A Newgen Magazine

Nato is growing reckless over Ukraine – and Russia’s German military leak proves it | Simon

The German armed forces are mad. The leaking by Moscow of a 38-minute discussion between the head of the Luftwaffe and senior officers on sending Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine suggests that Nato’s will not to escalate the current war is weakening. The meeting, reportedly held on an unencrypted line, had all the secrecy of a teenage groupchat. It boosted Vladimir Putin’s claim that this is a war of the west against Russia, with Ukraine as mere proxy.

The west’s justified objective in Ukraine was to help foil Putin’s attempt to topple Kyiv’s elected government. This was achieved in a matter of months, thanks to the Ukrainian army, with western logistical support. At no point did Nato risk that timeworn precursor of so many past European wars, the reckless escalation of a local conflict into a continent-wide one.

But as the conflict in Ukraine has reached predictable stalemate, Nato’s strategy has lost all coherence. This is the moment when such wars run out of control. For two years now, western leaders have polished their macho images at home by visiting and goading Kyiv’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to seek total victory with their help. It was Boris Johnson’s favourite pledge, but then his voters were merely paying for it, not dying. France’s Emmanuel Macron has at least suggested sending troops.

Equally predictable was that total victory was never on the cards. This meant that at some point doubts would ensue. Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, now declares we must “stay the course”, without saying what that means. Germany’s generals may want escalation, but its chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has long been cautious. So, too, is a large swathe of US public opinion, while the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, remarks only that the west must ensure Russia’s war “continues to be a strategic failure”.

Moscow at war can always play long. Horrific though it seemed at the time, the mooted deal in spring 2022 to revert to some version – almost any version – of the pre-February 2022 border would have made sense. Instead Ukraine has come to seem ever more like a Nato mercenary for western generals wanting to boost their budgets and relive the cold-war games of their youth. The price is paid by their taxpayers and Ukraine’s young men.

Western Europe has no conceivable interest in escalating the Ukraine war through a long-range missile exchange. While it should sustain its logistical support for Ukrainian forces, it has no strategic interest in Kyiv’s desire to drive Russia out of the majority Russian-speaking areas of Crimea or Donbas. It has every interest in assiduously seeking an early settlement and starting the rebuilding of Ukraine.

As for the west’s “soft power” sanctions on Russia, they have failed miserably, disrupting the global trading economy in the process. Sanctions may be beloved of western diplomats and thinktanks. They may even hurt someone – not least Britain’s energy users – but they have not devastated the Russian economy or changed Putin’s mind. This year Russia’s growth rate is expected to exceed Britain’s.

The crass ineptitude of a quarter of a century of western military interventions should have taught us some lessons. Apparently not.

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