Vladimir Putin is to the West as that rubik's pyramid I bought when I was sixteen is to me. Every time I take it down, convinced that it's only a few turns away from being solved, I just make the situation worse and confuse myself further. Although, the Putin situation comes with the added possibility of mass extinction in a nuclear war.
Let's not mince words: Putin is clearly our enemy and we want him gone. However, the usual solutions do not apply. Military types are confused because this not an enemy you can bomb to dust and then declare victory over from the safety of an aircraft carrier. He's also a little too unpleasant for us to pretend to be his friend and hope that the situation sorts itself out.
In reading about Putin and the current crisis in Eastern Europe, one criticism of the West consistently reappears. You can hear it made here by former Head of MI6, Richard Dearlove. The criticism is that it was a bad idea to push the borders of NATO right up against Russia and to poke our liberal Western noses into former Soviet Bloc business. The argument goes that all the bad things in Crimea and Ukraine that have happened are ultimately our fault because we did something stupid.
I don't dispute any of this, but I have one question: who was in favour of this? Surely someone was. NATO policy is not decided by spinning a big wheel to decide who we will have a potentially Armageddon-inducing falling out with. Surely this is not a blunder that can be blamed on the craft beer drinking, bearded, metropolitan liberal. It's not like we attend NATO planning sessions in between exhibitions at the Tate Modern and trying out the latest pop up restaurant in Peckham.
I can't read a copy of the New Statement without giving myself a paper cut, so I probably shouldn't be making decisions involving actual guns, but I am slowly becoming aware that the people we trust to run this show aren't much clever than us thickos. For example, weren’t we told that Putin would be gone by now because of the sanctions against Russia? Well, he's still in power and stronger than ever. He's got his man in the White House and he's probably the most powerful person in the world, so you'll for forgive my lack of confidence in those who are supposed to be sorting this out. You guys are shit at your job.
If putting the NATO border next to Russia was so bad, why was it done? Every interview I read with people in the military or intelligence community has the same smug confidence of military people telling civilians that they know best, that I know so well from relatives in the army or the police. Make no mistake, this confidence and complete lack of self-examination will last up to the point when they start firing nukes at Russia and sign the death warrant of every living organism on Earth.
There's a lot of "very sensible" talk about increasing military spending amongst European countries, with the same self-confidence that unpinned assertions that sanctions will bring down Putin. Don't worry - the guns will never be used. The top brass are just worried that there'll be nothing in the Imperial War Museum for the 2020-2030 period and they don't want future generations to think that we were all pussies. If it comes down to it we can always use the guns to attack Spain as the next logical stage in Teresa May’s plan to completely ruin our relationship with Europe.
Escalating the situation is always a good idea. That's why I always throw a brick through my landlord's window before signing a new contract. Just so he knows that I am ready and willing to be a complete shit if I don't get what I want. I find that this approach works best. Building more mechanized death systems must be a top priority when significant numbers of people can't put food on the table despite working full time.
At least the left has a healthy scepticism of all this. Although, I am frankly horrified by some of the relaxed opinions about Putin I have seen in left wing Facebook groups. I am against Western imperialism and I am against the Tory government. But that doesn't mean I want to be friends with everyone who shares these two aims, as that does include a lot of the world’s scum bags as well as lots of lovely people.
Putin benefits from us doubting how massively awful he is, and he is really good at spreading ideas that we like on the left like - such as that American actions in the Middle East created ISIS, or that our leaders are shits and lie to us. Putin also does awful things in Syria and any discussion of Putin that does not begin with how much of a tyrannical bastard he is it’s not worth the pixels used to render it. If the left is good for anything then it should be against mass death dropped on civilians from the sky by brutal dictators.
I am not happy with the job that the people who are supposed to be dealing with Putin are doing. I am also wary of attempts to embrace Putin as an ally. Some of this on the left is down to a simple misunderstanding of Putin, but we need to be more nuanced than: "I love anyone who says bad things about Western governments". If anything is plain we all need to get smart on Putin, quickly.