JOHN GRIFF COLUMN: How far is Putin willing to push the world?

How far have we tipped over the brink? Is there new war in Ukraine? And at what cost?, writes John Griff.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 2:30 pm
Ukraine’s soldiers have been deployed to their country’s border in case Russian President Vladimir Putin launches an invasion
Ukraine’s soldiers have been deployed to their country’s border in case Russian President Vladimir Putin launches an invasion

As I write this (it’s Tuesday, February15th) it’s hard to fathom precisely what is going on, but it’s certainly going on globally, involving existing countries of Nato, countries that might seek to join Nato, Mother Russia herself and countries which Russia would rather not join Nato.

At the core of all of it sits one man. Is this a power play by him to elevate his own standing ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, or the actions of a country seeking to re-establish superpower status?

Time, of course, will tell, and soon, but the events of the past few weeks have been sounding loud bells in my subconscious over similar events through my own lifetime.

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I find it strange when people talk about ‘peacetime’, because in reality there is no such thing, nor, I think, has there ever been.

Since man first walked the Earth, there has never been universal peace. Disputes have arisen and tensions have developed.

Really we can only talk in terms of relativity – so since 1945 we have enjoyed relative peace, acknowledging at the same time that in some quarter of the globe there have always been flashpoints of dispute, some being elevated to full-scale war, others merely skirmishes within the context of relationships between nations.

What will the current situation regarding Ukraine end up being?

Shuttle diplomacy has been much in evidence, with world leaders alternately threatening and then cajoling their counterparts to stand down, or at least engage in discussion.

Right now there are what are being described optimistically as ‘signs’ of encouraging intent from Russia, tempered by an attitude of “I’ll believe it when I see it”, which is perhaps not so surprising.

From my school days I recall the events leading up to what became the Falklands War, a 10-week conflict.

To this day it occasionally flares up as apparently unfinished business, but mercifully only as nationalistic hyperbole and without military action.

In March 1982, as ships began to be commandeered for use by the Royal Navy and forces’ logistics swung into action to supply and resupply a defence force sailing thousands of miles to a tiny speck in the Atlantic, it all stopped being just about words.

It became very real as the first Argentine forces raised their flag on Falklands soil and declared that they had taken the Islas Malvinas.

I spoke to my father at the time and asked if we had gone to war. He said “yes”. In point of fact, war was never declared, but it felt like it.

I was more concerned about the possibility of nuclear war as from the American airbase close to my school, we frequently saw F-111s fighter jets and B52 bombers airborne over our heads.

If things had escalated globally, we’d have been some of the first to know about it... but extremely briefly. Britain’s own nuclear-capable Vulcan bombers were deployed to bomb the Falklands and I had school friends who supplied them while others saw action as part of 2-Para on the ground. A former friend lost her uncle in a Harrier; that proximity made war very real.

That was 40 years ago, almost to the day. What will be this week’s outcome? Russia has been actively involved in over 60 outbreaks of conflict since the start of the 20th century. War (and it is listed as war) concerning Ukraine has been ongoing since February 2014, almost eight years to the day.

Global diplomacy continues right now... but is it all merely brinkmanship?