We could cease to exist at any moment. The game of bluff in Eastern Europe is getting older, less careful and more honest. Russia – it can no longer be denied – has invaded Europe. The scenario long dreamed of in spy novels and video-game fiction has become a banal reality.
How do you feel about that? I suppose, given the worst case scenario, we should be frozen in fear, unable to think or consider anything else. That doesn’t seem to be the mood I observe though.
Perhaps we are so shocked that Putin, the charismatic leader of a kindred state, would be so bold, so seemingly foolish to risk a terminal war with America, that we can’t bring ourselves to realise the truth.
The incredulity is natural. Why has Putin done this? Russia is much weaker (economically, militarily, politically) than the West. To be sure, if nuclear weapons were not a factor here, we could have reduced Moscow to rubble by now.
The truth is that Russia, for all its flabbiness and eccentricity, possesses something we have lost – self-belief.
Russia believes in itself. Europe does not. Russia fights for something it understands down to its bone marrow. Europe fights for reasons devised in a smoky room by unelected suits. The Russian people are by-and-large behind their government. The European people feel occupied by theirs.
Although I strongly oppose what he is trying to achieve there, I must concede that Putin’s success in Ukraine represents a triumph of the human over the mechanical; the spirit over the machine. He has faced down vastly more complicated forces by the virtue of his willpower alone. It is no wonder his reputation is gaining in dark glamour for every week that passes.