I think Yugo Kovach’s letter (17 March) misses the point. The current conflict centres around the ambitions of one man, Vladimir Putin, an intelligent, well-educated man with a strong sense of history gained, for the most part, first hand.
Here is a man who grew up in the mighty Soviet Union and heard tales of the suppression of reactionary forces in Hungary, doubtless remembers and saw first hand, like I did, the crushing of the Prague Spring by Brezhnev and witnessed the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.
Lesson to be learned – if there is a popular uprising, crush it as in 1956 and 1968. If you don’t, then pay the price and see the West move steadily east as in the collapse of the Soviet Union or the rise of militant Islam as in Chechnya, north Africa and Syria.
Putin fears this contagion taking hold in Mother Russia and as he has few economic levers to pull, he resorts to building mass xenophobia at home and the one thing that always impresses is Russian brute force.
With his home audience happy that they have “a strong leader” he can rely on the West’s and in particular Europe’s, reluctance to fight. It is not lost on Putin that Europe is mindful of the centenary of the Great War and the significance of making the “wrong” moves.
Crimea, for now, is lost. The important effort should be to stop the agent provocateurs, which Russia has in abundance, from creating unrest in the east of Ukraine and giving Putin an excuse to invade.
Should that happen and Europe does not stand up then we can at best look forward to decades and more of unrest but more likely the destruction of our peace and prosperity.
Russia – and Putin in particular – only respect an iron fist. Put it in a velvet glove if it makes you feel better but sadly nothing else will stop him.