You will see – as if you didn’t already know! – from the rudimentary map on the home page that Russia is an enormous country. It stretches from borders with European nations – including one with Norway, an established part of the western political bloc – to the Pacific Ocean, where it lies above North Korea and China. On the left is the European portion of Russia, approximately 23% of the total land mass, the Europe/Asia division being marked by the Ural Mountains which basically run from north to south through the country. Who knows how what we might call the ‘Ukraine situation’ will play out but surely for those of us in the west, including the UK., the world would be a better place if Russia was in Asia only.
It’s not just the clout Russia poses in terms of the world’s energy supplies. It’s the mischief its president, Vladimir Putin, gets up to elsewhere. Last month, some of the Baltic states, such as Estonia and Latvia, accused him “weaponising illegal migration” by encouraging and assisting migrants from Africa and the Middle East to mass on their borders. Finland, another European country on this frontline, closed its entire border – which spans 830 miles – with Russia after a sudden surge in asylum seekers. One might think Russia might not be so easily able to conduct such operations if the country was run solely from the other side of the Urals.
The threat posed by Putin is potentially existential. For example, two headlines from The Times last month: ‘Europe would be washed away in war with Russia’ and ‘Nato has just three years to prepare for a Russian attack’. I obviously have no clue as to the accuracy of those predictions but I do know that as recently as two days ago, during a severe aerial bombardment of Ukrainian cities, Polish military authorities said a Russian missile flew within Poland’s airspace for about three minutes. If push came to shove, that could be grounds for Nato to declare an attack on one of its members, and therefore an attack on all of them, thereby justifying retaliatory action. One thing we do know is that at present the Russian army is seriously depleted. Why give them three years to get back up to speed? There must be a case for not waiting to see what Putin will do next but instead doing something to him first.
How much more precarious could our planet become? Well, given his openly professed admiration for Putin, it might be a serious cause for concern for the western world if in a little over a year’s time Donald Trump might be on the verge of a return to the White House. In a piece in The Times (again) just last Wednesday, Daniel Finkelstein (an advisor to Tory politicians, so not anti-Trump on any left/right basis) wrote: “So many of our arguments about world affairs, so much funding and so many institutions, including nuclear defence, rest on the assumption that the US is fundamentally a good actor that opposes bad actors. This assumption will struggle to survive a second Trump presidency.”
Happy New Year!