The war - Part Two - Developments

Time to admit a 'win' is unlikely.

Worlds largest gun, see belowWorlds largest gun, see below
In Part Two it was our intention to look at some of the people involved in the response to the war in Ukraine. It was a short list: Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Boris Johnson. However, now Johnson has resigned things have changed and the new PM, Liz Truss, has been chosen by the Conservative party. She has an opportunity to alter the way the UK responds to the war, we don’t know whether this will happen but for the moment we will carry on with this post.

First we look at Macron, he has been criticised for making contact with Putin, this has been described as weak. In time the war may reach a point where formal peace negotiation can begin, then perhaps the position of Macron changes as he will have a leading role. We may assume this is what he wants; but is this right? Probably yes as he put the effort into getting to such a position. Macron would most likely share this role with Erdogan from Turkey, also Finland and Sweden. The latter two who renounced neutrality following the invasion of Ukraine would be consulted. It will be interesting to see the role of the UK here. Post invasion under Johnson the UK took a rather belligerent approach to Russia. This we will return to later. France has nothing to fear from those who would make accusations about weakness towards Russia as they have sent the Caesar Howitzer to help the Ukraine army. This is a modern field gun that is capable of standing up to the latest Russian equivalent in all respects. French trade links with Russia are significant but not driven by the same mercantilism philosophy that you find in Germany. Also, having considerable nuclear power for generating electricity has given France an energy independence which Germany lacks; this in turn leads to a political independence, also absent for Germany. However, France has been forced to close a large number of its nuclear power stations to rectify faults. This means it’s in the same sort of fix as the rest of Europe. Finally we look at Macron the man. He founded the political party he leads, which is rare in European politics.

And so to Scholz who may well be in more trouble than either Macron or Johnson prior to his resignation. Previous German Leaders have not left their country in an ideal position on energy or many other things. This we have looked at in previous posts,however, Scholz wanted the job of Chancellor so cannot expect much sympathy. Also he is just like those who were elected before him a true believer in mercantilism. This approach to trade has served Germany well over the years but as we can now see carried a risk. Being dependent upon Russia for energy is possibly the problem Germany does not fix in a hurry. Being unable to produce goods for sale gives an opportunity to others like China and India. Basically it’s hard to feel sorry for Germany they should have seen it coming. Scholz is also caught up in a tax scandal dating back to his days as Mayor of Hamburg.

Finally we turn to Johnson. The real prize for getting it wrong must go to Johnson. Much as we may never know if he joined Vote Leave to help the country or himself we may never know why he went big on Ukraine. It is said that as a child Johnson wanted to be, ‘World King’, perhaps this has rubbed off on to his devoted supporters? For now as a man child he was declared by them as, 'World Leader', for his stance on Ukraine. This is tricky for there is simply no evidence to support the idea that Johnson, and ONLY Johnson, was concerned about the war. It cannot be said, with proof, that his approach has triumphed where others have failed. Some other EU Leaders have come close to suggesting his showboating style was counter productive. Johnson went to Kyiv more often than he went to Belfast and yet he claimed to have, ‘got Brexit done’. It was as if the fine detail of the Northern Ireland Protocol was either beneath his dignity or sailed over his head.

Johnson even ducked out of a conference in Doncaster about levelling up to go to Kyiv, this was foolish on several counts. The term ‘levelling up’ is said by some people to have been chosen by him. Hence his no show at Doncaster infuriated MPs from the North and these were the bedrock of the support he needed to stay as PM. The wider world would not help him with this and some of the world press could see his affection for the ‘big calls’ and trips abroad was to duck out of scrutiny at home. So the oft repeated mantra from his fan club about getting big calls right was wrong! You would have thought that most politicians would have had the sense to see the biggest call of the lot is holding on to power? But to this day his fan club describe him as a, ‘proven vote winner’. They dismiss the by-election results of: Chesham and Amersham, North Shropshire, Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield, as nothing more than bad luck and a run of unfortunate mid-term events. This ignores the numerous reports of what the voters actually said to reporters in the constituencies. The fan club also ignores the loss of 487 Councillor seats at the local elections. While a good deal less glamorous than the loss of four MPs in by-elections local politics is vital. As we have noted before on this blog at least a third of Conservative party local organisations do not function as intended. This means that any practical attempt to win back seats that have been lost will be stymied by the lack of activists.

We have all noticed that the war in Ukraine has gone from a prime news item on the media. It now comes up only as ‘fill in’ or a feature if there is something new to say. The in-depth coverage has gone, ironically one of the reasons for this is Johnson! He clung to his World Leader meme on Ukraine as he knew it was important to him, it bolstered his image. Alas he also clung to his life-long habit of lying and exaggeration it was this, not a slice of cake that brought him down. His going plunged the Conservative party into their own warlike skirmish to find his replacement. This is another reason the war in Ukraine has been overtaken by events. The press loved this political battle for the Conservative party, like all UK political parties enjoy division and rancour, they thrive on it. Before the UK left the EU we were always being told the Conservatives were, ‘hopelessly split on Europe’. The reason for the division and rancour and thriving on it is that it’s easier than serious government. Easier than devising long term policies.

