One can easily imagine the heavy-handed cinematography of some future documentary or drama. As Westminster is consumed with increasingly absurd stories of parties in Downing Street, British diplomatic staff and their families are being pulled out of Kiev.

Doubtless to the astonishment of the sort of analyst who insists that such things simply cannot happen in the Current Year, there seems to be a growing consensus that Russia is going to invade Ukraine. To some, the question is whether they will stick to the east or cross the Dnieper (or bypass it, via Belarus) and attack Kiev itself, perhaps installing a new regime.

As we noted a few days ago, Ben Wallace has actually steered the UK towards the forefront of the international response.  Britain has taken the lead in airlifting military supplies, and NATO allies both in Washington and Eastern Europe have noticed.

But there is little hope that this support would actually equip Kiev to defeat a full-blown Russian invasion. Likewise talk of fresh commitments of troops to the region by the US are confined to NATO members, such as Romania. Nobody in the West is talking about trying to fight a ground war in the Ukraine.

This poses two difficult questions for the Government, and indeed perhaps for every NATO government.

First, there is what to do in the event of an invasion. A military response is off the table. But the usual Western weapon of economic sanctions may also prove difficult to wield.

Germany is already striking a cautious note, which is not surprising as Berlin has wilfully and discreditably increased its dependence on Russian gas by shuttering its nuclear power stations. But if Moscow decided to weaponise its energy exports, the impact would be felt in the UK too, pushing prices up just as the Government is preparing to sail into the teeth of a cost-of-living crisis.

Moreover, as Adam Tooze explains, the Russian Government, having restructured its debts and built up one of the largest foreign currency reserves in the world, is also much better prepared to withstand what limited sanctions may be brought to bear than it was in the past.

This doesn’t leave Britain completely empty-handed. Ministers could push for more engagement with the Russian-speaking world via the BBC World Service, although this might prove an awkward conversation for Nadine Dorries. They could push for a fresh round of sanctions on oligarchs and other individual Russians, although these will likely be resisted by the Treasury.

Likewise, any attempt to use the E3 as a forum for pushing Germany towards a tougher stance will run up against the dire state of Anglo-French relations.

All this points to the bigger problem, which is simply that the UK (and its allies) seem not to have a coherent strategic approach towards Russia. Successive governments have compounded year-on-year defence cuts with a posture that prioritises participation in the South China Sea over the ability to make a material contribution to a European theatre.

There has been no sustained effort to develop national energy independence – in fact, in 2017 the Government shuttered the UK’s principal strategic gas reserve.

Perhaps worst of all, in the specific context of the looming crisis, in 2008 it was New Labour which helped to broker the worst-of-all-worlds deal in which NATO committed to admitting Georgia and Ukraine without giving them any actual support, simultaneously maximising the provocation offered to Moscow whilst minimising any actual benefits to the two nominal beneficiaries.

If Vladimir Putin does launch the sort of full-scale land war Europe was supposed to have consigned to history, one silver lining might be that it provides a rude awakening to a criminally complacent post-Cold War establishment. But the price for sounding that alarm will be paid by Ukraine.