No British soldiers will go to fight in Ukraine. The UK’s military involvement will be limited to weapons shipments and more forces to Nato’s eastern flank to try to deter further Russian revanchism. Despite this, domestic opinion in Britain — and other western countries — will be hugely significant in this conflict.
The West is trying to use sanctions to influence Vladimir Putin’s behaviour. However, there are clear limits to deterrence through economic measures, as Niall Ferguson writes in his article.
My most important new year’s resolution was cast aside this week. I had vowed that in 2022 I would eschew writing about the infinite idiocies of the woke and concentrate instead on bringing to light important, worthy causes. In other words, it was a pledge to make the world a better place, instead of just moaning. Wednesday gave me an excellent opportunity to put this plan of mine into action, because it was ‘World Spay Day’.
Early in the corona era the historian David Starkey gave some thoughts on Covid. ‘We’ve got a Chinese virus,’ he said, ‘and we’ll finish up with a Chinese society.’ I remember at the time thinking the phrase neat, but doubtful. Fast forward a couple of years and the doubts have eroded. Although Britain seems to have avoided becoming a permanent Covid state (and is indeed one of the first societies to try leaping out of the Covid age), other parts of the West certainly do seem to be trying to meet the CCP more than halfway.
Sooner or later, somewhere in the UK, we’ll have trains with women-only coaches. It’s an idea which keeps rolling around, and though the train people complain — it’s unworkable, unenforceable — it makes no odds. It’s too seductive an idea for a progressive politician. Jeremy Corbyn was tempted by it back in 2015, and now the Scottish transport secretary, one Jenny Gilruth, is considering it. She often feels unsafe on trains, she says, because they’re ‘full of drunk men’, especially the train to Fife, which is her constituency.
We are always cautioned against comparing a modern political event with those that led up to the second world war. One can see the risk of hyperbole and slander. But as Vladimir ‘Inky Poops’ Putin re-invades Ukraine, he will be making such comparisons himself. His long and bitter address on Monday showed his taste, common in tyrants, for historical disquisitions designed to turn grievance into aggression. He lambasted the foolishness of the Soviet leadership in the 1920s and 1930s which had laid ‘a mine to destroy state immunity to the disease of nationalism’.
The price of Brent Crude oil was hovering at $100 a barrel as Germany halted approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia in response to Putin’s latest aggression. The oil price is five times its low point in 2020 — and the name itself, from the now-defunct Brent field in the North Sea, is a reminder of the UK’s energy vulnerability. ‘But only 3 per cent of our gas comes from Russia’ is irrelevant because we pay world prices for oil and gas from Norway, the US and the Gulf — prices driven both by physical constraints and global market sentiment.