We may want to spare a thought for Liz Truss who takes over as PM for Johnson has certainly mired the patch and the new PM will have a job to restore confidence in both the Conservative party and Conservative Government. The major problem must be the cost of energy to the public. The spin so far is that Net Zero is a sound idea and any problems are down to Putin invading Ukraine. This is so insulting to the public. We can all see that the UK has its own energy reserves and associated infrastructure but deliberately wound them down for idealogical reasons. So having put the madness of Net Zero above all else the UK turned to importing energy. Alongside this the UK decided that renewables would solve our energy problems. But renewables are also unreliable which was the main reason we were importing energy! However, what is unreliable? Russia is still selling energy to other countries it is the UK and others, that have decided not to buy it.

There may be a moral case here that trumps the economics but the public have never been asked what they want in a direct and honest manner. Writing in his blog, Sub stack, Dom Cummings suggests that there has never been any proof that the Government under Johnson had a coherent approach to the war in Ukraine. Nothing to show it had gone much beyond sound bites. Cummings writes of the war -

We have politicians pushing escalation with the world’s biggest nuclear power over a state, Ukraine, that is of trivial inherent importance to the world and which we are not obliged to fight for by any alliance. A ‘humanitarian’ logic makes no sense given we routinely ignore such humanitarian logic applied to millions of blacks getting slaughtered in Africa for decade after decade. And our debate ignores the crucial political fact that in the East the war resembles a civil war, with both sides speaking Russian, layered on top of the history of some of the most appalling battlegrounds and massacres of the Eastern Front in World War II hence, partly, the depth of hate and the atrocities.

Cummings is also worried that without clarity of thought a disaster looms, something on the scale of another Afghanistan. He infers that the subtleties of strategy and planning for the UK response to the war in Ukraine interwoven with a sensible political response was beyond both Johnson and his Cabinet and the MoD. While in a post in Turbulent Times – link below - Dr Richard North makes reference to an article in Ukraine Pravda produced by a group of independent Ukrainian reporters sympathetic to the current regime, the article asserts that -

Johnson was instrumental in sabotaging the prospect of direct talks between Putin and Zelensky, in the context where Putin was showing signs of willingness to agree peace terms acceptable to Ukraine. As a result of Johnson’s intervention, Zelensky is said to have increased the demands presented to the Russians, pushing Putin beyond his acceptable limits, causing Putin to break off negotiations.

North goes on to say, the article raises the question as to whether Johnson, with serious political troubles at home over the “partygate” affair,

was overly keen to perpetuate the war as a means of distracting domestic attention from his woes.

This is serious stuff and North is right to raise it. He also states that his opinion is:

I personally would vote to discontinue military aid – or, at least, scale it down. I do not think the price of saving Ukraine from its current fate is worth trashing the European economy, even if some European nations are partially responsible for developments.

Another point that had to be made however disturbing some people may find it.

The Government now finds itself being taken to task for what happened under Covid and huge mistakes were made. The idea is we blame it all on China and claim the Government, ‘did its best’. Clearly China is in the frame for what it did of that there is no doubt but the blame shift attempted by our Government has its limits. Obviously with Net Zero the same sort of trick is being wheeled out. Blame Putin but not ourselves for many years of ignorant virtue signalling.

The political elites from around the world have always mocked Donald Trump but now he has the last laugh. Writing in The Spectator - link below - Douglas Murray has reminded us that, four years ago, at the United Nations General Assembly, the then president Donald Trump spoke about the dangers of such reliance. As he put it:

Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course. Here in the western hemisphere, we are committed to maintaining our independence from the encroachment of expansionist foreign powers.

Murray goes on to say -

But the Germans, and everybody else, knew better. What he said in this case was right. Yet the world couldn’t help making fun of him. Germany’s representatives at the UN did it right there and then, smirking, shaking their heads and laughing performatively while president Trump spoke. Their reaction went viral online, and traditional media followed suit.

It’s possible that the war will drag on for a very long time degrading not just those directly involved but the whole region. On a global level the political outcome will be immense. The war is not just a land battle but so much more. Since the war started political leaders have spoken openly of Russian defeat as if this is both imminent and possible and as if this defeat arrives naturally due to the moral superiority of those opposed to Russia. But a ‘win’ for the rag-bag of countries without independent energy supplies is fantasy and Putin knows this. If we really want to help Ukraine AND Russia, if we want to go beyond showboating on the war and energy supplies then there is much to do. The first thing is to define, ‘we’. Who is supporting Ukraine? At the moment there is a tangle of NATO, the EU, and the most nebulous of all, ‘the West’. Once consolidated next is to think beyond arms supplies and sanctions, think beyond virtue signalling to easing both sides towards a negotiated settlement. It could be Putin is ready for this, are ‘we’?

Footnote -

The link to the Turbulent Times article by Dr Richard North - HERE

The link to The Spectator article by Douglas Murray - HERE

The picture above -

The two German built guns affectionately known as Gustav and Dora were the largest artillery pieces every constructed. Whilst a triumph of German engineering they were not a military success and dismantled before the end of WW2.