STORM GATHERS OVER UKRAINE

When I was a kid I used to worry about the atomic bomb.  Thoughts about annihilation were wrapped up in dreams about the Russkies.   Yes, invading Russian troops may have been the figment of an over-active imagination but I wonder what fears and dreams young Ukrainians are having.  Make no mistake about it, Vladimir Putin is a thug and the Russian State is unlike any other, it is kleptocracy.  It benefits chiefly the man at the top and those who surround him.  Extraordinary isn’t it to consider that Putin is probably more powerful than any of the Czars, so what was the Russian Revolution all about when it ends up with a government and society cast bizarrely in the image of the Ancien regime.  There is a horrible sensation at the moment that the guns of war are starting their beat and that there are 110,000 troops and their associated weaponry heading for Kiev in the near future.  However, Putin must be aware that an invasion will meet with fierce resistance and the Ukrainian army is much better disciplined and equipped than it was in 2014.  Body bags coming home is not healthy for any regime and he doesn’t need to be drawn into a quagmire like they were in Afghanistan.  Then perhaps he will look at how Nato and the Allies will re-act.  This is where it starts to get complicated.  Despite the American President’s unfortunate gaffe when he suggested a minor incursion would be tolerated, their rhetoric has been fairly robust and they have suggested that if they do invade, Russia will face severe sanctions.  Then again circumstances are more in Putin’s favour than they were in 2014.  The oil market has contracted and therefore Russia is in a more powerful position.  They could be reaping somewhat of a bonanza in the 2020’s.  Trying, for example, to restrict exports to China is unthinkable.  What China wants China will get.  Take what Christopher Granville of T.S. Lombard has to say about the Russia/China relationship and the Americans.  “ Yes, the U.S. Treasury is powerful but in the end Russia and China will get around it”.  Putin has been thinking about this for a long time and at present the Russian economy is not as vulnerable as one might think.  There is also the rather awkward issue of whether the Allies have a united front.  The British and Americans are somewhat aligned, the British have sent some anti-tank weaponry and the Americans have sent by their own account “ Close to 200,000 lbs of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front-line defenders of Ukraine”.   Now that’s support.  Then contrast that with the Germans who have sent 5,000 helmets.  It is not surprising that Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxer and present Mayor of Kiev called it “ A joke” and said “what will they send next – pillows ?”.  Then you have to remember Germany is dependent on Russian gas.  Also don’t forget Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor before Angela Merkel is now Chairman of the Russian Energy giant Rosneft, earning €600,000 a year.  He has a close personal relationship with Putin.  He belonged to the SDP, currently the largest party in Germany’s coalition government.  Then there is the former Prime Minister of France, Francois Fillon, who joined the board of a Russian state oil firm last year.  Putin has done his home-work.