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History is littered with the blood, death and despair of conflict.  Often the road to war has been all too obvious but willingly ignored. Perhaps the most notorious situation was Britain’s refusal to accept that Germany under Hitler intended to use war as a foreign policy tool. We all know how that turned out.

It surprises me therefore how often this scenario is repeated. Why do leaders turn a blind eye to what appears to be an inevitable outcome?

Following the election of a pro-Western government in Georgia in 2003, relations with Russia began to worsen but the West considered it a local matter and most international leaders willingly ignored what was happening.  In 2007, Vladimir Putin made a speech in Munich. He talked about the USA and the West and their “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations”  and in the following months Russia suspended its participation in the Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.  The signs were there for all who had eyes to see and ears to hear.  Sure as night follows day, in August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia.  

Following a French-brokered ceasefire, Putin’s proxy, Medvedev, outlined Russian foreign policy that had echoes of Hitler’s public rationale for invasion; the protection of Russian speakers against ‘foreign threats’. 

Moscow used this policy to justify the annexation of Crimea as Hitler did to annex Austria and Russia continues to assert the same in its naked grab for Eastern Ukraine, all with half-hearted -at best- resistance from the West.  Today we are witnessing the build up of an invasion force on the Ukranian border with more than 100,000 troops and an overwhelming force of tanks, artillery and warplanes poised.  Poised for what? 

Two days ago, the Moscow correspondent of Canadian broadcaster CBC quoted a senior Russian official that an emergency meeting of the Federation Council of Russia (the upper ‘parliament’) will convene tomorrow, this Friday (23rd April. 2021) following which instructions from Putin would require ‘quick implementation’.  These instructions include approval of a decree to introduce martial law and possibly deploy Russian forces outside Russia. This, coupled with Putin’s speech yesterday warning the West not to cross Russia’s ‘red lines’, should set alarm bells ringing.

There is a ‘fortress Russia’ atmosphere in the Kremlin with concern over NATO’s expanding influence and self-induced tensions with the West – concerns about US sanctions (because of computer hacking and election-meddling), the loss of their ‘puppet’, Trump,  the Czech republic expelling Russian diplomats because of Moscow’s alleged role in an arms depot explosion, novichok poisonings in the UK and so on.  

Engineered external conflict has long been used by leaders under pressure to deflect popular criticism. The internal dissent concerning the judicial ongoing murder of Putin’s opponent, Navalny, is certainly something he fears and would quash.  And Dimitrij Kozak, deputy head of the presidential administration, spoke recently of the ‘beginning of the end’ of Ukraine. 

These events would appear to presage the equivalent of Hitler’s blitzkrieg in the Ukraine and where will that end?  Is anyone watching? Is anyone acting?  We all know that if you do the same thing in the same situation you will almost certainly get the same result.  I don’t see the international community doing anything different….

I’m very worried.

The post Steps to War first appeared on David Cairns of Finavon.

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