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The Long Haul ...

The squalls and squabbles of Westminster matter, of course. But they’re nothing next to the onslaught launched by Russia’s little Hitler twelve months ago. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the proxy war between us and them is inexorably ratcheting up.

While Putin’s hopes of a quick win in Ukraine were quickly dashed, so too has been the West’s optimism that he’d be forcibly replaced by someone saner.

Likewise the belief that widespread sanctions would cut the ground from under his feet. Thus far the Russian economy continues to outperform Britain’s.

Against that, the Kremlin’s calculation, that the free world would soon lose interest in its aggression, has also proved ill-founded.

To that extent, Putin’s already lost his disgusting little war.

NATO is now more united than ever, and more and more western weaponry pours into Ukraine’s arsenal.

The list includes tanks, precision missile systems, ammunition and – maybe in the not too distant future – vitally needed fighter jets.

There’s a recognition that, even if they do get there, British Typhoons would be a longer-term project because of the extended training period involved.

But there are serious moves afoot to supply the Ukrainian air force with former Soviet MiG-29s. While they’re not state of the art they’re still potent bits of kit.

Teaching pilots how to use them would take nothing like as long, and there are stockpiles kicking around in a fair few European countries.

On the other hand, there are concerns that the Chinese might start replenishing Russia’s diminishing stocks with assorted hardware of their own.

But there are palpable concerns in Beijing that this war could spiral out of control, moving from conventional to something closer to apocalyptic.

Long-term allies of Russia though they are, they’re also a cautious people, ever conscious of the long term.

When asked a few decades back to assess the implications of the French revolution of 1789, a Chinese Premier is said to have replied it was ‘too early’ to say.

Though this is widely dismissed these days as a media myth, it’s still indicative of a mindset.

Putin’s mindset, meanwhile, is unwaveringly focussed on victory at all costs. Russian lives lost in the blood-spattered battlefields seem not to trouble him.

However, here could lie the seeds of his destruction.

Try as he might to conceal the scale of the bloodshed on his own side, mothers, fathers, wives and children tend to notice when their loved ones fall silent.

And, in the teeth of his Orwellian propaganda machine and increasingly harsh laws against dissent, the domestic mood could shift decisively.

More mobilisation of ordinary young Russians might also generate a backlash.

So far, it’s estimated by Western intelligence sources that as many as a half of all convicts prised out of prison to join the war are already dead.

This can’t do much for morale in the trenches, where evidence is mounting that the poorly trained and ill-equipped foot soldiers are not happy with their lot.

It’s worth remembering the thoughts on morale of another infamous European imperialist, Napoleon.

‘The moral is to the physical as three is to one.’

All that said, few experts are predicting this hideous carnage is going to end any time soon.

Which is why the Archbishop of Canterbury is foretelling an outcome analogous to the end of World War One, and warning that history must not repeat itself.

When Russia finally emerges the loser, he argued in a hard-hitting newspaper article, it should not be subjected to the same humiliation as Germany in 1919.

His point being the punitive terms of the Versailles so-called peace treaty effectively sowed the seeds of the Second World War just twenty years later.

Not, he added with some emphasis, that Ukraine should be pressured into ‘an unjust peace’.

Earlier fears that Western will might start to waver are now largely dissipated, as French and German reservations about involvement have been firmly overcome.

Some credit for that resolve must go to our ex Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who effectively weaponised the English language from the outset.

And concerns that Rishi Sunak might not be so willing to put our money where his mouth is have proved groundless.

He’ll be gratified, doubtless, by a Survation poll last week that showed British public opinion is firmly behind him.

Half of those asked backed UK’s current level of support for Ukraine, while almost a fifth of them said we should be doing more. Only a quarter opted for less.

And a bit of direct action by a campaign group called Led By Donkeys may well have struck a chord.

The protesters commandeered the road outside the Russian embassy in London to paint on it a five-hundred square metre Ukrainian flag.

They got arrested, though it’s likely many bystanders thought they should instead have got medals.

Whether the British armed forces have sufficient stocks to keep the weapons supplies flowing is another matter, mind.

Some senior military figures say we haven’t even got enough to protect ourselves, let alone anyone else.

Be that as it may, it’s a convenient bargaining chip in the run-up to the forthcoming budget for the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

A cabinet bunfight is the norm at such times, as each minister tries to make his or her own department a special case.

But there’s little doubt that even in these straitened times, Wallace’s argument has extra heft.

Nonetheless, it’s not clear to what extent he’ll regard our ex PM’s latest contribution to the debate especially helpful.

Boris Johnson’s call for Britain to ‘break the ice’ by becoming the first country to send in the fighter jets is not something Wallace favours.

For now, he insists, we should go no further than training pilots. On the grounds that warfare, like politics, is the art of the possible.

Johnson, however, may well have his sights set on snatching political victory from the jaws of personal defeat.

The Tories’ expected thorough kicking by the electorate in May’s local elections will be a convenient time, he’s possibly thinking.

His outriders are certainly channelling the widespread grassroots grumpiness that while they chose Johnson, and Truss, it was the MPs who opted for Sunak.

Not that any of it will come to anything if the commons investigation starting soon chucks him out for lying about parties during Covid lockdowns.

However, it now emerges that even the Mr Clean who leads the Labour party is not above erring from the straight and narrow.

Hypocritical though it often is, parliamentary politesse is a point of principle. Hence the insistence that everyone’s an honourable or a right honourable.

Not so, in Sir Keir Starmer’s publicly stated view, in regard to Boris Johnson.

‘I really loathed him, ’ he announced in a podcast with the comedian Matt Forde.

‘He didn’t stand for anything, he had no principles, he had no integrity, he lied through his teeth and he brings everybody down with him.’

But Sir Keir gets on much better with Sunak, who could even be tempted after all that rudeness about Johnson to rework a line from Oscar Wilde.

‘An acquaintance that begins with an insult is sure to develop into a real friendship.’

Watch Peter’s report HERE


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