Opinion with South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay: The reality on the ground in Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine Image Ruslan Lytvyn

I write my regular piece on the back of what is important to report to you, sometimes on local issues, sometimes on more national ones. It is obvious that there is but one issue on my mind this week.

When I wrote just two weeks ago, we were in the sabre-rattling phase based on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. I always apply logic as well as trying to get into the thinking, planning and outcomes of what may be going on in the thought processes of people. I tried to apply this to Putin and I have been proved entirely wrong; I never saw this happening.

The inescapable conclusion is that the man is unhinged as there are none of the usual reasons – more land, raw materials, wealth applying to Ukraine that he could possibly want or need. This is a war of empire, of an attempt to recapture the glory of a former Russia as interpreted through the mindset of an erratic and failing leader with a desire to install a puppet government to Kyiv much in the shape of Lukashenko in Belarus. History was there with his annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and the West did little.

The retreat from Afghanistan in August last year may have been the signal that the US was simply off of the stage in terms of foreign policy and projection of international power with the rest of NATO and western allies too weak to do anything alone.

As I write an invasion is in progress and nuclear threats are also on the table. The West’s response with the deepest economic sanctions ever seen and ongoing provision of advanced weaponry may prove decisive in bolstering solid resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces and populace but I think we have to be realistic about the overwhelming forces and weaponry at the disposal of the Russians.

Perhaps the Russian combatants themselves will see the reality on the ground – the Ukrainians are not begging to be saved as they’d probably been told and the real spectre of war crimes will hang over their heads. Despite being a more closed economy than most with heavy state control over domestic media, real news will get through. The economic effects will now be felt by the Russian people – a devaluing currency, massive interest rate hikes and an economy in free-fall with a shortage of basics.

Russian mothers will see the reality of their sons and daughters coming home in body-bags. There is no way back for Putin, the only way that Russia could possibly be taken back into the fold of international acceptability will be regime change.

China now becomes important. We live in a globalised economy and Putin’s new cosy relationship with China could delay economic collapse. Logic should dictate they realise the danger of propping up an evil regime – we live in hope. When history is written, this will be deemed the ‘Natural gas war.’

The madness underpinning all of this is that we have financed the strengthened Russian war machine because of the policy of reliance on Russian gas, coal and other raw materials to the tune of $100 Billon per year, twice Russia’s annual defence budget. Putin’s coffers are full on the back of a decade long failure of European energy policy, which we now must reverse.

It is not for nothing that I have been writing for months about the failures of UK and Europe’s energy policy and why I started up the new Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative MPs. We must frack for gas, we must dash to new nuclear and if that means a sensible re-appraisal of the path to Net Zero with an arbitrary date of 2050, then so be it. Blame Vladimir Putin.