Hitting Moscow with a wet lettuce

Hitting Moscow with a wet lettuce. By Greg Sheridan.

So far, in response to his aggression against Ukraine, the West has hit Vladimir Putin with a swarm of denunciations and a sanctions response that resembles being beaten with a wet lettuce. This bodes very ill for Ukraine. …

Boris Johnson, for whom I have had a lot of admiration over the years, was gibbering away in his normal entertaining manner. But he had no effective answer to the questions pointing out how meagre British sanctions were — levied against only five Russian banks and three individual oligarchs, with some of the sanctions not coming into force for weeks, giving everyone time to make alternative arrangements.

Joe Biden’s sanctions are a bit stronger, but not much.

Johnson is good at bluster, but when he finally said: “Russia will become a pariah nation … there will be no question of holding football championships in Russia”, you got a sense of how far the Western response is from the circumstances it seeks to address.

You take a big chunk of Ukraine, and in exchange we’ll impose a temporary ban on your hosting football championships. It was not exactly: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” …

As correctly noted by Trump (“genius” decision), Putin is winning:

It is a dreadful and depressing reflection, but so far Putin is easily winning this confrontation.

Putin is succeeding at salami slicing Ukraine. He has not only now taken formal control of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas region, without suffering serious penalty, but also has foreshadowed taking all of those two regions, the majority of which territory is for the moment held by Ukrainian forces.

He has also massively destabilised Ukraine, probably ruined its economy and caused who knows what long-term instability in the place. Kyiv will be under immense pressure, not least from its friends in NATO, to make some accommodation with Putin if it’s at all possible.

Putin has done all this without suffering real cost. …

Follow the money:

So far, at least, Putin may even be making a financial profit out of his aggression.

Oil prices, though they dipped a fraction at the feebleness of Western sanctions, are up near $US100 ($138) a barrel. Some estimates think this alone will add more than $US60bn to Russia’s budget.

Germany has temporarily suspended the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia but it would be heroic to conclude that this suspension might be permanent. …

Which future for Ukraine?

Ukraine’s circumstances could then be extremely difficult but, with Western assistance, it could nonetheless endure, even possibly thrive.

South Korea, after the Korean war, was dreadfully impoverished, confronted with a continuing fanatical enemy in the north, and a giant hostile China across the narrowest strip of water. Yet it became a prosperous democracy.

Taiwan since 1949 has lived next to a giant neighbour that hates its free society, hates its democracy, and is determined to snuff out its de facto independence. Yet it is one of the most successful societies on earth.

Had it not been for the perfidy of the US congress at the time, which suddenly withdrew all aid including critical air power support, there is every chance South Vietnam could have done the same. For South Vietnam was not lost to insurgency but to massed armoured divisions of the North Vietnamese military. Like Ukraine today, it suffered conventional military invasion from a neighbour while its friends looked away.

Hmmm. Ukraine is perhaps the poorest (per capita) and most corrupt white country in the world, and its leader arrests and bans the political opposition. Not good signs.