This is insane. As horrible as what the Russians are doing to Ukraine is, nothing — nothing — is remotely close to the horror of a nuclear war. Nobody expects Ukraine to surrender to the Russians. But surely we all ought to do whatever we can to bring this hideous war to a halt. Instead, now we have Washington thinking about backing Kyiv’s crackpot idea to reconquer Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based. Simon Tisdall, speaking for the UK’s metropolitan Left, says, I kid you not, that we should wage all-out war on Russia:
Europe, in order to prevail, must fight back with everything it’s got, even at the risk of national armed forces ultimately becoming directly engaged. Last week’s wrangling over sending hi-tech German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv merely reprises previous, futile arguments about the level of weapons supplies. Ukrainians fight for all of us, so why tie their hands?
East and central European politicians have a clearer-eyed estimation of the physical Russian threat, rooted in history. They want Nato to send combat aircraft, too. How different things might be today, they suggest, had a less chary western alliance deployed such weapons last spring.
It’s a question Joe Biden, Nato’s de facto boss, should ask himself as he dithers anew…
These people are going to give us World War III. Who is speaking out to stop them? Besides Peter Hitchens, that is?
Why should France and Germany trust Washington? These are the people who delivered the Iraq and Afghanistan disasters, and paid no price for it. They’re at it again.