PETER HITCHENS: Forget 'evil' Putin - we are the bloodthirsty warmongers
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This is a time of year for memories, and the ones that keep bothering me are from my childhood, which seemed at the time to be wholly happy and untroubled.
Yet all the adults in my life still dwelt in the shadow of recent war. This was not the glamorous, exciting side of war, but the miserable, fearful and hungry aspect.
My mother, even in middle-class suburban prosperity, couldn’t throw away an eggshell without running her finger round it to get out the last of the white. No butcher dared twice to try to cheat her on the weights.
Haunted all her life by rationing, she would habitually break a chocolate bar into its smallest pieces. She had also been bombed from the air in Liverpool, and had developed a fatalism to cope with the nightly danger of being blown to pieces, shocking to me then and since.
I am now beset by these ingrained memories of shortage and danger because I seem surrounded by people who think that war might be fun. This seems to happen when wartime generations are pushed aside by their children, who need to learn the truth all over again.
It seemed fairly clear to me from her experiences that war had in fact been a miserable affair of fear, hunger, threadbare darned clothes, broken windows and insolent officials. And that was a victory, more or less, though my father (who fought in it) was never sure of that.
Now I seem surrounded by people who actively want a war with Russia, a war we all might lose. They seem to believe that we are living in a real life Lord Of The Rings, in which Moscow is Mordor and Vladimir Putin is Sauron. Some humorous artists in Moscow, who have noticed this, have actually tried to set up a giant Eye of Sauron on a Moscow tower.
We think we are the heroes, setting out with brave hearts to confront the Dark Lord, and free the saintly Ukrainians from his wicked grasp.
This is all the most utter garbage. Since 1989, Moscow, the supposed aggressor, has – without fighting or losing a war – peacefully ceded control over roughly 180 million people, and roughly 700,000 square miles of valuable territory.
The EU (and its military wing, Nato) have in the same period gained control over more than 120 million of those people, and almost 400,000 of those square miles.
Until a year ago, Ukraine remained non-aligned between the two great European powers. But the EU wanted its land, its 48 million people (such a reservoir of cheap labour!) its Black Sea coast, its coal and its wheat.
So first, it spent £300 million (some of it yours) on anti-Russian ‘civil society’ groups in Ukraine.
Then EU and Nato politicians broke all the rules of diplomacy and descended on Kiev to take sides with demonstrators who demanded that Ukraine align itself with the EU.
Imagine how you’d feel if Russian politicians had appeared in Edinburgh in September urging the Scots to vote for independence, or if Russian money had been used to fund pro-independence organisations.
Then a violent crowd (20 police officers died at its hands, according to the UN) drove the elected president from office, in violation of the Ukrainian constitution.
During all this process, Ukraine remained what it had been from the start – horrendously corrupt and dominated by shady oligarchs, pretty much like Russia.
If you didn’t want to take sides in this mess, I wouldn’t at all blame you. But most people seem to be doing so.
There seems to be a genuine appetite for confrontation in Washington, Brussels, London… and Saudi Arabia.
There is a complacent joy abroad about the collapse of the rouble, brought about by the mysterious fall in the world’s oil price.
It’s odd to gloat about this strange development, which is also destroying jobs and business in this country. Why are the Gulf oil states not acting – as they easily could and normally would – to prop up the price of the product that makes them rich?
I do not know, but there’s no doubt that Mr Putin’s Russia has been a major obstacle to the Gulf states’ desire to destroy the Assad government in Syria, and that the USA and Britain have (for reasons I long to know) taken the Gulf’s side in this.
But do we have any idea what we are doing? Ordinary Russians are pretty stoical and have endured horrors unimaginable to most of us, including a currency collapse in 1998 that ruined millions. But until this week they had some hope.
If anyone really is trying to punish the Russian people for being patriotic, by debauching the rouble, I cannot imagine anything more irresponsible. It was the destruction of the German mark in 1922, and the wipeout of the middle class that resulted, which led directly to Hitler.
Stupid, ill-informed people nowadays like to compare Mr Putin with Hitler. I warn them and you that, if we succeed in overthrowing Mr Putin by unleashing hyper-inflation in Russia, we may find out what a Russian Hitler is really like. And that a war in Europe is anything but fun.
So, as it’s almost Christmas, let us sing with some attention that bleakest and yet loveliest of carols, It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, stressing the lines that run ‘Man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring. Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing’.
Or gloat at your peril over the scenes of panic in Moscow.