Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Vladimir Putin has become today's great enemy of the west - a dictator who sends unwitting Russian boys into a conflict they never wanted and who allows the extreme elements of his military to commit war crimes with impunity. While Russian forces are shelling civilian areas, destroying infrastructure and murdering children, some of their soldiers are sabotaging their own vehicles, refusing to fight and surrendering to Ukraine. 

Ukrainian resistance has clearly been much stiffer than Putin expected, partly thanks to NATO weapons, and things are not going to plan for Russia, to say the least. This leaves Putin with one of two options: either he can choose to escalate an already horrific conflict that is turning his own people against him, or he can seek a diplomatic solution. Given many of his own troops clearly have no appetite for war and have already lost thousands of their comrades in battle, a peaceful solution seems increasingly achievable. 

The peace talks so far offer hope of a way out of this nightmare. There is every possibility we can persuade the Chinese to use their leverage and isolate Putin who cannot risk losing too much support at home. And his oligarchs will surely abandon him as western sanctions hit them in the pocket. Wealth, after all, is going to be much more important to them than loyalty to a dictator. 

A way out that enables Putin to save face will become increasingly appealing as this conflict goes on, so surely, the rhetoric from the west should focus on de-escalation and finding a permanent solution to this crisis. Both the left and the right seem to be getting this now. Yet the one political faction who is not getting this at all is the so-called moderates - the people who unironically call themselves the "grownups in the room".

A large number of moderates have been outright arguing for a no-fly zone (someone please take Dan Hodges' Twitter away from him) and insisting anything less would be equivalent to appeasing Hitler. Other moderates are not explicitly calling for a no-fly zone, but hinting they are leaning in that direction, or at least sympathetic to the argument.

Meanwhile, moderates are screaming at anyone who tries to understand the nuance of the situation (something which is essential if we are to negotiate peace) that they are a Putin sympathiser. The Labour leader is even threatening critics of NATO with expulsion from his party and condemning the Stop the War movement. Perhaps we should be not surprised: it was, after all, this faction that dragged us into illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly, they have learned nothing from their past mistakes.

Let's be clear what these people are arguing for:

A no-fly zone would not be a no-fly zone at all; it would be NATO jets fighting Russian jets in the skies above Ukraine. It would be the start of World War 3 and dramatically increase the risk of nukes being detonated across the northern hemisphere. Even if Putin did not resort to nuclear Armageddon, he would surely start fighting a hell of a lot dirtier than he currently is. Let's not forget he has only used a fraction of Russia's military might so far.

Do we want to risk a situation where Putin is carpet-bombing Ukrainian cities? Do we want to risk a situation where he turns his attention to European cities? Because those things are a distinct possibility, even if nukes are off the table (which they aren't). We would have no choice but to escalate into full war with Russia at that point, and Russia is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It has state of the art weaponry and a military might comparable to our own. It would be a war of equals and the death toll would be unthinkable. 

If you doubt Russia's might, you can always travel to Ukraine yourself and sign up for their military. They would welcome keyboard warriors like yourself with open arms, but I'm guessing you don't want to do this. I'm guessing you simply want working class lads and lasses to do the work for you while you revel in the glory of a war you never fought in, just like you do with World War 2.

Trouble is, this is real life and there is so much more at stake than you showing the world how courageous you are on social media. As horrific as the conflict in Ukraine is, our direct intervention would risk worsening things one thousand fold. Far from saving lives, we would be killing many, many more. 

And what do you think would happen when Russia start losing this war and their cities are in ruins and Putin is on the verge of being captured or killed? At this point, you had better hope his own people refuse to take his orders and arrest or kill him, because you can bet your right arm he will be ready to push that nuclear button. If he is going to die, he is going to take the rest of us down with him.

Now I don't think everyone understands what nuclear war would mean (I even saw someone on Twitter argue it would be preferable to letting Putin win!) so let me explain for the hard of thinking: it would not be a war at all. It would not be a tit-for-tat bombing campaign in which a handful of cities are taken off the map. 

If you push the red button, you know your enemy is going to respond with overwhelming force so your only option is to unleash your full military might at once. It would be a desperate last gasp move to take out your enemy, knowing full well they are going to do the same to you. It would be pressing the self-destruct button of the northern hemisphere and quite possibly the whole planet. Let's not forget western missile defences are maybe 50% reliable and half of 6,000 Russian warheads would be more than enough to do the intended damage.

There would likely be no survivors on an island the size of Britain, and you want to be among the first dead because instant incineration would be preferable to your skin peeling off in the ensuing wildfire. Sorry to be grim, but that is the likelihood.

Further afield, nuclear bombs would kill an estimated 20-50% of the human population, and the survivors would be left to starve in an irradiated wasteland during a nuclear winter that would last for decades - it's plausible this would wipe out our entire species. The most optimistic estimates suggest a reasonable number of people would survive in the southern hemisphere with high cancer rates, common birth defects, and a life expectancy shortened by 10-15 years. Again, this is the most optimistic scenario.

This is why the loony lefties who are demanding peace at all costs are right - they understand the horrifying reality.

A few days ago, I thought the prospect of nuclear war was unthinkable, that no one would escalate to that extreme over a fight for the Russian-speaking Donbas regions of Ukraine. But I never reckoned on the absolute madness we have seen from "moderate" voices, or the way even Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says he will speak to the prime minister about the possibility of a no-fly zone. 

Starmer did state that a no-fly zone is not his party's policy, but in that case, what the hell is there to talk about? Does he want to leave the option on the table, just in case we change our minds and decide Armageddon would be better after all?

It seems unbelievable that we have to explain to the "grownups in the room" how idiotic their nonsense is, but these are people who scream you down if you dare mention that Ukraine was embroiled in an eight year civil war prior to the Russian invasion - and that civil war left over 13,000 civilians dead. You're certainly not allowed to mention the neo-Nazi Azov battalion in the Ukrainian army, but you are allowed to mention the Nazi elements in the Russian military. You are allowed to criticise Russian imperialism but not NATO expansionism. You are only allowed to state the Ukrainian government is an entirely blameless victim (separatists would beg to differ) and NATO is a purely defensive organisation (Libyans would beg to differ).

The thing is, the above points must be discussed, not to "do Putin's propaganda for him", but because understanding the politics around the Donbas regions, the Ukrainian civil war and NATO expansionism is central to all of this. You simply cannot have a peace process without these things being discussed.

You might prefer to act like this is a Marvel movie and Putin is the super-villain who must be stopped at all costs, but in this scenario "all costs" would likely mean the death of yourself, your family, all your friends and mine too. This really is a time for "grownups in the room" to find peace and the moderates are not behaving like grownups.