The safest place to escape the Russian missile bombardment of the Ukraine is along the pipelines that continue to supply European capitals with Russian gas. Three days into this Putinesque invasion, our lost, cowering leaders have talked tough on sanctions while continuing to send gas royalties to Moscow.
And this hypocrisy and hopelessness signifies the pathetic state of Western leadership. As Ukraine stands boldly to fight for democracy and freedom, alone, our European and American leaders express their outrage (and do little more). For three weeks before the invasion, the West essentially gave Russia their blessing to invade a sovereign nation seeking closer ties to the West.
- Joe boldly wordsmithed his commitment to do everything necessary to protect (NATO) countries.
- Boris spoke of restrictions on second tier Russian banks and a few oligarchs.
- Ursula grinned smugly about “targeted” sanctions.
- Annalena (the wet-behind-the-ears Weimar foreign minister) talked tough on blocking SWIFT money transfers for a “certain number of Russian banks” (ie, those not tied to Gazprom).
- And Manu? Good God, what a joke.
This spoke volumes to Vladimir. A weak, leaderless West had pre-surrendered the Ukraine while trying to look busy. Two weeks before the invasion, the US even evacuated their diplomats and military personnel from the Ukraine.
Ukrainians were left to fight the world’s second largest army by themselves. Global populations were outraged, publics looked for ways to protest and means to support the brave citizens of Kyiv … while their leaders looked sheepishly into their navels. Meanwhile, the amazing Ukrainian diaspora kicked into high gear. The one inspiring leader to emerge from this shitshow tragedy was a former comedian that few had previously had any faith in.
How did the West get to such a state of leaderlessness?
I have argued elsewhere that two decades ago governance strategies had shifted decision-making processes into a more participatory, consultative, engagement approach. This shift from expert-led consultations to endless stakeholder-led processes meant that policy decisions were made more by librarianesque consensus wonks rather than inspiring, ideal-driven leaders. As the processes were drawn-out and handicapped by the need to include all voices, the only decisions that eventually could be made were precautionary. So a place like Brussels, which prior to 2000, could tout achievements like the removal of border controls, the introduction of a single currency and the free movement of goods and services, could now merely apply precautionary restrictions on innovative technologies. Today the only policy Brussels can occupy itself with is their Green Deal. Their objectives are high, but their capacity to achieve anything is dismally low. The single-minded von der Leyen Commission, obsessed with saving the environment, was not capable to lead Europe in times of a coronavirus pandemic nor manage a refugee crisis. So why would we ever expect these hopeless EU functionaries to lead when Russia decided to invade its neighbour?
But the most tragic conclusion of this precautionary governance shift is that Europe is too weak to even impose meaningful sanctions on Moscow. For the last five years, EU Climate Czar, Frans Timmermans, has played the role of pied climate piper prodding even weaker leaders in countries like Great Britain and the Netherlands to abandon their gas fields and reject the development of abundant fracking fields. Even more hypocritical than the Norwegians (who have increased fossil fuel exports while pretending to go green), European leaders pose as virtuous climate saviours while leaving themselves now totally reliant on Russia and Gazprom to keep their economies going.
And here’s another great idea: “Let’s shut down all nuclear reactors because the loud, activist minority told us to”. No foresight, no logic, no accountability. They can’t even get that self-proclaimed “green, renewables” company, BP, to divest from Rosneft. (RM update 28.02.22: BP has just announced they will look into offloading their investment in Rosneft, five days after the invasion.)
We are led by weak, pathetic hypocrites.
So Putin may be a misguided thug, but he is not an idiot. He was given a free pass to restore a 19th century Russian historical identity and he took it. Our leaders have not led and now they are incapable of applying serious sanctions unless they impose harsh economic suffering on their populations. If they don’t have the courage to stand up to Russia, how much more their angry electorate? Luckily for those in Brussels, they will never have to face an election.
So like the pandemic pause, the Green Deal will push on even as a threatening Russia will soon border on four more EU nations. And when this self-induced greenflation paralyses the European economy, maybe our leaders can also blame Russia. If we can agree they are incompetent, why should we expect them to be accountable?
Green morality should not be an excuse for governing incompetence.
This is personal
I grew up in a Ukrainian family farm. Derided as hunkies and second class labourers, I prefer to think that we were hard working. We didn’t ask questions. If there were a job that needed to be done, we would put our backs into it and do whatever was needed. If we believed in something, we would fight for it. I was blessed with the best values a child could have received and I am proud to pass them on every day in any way I can.
Faced with impossible odds, I have every certainty that the Ukrainians will fight to the end. They will work hard and do whatever it takes to get the job done (to get these invaders off of their soil). And when they succeed, I suspect our weak Western leaders will surely glow in their own self-congratulatory applause. I, for one, will never forgive them.