Ukraine – 2 February 2023


It’s many years now since I read a history of “the Winter War” when the Soviet Union invaded Finland just prior to World War 2. Initially, the Finns heroically repelled a Red Army, badly led through Stalin’s purges and underequipped for winter. But General Winter intervened and when the thaw came so did the Soviet attack on a scale that Finland couldn’t bear and a harsh peace was made. 

Now the Ukraine isn’t Finland, nor Russia the Soviet Union but there are parallels. The publicity about tanks for Ukraine and even a celebrity visit to that country by Boris Johnson can’t mask that all’s not going well. Those actions are more a desperate attempt to shore up Zelensky and keep the war going, than preparation for a victorious parade in Red Square.

Ukraine’s army’s bleeding and a major Russian assault looms. The defence of Bakhmut’s undoubtedly heroic although American military strategists have suggested withdrawal would be better. But that cant be done as beyond that town there’s little to stop a Russian push to Kyiv, other than Ukrainian sacrifice. 

Tanks have been sent with Britain’s establishment chortling about their munificence and hinting at a game changer. But this isn’t a game but war, and what’s been supplied?

Just over a dozen Challenger 2s from UK and similar number of Leopard 2s from Germany. Poland has acceded to appeals and is sending some 70 Leopard 2s. But far from being state of the art tanks, Poland’s able to pass the Leopards on as they’ve acquired newer ones from South Korea. 31 Abrams tanks from the USA will help but they’re months away from arriving. Besides tanks aren’t an electric car, troops need trained and supply lines established. Moreover, there’s a need for air support and artillery, never mind bodies on the ground.

NATO is in this war though supposedly not at war. The German Foreign Ministers ill-judged comments about “fighting a war against Russia” are illuminating but dangerous. It’s Ukrainians that are dying whatever weaponry they’re firing and any further escalation threatens us all.

For Ukraine and humanity’s sake we need to end this conflict now and that requires diplomacy such as from Pope Francis, not rhetoric from warmongering politicians.