We’ve had a number of armed kerfuffles in Europe fairly recently but these were mostly centred on The Balkans and were local affairs, wars of independence, and ethnic conflicts. They always attracted plenty of media coverage because sensation sells, but none even came close to escalating ito wider European and global conflict.
The threatened bust up between Russia and the west over Ukraine is much more serious – potentially the worst inter-regional conflict since the cold war, with far reaching consequences for both geopolitical and economic stability if mainstream mediaeports are to believed.
Unfortunately after two years of non stop proaganda and scaremongering as mainstream media tamely parroted the official narrative over the COVID pandemic, with that narrative now collapsing under the weight of evidence that the vaccines don't work, lockdownds did more harm than good and COVID is not really a serious threat to anyone who is less than 150 years old and is not half dead already with some pre - existing condition, government and mainstream media have lost the trust of the public and have less credibility that the world champion liar.
It may even turn out to be the case that the massively hyped minor confrontation in Ukraine could escalate into global war is being exaggerated for the purpose of distracting from the colapse of the killer virus narrative.
Whether this scepticism is justified depends on the answers to two, interconnected questions; what does Putin have in mind and what will be the Western response to it?
For the moment the possibility diplomatic engagement suggests this is more a game of chess than Russian roulette. Putin has set out his list of demands, which amount to reconstructing the sphere of influence Russia then enjoyed before the break up of the Soviet Union. These demands include a ban on Ukraine entering Nato and a limit to the deployment of troops and weapons to Nato’s eastern flank, in effect returning Nato forces to where they were stationed in 1997, before their eastward expansion.
The USA has now ruled out full scale military retaliation, after demented president Joe Biden had promised a military response if Russia attacked Ukrain, then in the next breath appeared to condone what he called a limited incursion and ended up warning Putin of “sanctions like he’s never seen” should his troops attack Ukraine. In the event, the sanctions so far proposed are rather less scary than those promised. In any case, the list of potential sanctions detailed in the draft submitted by Democrats to the US Senate, and apparently commanding the support of the White House, are not going to much bother Putin, but as we hav pointed out previously will hit America's allies far harder than they will hit Russia.
“Russia has quite a high pain threshold”, says Charlie Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, a London based fund manager. “A robust external and fiscal position, abundant reserves, de-dollarisation and a well stocked counter-sanctions toolkit, make Russia a tough nut to crack”.
This is true, Russia has little trade with the USA and buys little from EU nations but as a major supplier of energy to E U states, chiefly Germany, Russia is in a powerful position to wreak havoc on the economies of NATO members and Vladimir Putin is aware of this. Fr sanctions to have real impact, the West would have to do the same as it did with Iran, banning its exports of oil and gas, and removing Russia from the Swift international payments system. Neither of these actions looks realistic as banning oild and gas exports by Russia would cripple Europe economically, while Russia and China set up their own system for cross border trading in 2017 and this is now supported by over 100 nations.
Now self-sufficient in energy, the US could possibly weather the storm, but the costs to the global economy in terms of higher, already stretched, international energy prices would be crippling. The pain would be most acutely felt in Germany, which is reliant on Russia for about 60pc of its natural gas. That dependency is being made worse by the imminent closure of Germany’s remaining nuclear power stations.
Small wonder that the German chancellery is incapable of deciding where it stands. It’s not just its dependence on Russian gas. Many Germans have a sense of affinity with Russia, “Russlandversteher” as it is called, which is deeply and culturally ingrained and at least as great as that felt for the West. More so than any other European country, Germany looks both ways.