So, along the border of Ukraine, where Belarus and Russia proper provide the frontiers to the northeast and east, there are columns of tanks waiting in the frozen steppe. There, where East meets West, the fallout from the Cold War could soon turn hot suddenly, casting Europe into a very dangerous and deadly war that would forever change the political landscape of the continent.
It was Sir Winston Churchill in the long months after the Second World War, that coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” — one that so aptly fitted the standoff between the Soviet forces controlled by Joseph Stalin and the conquered nations they occupied.
This crisis facing Ukraine, this mobilisation of Russian military forces, the scrambling of Nato allies to find a balanced yet convincing response that they will not allow any invasion of Ukraine to go unpunished — it is all terribly worrying.
Myself, who covered the conflict on the ground in the east of Ukraine, where the ethnic Russian territories around Donetsk, Lughansk and Slovyansk became the Donbass Republic, I think that those may be annexed into Russia soon — a move that will avoid an all-out war, provide enough of a victory to satisfy the Kremlin, and enough to allow Nato and the West to express outrage and do little — just as it did with the annexation of the Crimea.
Over the past two weeks, there have been various reports of Conservative
whips using any and every tactic to keep MPs following the party line — which is very
ironic indeed given that this whole episode is entirely about parties in the first instance
But now, at this time of great international danger, the leadership of the United Kingdom — one of five permanent veto members of the United Nations Security Council, and a key active and strategic partner in the North Atlantic alliance — is being investigated over parties and birthday cakes.
When Boris Johnson should be meeting with generals, he’s huddling with advisers on keeping his job. With the storm clouds of war gathering, the Metropolitan London Police have rained on his parade and said they will investigate the breaches of lockdown regulations that seemed commonplace over the past two years in Whitehall.
Instead, the nation is fixated on whether or not Boris had a birthday cake at the Cabinet table.
This is a time of grave peril. It is a time of crisis. It is a period of great uncertainty. No, not Ukraine. Did the Downing Street parties break law?
Oh dear! Have we really reached the stage where the official business is now so paralysed by reports of who did what and where during lockdown that the political successor of Churchill is so weakened that no matter how the cookie crumbles, his position is weakened?
Does it really matter the ins and outs of the Sue Gray report into the parties and gatherings when the reality is that the party is well and truly over for the current administration.
As a keen observer of all things politics, the past three months are truly Nero-esque.
On a news channel on Tuesday evening, Jacob Rees-Mogg extolled the virtues of the unwritten British constitution, and mused that the nation had evolved to the stage where the leadership style was presidential. If Boris was forced from office, then there would have to be a general election. It was a not-so-subtle warning to the Conservative MPs who may be doubters that, given the decline of party support because of these scandals, their seats would be at risk should an election be called by a new leader who would replace Johnson.
Over the past two weeks, there have been various reports of Conservative whips using any and every tactic to keep MPs following the party line — which is very ironic indeed given that this whole episode is entirely about parties in the first instance.
That, I think, says more about the state of moral decay that the Tories find themselves in now. And were a hot conflict to indeed spread out in eastern Europe and somehow embroil Nato, what do we expect from a beleaguered PM?
Can a government that has failed time and time again to follow simple rules like keeping a social distance, avoiding gatherings and stay-at-home expect to earn the support of the British people in acting in eastern Europe?
If the fate of Ukraine rests on western solidarity, then you might as well close up shop now.
No, it matters not the fine details of the Gray report. Nor whether Scotland Yard retrospectively issues monetary fines to those who ate cake, quaffed booze, broke the swing in the Prime Minister’s back garden, or nibbled crisps — the entire episode is nuts.
For that matter, it matters little if indeed Johnson survives this entire episode and makes it through to fight a general election in a couple of years’ time, the British public have firmly made up their mind.
The party is over. The hangover from this entire affair will last a long time — and there are few in the British public who are willing to forget this mess.
Mick O'Reilly is Foreign Correspondent at Gulf News. Source: Gulf News