Sunday 28 August 2022

For It Is Inescapable

As someone once said, every conflict ends in a political solution, so why not start with one? Lord Dannatt has taken to Times Radio to say that the Ukrainian Generals needed to tell Volodymyr Zelensky that they could do no more and the game was up, while Peter Hitchens has more than his first go at channelling his inner Jeremy Corbyn when he writes: 

I ask you to think very hard about what the Prime Minister said in Kiev a few days ago: ‘If we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood.’ 

Mr Johnson added: ‘We must keep going. We must show as friends of Ukraine that we have the same strategic endurance as the leaders of Ukraine.’ Must we? Till when? Is this either a conservative or a patriotic thing to say? Is it even sensible? Pause before you answer.

War is often popular to begin with. But it has a nasty way of ruining the lives of those who once cheered for it. By the middle of the First World War, Britain had bankrupted itself and the flower of our young manhood had been churned into the Flanders mud. Millions had paid, both in blood and wealth, a savage price for a war that almost all would one day agree was a mistake.

Lord Lansdowne, a veteran Tory and former Foreign Secretary, wrote to The Times newspaper to suggest it was time to make peace. The Times refused to publish the letter. He was pretty much driven from public life.

He was falsely derided as an unpatriotic defeatist, when he was the opposite. If he had been listened to, we would have had no Russian Revolution, no Stalin, no Hitler, no Mussolini, and no Second World War. Britain would have survived as a major power for many decades longer than she did.

Almost all wars end in ugly compromise. We were only able to defeat Hitler because Stalin was on our side, and he exacted a huge price – including gobbling up Poland, the country whose independence we had gone to war to save.

Now, as I showed during the Covid panic, I think it my duty to stand up against the majority when I think they are wrong, and I think it my job to endure the abuse that follows.

So here goes: the undoubted villainy of Vladimir Putin is not really a justification for the bloodshed this war is bringing to Ukraine. Nor is it a good reason for the poverty it is bringing to the rest of Europe. It is Mr Johnson who has coupled these two together, by the way, not me. Yet for once I agree with him. They are very much linked.

This is not really a principled war against evil. The Foreign Office has no such principles. Mr Johnson has no such principles. Britain is not going to support a war against Saudi Arabia, whose tyranny is just as foul as Putin’s – if not worse. We are on smiley terms with the Saudis and with a worrying number of blood-spattered despots.

I’m not going to argue at length about what the war in Ukraine really is, though I view it as a futile conflict. I think it was brought about by long years of stupid goading of Russia by the USA – and by the even stupider decision by Putin to respond with a lawless, gory invasion.

That’s my view, dismiss it if you like. After all, what do I know? I’ve only lived in the region and been closely interested in it for decades. So I’m disqualified from the national debate – under the rule that it is now a positive disadvantage to know anything about the subject under discussion.

But heed me when I say this, for it is inescapable. The longer this war goes on, the more it will hurt both us and Ukraine. It will mean more coffins and lost homes and grief for Ukrainians. It will mean truly shocking poverty here, as the new energy prices clearly show.

Yet there will one day be peace, and it will be on terms rather worse than they would be if a deal were made now. Can you, or any politician, justify the pain and loss that will take place? Worse still, can you justify the untold dangers which we face if the war spreads, as it so easily could, if we do not try to stop it while we still can? Well?


  1. He and George Galloway have both wound up exactly where you have always been on this.