Friday, 8 August 2014

When Giants Collide.

It would be hard to imagine any of the world’s major powers going to war with each other these days. We’re all too economically interrelated now; we all have too much to lose. When major powers go to war, they generally do so against factions in more politically volatile and less economically developed countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

And yet the situation in Ukraine has troubled me from the beginning. I’ve felt all along that Mr Putin is playing a dangerous and provocative game with his support for the Russian separatists and his annexation of Crimea. Inevitably, it’s led to high level posturing, both political and military. There’s now a trade war going on between Russia and the West. Russian troops are on Ukraine’s border, and NATO is about to conduct a major military exercise in Eastern Europe. MH17 fanned the flames.

The problem with posturing is that it can lead people into positions from which there is no escape without either becoming more openly aggressive, making a stand on principle, or backing down. And nobody likes to back down.

I dismissed all this as a groundless concern. Surely NATO and Russia wouldn’t go to war; the prospect is absurd. Both sides know that once a war of that magnitude starts, none of the combatants is likely to back down until they are truly beaten. And how far down the line would that be?

Absurd. Right. Dismissed.

And then I read today that NATO has warned Putin to ‘pull back from the brink.’ The brink of what, exactly? The same phrase has been repeatedly used of the Cuban missile crisis down the years. What ‘brink,’ pray, is Mr Putin perceived by NATO to be standing on? I hope I’m being fanciful here.

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