You could be forgiven for being distracted by other news – Carswell, ISIS, Ebola, Rotherham and plenty more stories have occupied the headlines in this all-too-serious silly season.
But it would be dangerous not to pay attention to the other item of news, which so far has passed beneath the notice of most in the UK: Russia has invaded Ukraine, and there is a land war in Europe once again.
Of course, in effect the Kremlin has been waging war on its neighbour’s attempts to assert its sovereignty for months. Men, arms, money and helpful artillery fire have crossed the border to the rebels in large quantities since the Maidan protesters were first successful. Ukrainians refer to the badgeless, anonymous soldiers in Luhansk and Donetsk as “little green men”, as everyone pretends not to know where they’ve come from.
But now Moscow has taken its shadow war closer to the daylight. NATO reports that at least 1,000 men and various armoured columns of Russian regulars have entered Ukraine. Kiev has presented captured Russian paratroopers who claim implausibly to have “got lost”. If that isn’t enough, Russian journalists and brave army mothers report hundreds of slain soldiers being buried in garrison towns near the border.
It is time we stopped the official pretence. This isn’t “tension”, “dispute” or even “incursion”. This is invasion and war, started and pursued by Russia.
It was always going to happen – Putin’s expansionist ambitions were clear long before he invaded Georgia in 2008. Now, after annexing Crimea, he seems set on permanently destabilising Ukraine – or even securing a land corridor to the peninsular, composed of yet more seized Ukrainian territory.
This is a threat to our interests. We benefit in trade and co-operation from a free and democratic Eastern Europe. We benefit from peace rather than continued instability. We are at ther mercy to some extent of Russian control of gas supplies, too, after decades of neglecting energy policy. Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, was murdered at Russia’s behest here in the UK.
As ConHome has noted before, our armed forces are so weakened that we have no capacity to stop Russia’s invasion. However, if we want to prevent a future conflict involving NATO members then we must act to stop them going any further.
That means expanding NATO forces and moving them to new bases in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. It means working with the US to resurrect the wrongly abandoned missile defence shield. It means beefing up our protections against Russian espionage and cyber-attacks. It also means securing our energy independence, through nuclear and shale gas.
Unless we act now, we will face much worse action later.