Fantasies are not necessarily about good things. Dystopian fantasy is apparently a popular genre of science fiction. In Ukraine right now, the world is witnessing something genuinely dystopian. And there has to be a chance this might ultimately play out as a horrific fantasy.
For the moment it is very much more than bad enough as it is, with the UK’s clandestine/reckless role in assisting rich Russians, all friends or close contacts of President Vladimir Putin, to siphon their money, effectively stolen from the Russian state, through the London financial laundromat (hence Londongrad). Among these is allegedly Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club (I’ll ignore here whatever it is Abramovich was trying to do when on Saturday he declared he was handing over the “stewardship and care” of the club to its charitable foundation; the Chelsea ground, Stamford Bridge, is shown on the home page). He is one of 35 names on the list of kleptocrats issued by Alexei Navalny, the previously poisoned and presently imprisoned opposition leader whom Putin so detests. Not on the Navalny list, but according to a column in The Guardian on Saturday a man who was pictured at recent Kremlin pow-wow of oligarchs, is Andrey Guryev, who is reportedly (to no shock at all, the entire transaction is entirely opaque) the owner of Witanhurst, a vast mansion in Highgate, North London, which he bought for £50 million (reportedly!) in 2008. It is the second largest house run the UK, runner-up to Buckingham Palace.
It is, of course, a source of consternation rather than consolation that Putin’s recent behaviour, perhaps notably his rambling February 21 speech attempting to justify what he was about to order, might suggest he is deranged. One of President Macron’s officials at the Elysée Palace told a French radio station: “I think this man is losing his sense of reality, to say it politely.” Pressed as to whether he thought Putin was “mad”, he said “yes”. After the invasion began on February 24, the Czech president, Milos Zeman, called him a “madman”.
Talking of mad…when Donald Trump was President of the United States, he made no effort to conceal his general contempt for NATO, seeming to regard it as something essentially European for which the United States had been conned into paying the lion’s share of the finances in order to secure its existence. Article 5 of the NATO constitution demands that each of the 30 members regards an attack on one as an attack on all, and that they would respond accordingly. The way Trump appears to see the world, it is by no means a remote possibility that he would not regard the protection of, say, Latvia against Russian aggression as a cause worth defending with the commitment of American troops and resources. This might especially be the case if Putin does indeed have compromising material – kompromat – concerning Trump’s rumoured behaviour during his Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.
Last year, The Guardian (again!) published a story for which the opening paragraph read: “Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a ‘mentally unstable’ Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.”
No one, Putin included, knows what will be the ending of the grotesque story he put into play when he ordered the invasion of Ukraine. But I think that if Putin were still alive by then and Trump regained the White House in 2025…well, I wouldn’t want to be a Latvian citizen. Or of anywhere, come to that.