A Word on the Ukraine War

A Word on Ukraine
Sean Gabb
(24th February 2022)

For reasons that escape my understanding, someone at The Daily Mail called me a few hours ago to ask my opinion on the present war between Russian and the Ukraine. Our discussion was organised about four questions. Here is the generality of what I said in answer to each of these questions:

1. Have we no duty to help the brave democrats in the Ukraine, who are yearning to be free of the neo-Soviet tyranny that Mr Putin represents?

No. It is none of our business what gang of bleary kleptocrats occupies the ministry buildings in Kiev. Any British politician who so much as whispers a desire for armed intervention should be hounded from office.

2. What about our friends in the former Warsaw Pact states of Eastern Europe? Are we to abandon these to the real possibility of creeping aggression from Moscow?

What friends? If you will pardon my French, these countries shat all over us in 2018-19. Admittedly because our own politicians were trying to sell us out, we needed support in our dealings with the European Union. Those supposed friends in Warsaw and the Baltic States had only to veto our compelled request to put off our departure for the French and Germans to cave in and start talking sense. They looked the other way then. We owe them nothing now.

3. And our commitment to the Atlantic Alliance?

Please do not mention the Americans. Leaving aside our sad entanglements since 1917, America is some kind of zombie apocalypse plus nuclear weapons that might not yet be past their use-by date. It has not won a war against an equally-matched power since it defeated itself in 1865. Its army nowadays is stuffed with the sort of people who, faced with a conventional battle against the Russians, would probably shoot their own officers if these were not themselves waddling away. The Americans as allies are a net liability.

4. What is your vision for British defence policy to 2030?

Switching the “climate change” budget to rebuilding our navy and air force. Our new ships and aeroplanes should be wholly designed and built in this country, and we should understand that their most likely use will be against the French and the Americans. At the same time, though this is a digression from the main answer, we might set about remaking England as the sort of country a reasonable man would risk dying to defend.

This is roughly what I said to the young woman who called. I doubt if any of it will be in tomorrow’s Daily Mail.


  1. I’m reminded of AJP Taylor’s view that only communism stood between Britain and Russia realising their joint interest in an alliance, to prevent a German rise. British foreign policy is not so much formulated in our interests, but rather in the interest of the Sir Humphreys who like to be called to international summits with the US and the EU. Johnson frenetically stokes war in the East for Biden, while Biden insists we cannot rule Northern Ireland. Now would be a good time, while the EU has other things on its plate to trigger Article 16. We seem concerned about the Ukraine’s sovereignty and not our own.

      • Not just ask them. I would support going further than de Gaulle, who merely downgraded France’s NATO co-operation. Britain should withdraw from the Alliance altogether (one year notice period required) and repeal all relevant legislation and leases of RAF bases. Give them maybe two years in all to sort it out, then leave.

        However, an alliance with Russia would be dangerous, in my opinion. Isn’t neutrality the best option?

  2. Sean, I’m right with you on items (1) to (3), and my only observation on (4) is that you missed the Germans off the threat list.

    I’m obviously in a very agreeable mood today, since I’m even agreeing with Mr Webb! The UK/Irish border should be a matter for the UK and the Irish alone, as it was before the EU inserted itself into the loop.

      • Sean, Neil,

        Why not instead go down the unilateral route and decommission Trident, adopt neutrality, and ally with no-one? Simply pursue national interest instead. What business is it of ours what the Russians and Germans do on the Continent? If they trade with us to our advantage, all well and good. Preferably the Russians should continue to supply us with a small percentage of our gas needs, etc., etc.

        • No – we shouldn’t decommission Trident. Germany is now rearming and will eclipse the UK eventually as a military power. It would be folly to get rid of our nuclear bombs.

          • Good heavens David, I just up-thumbed one of your comments! If you have no means of defence sufficient to meet the threats you are subjected to, how can you defend yourself?

            But Tom has a good point, too, when he says “simply pursue national interest instead.” At least, if you define national interest in John Locke’s terms: “the good of every particular member of that society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.”

            • Neil,

              I am arguing for neutrality. What threats would we be subjected to without nuclear weapons? Under what circumstances do you think atomic weapons would be used, or their use credibly threatened, against a non-nuclear state?

              Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, but Argentina was a non-nuclear state and did not act under the shelter of an alliance with a nuclear power, whereas Britain was (and remains) a nuclear power and in alliance with the United States, a nuclear-armed superpower. On news of the invasion, nuclear threats did not emanate from any serious quarter in Britain or the United States, or their nuclear-armed NATO partner, France. But why not, if what you assume is true? Why not just tell the Argentines that unless they leave the Falklands within the week, a hydrogen bomb will be dropped on Buenos Aires? I believe the reason is that nuclear weapons are strategically useless (possibly functionally useless as well) because the aim is not to actually use them. They are of psychological value: a statement of intimidation, power, prestige. It is difficult to imagine a political or strategic reality in which their actual deployment and use would be proportionate or feasible. If a state decided to invade Britain, how would nuclear weaponry assist us in our territorial defence efforts? Possibly tactical nuclear capability would be of greater use in that situation, but wouldn’t the risk be high of harming your own side and incurring mass collateral casualties?

              I suppose what I am suggesting is that there may be an upper limit to the effectiveness of weaponry, due to the realities of use, and this may be important in understanding why these weapons are retained and why circumstances may allow us to decommission them, or at least scale back or change tack. I am not a tree-hugger. I believe kinetic violence is necessary in the yin & yang scheme of things. Britain should aggressively guard and defend its national interests, when and where this is necessary. However, I believe defence should be for defence. That means we have armed forces whose sole purpose is to provide the armed territorial defence of the Home Islands and overseas territories. A nuclear posture is aggressive and is based on the idea that if we give up these weapons, we create an imbalance that will allow nuclear states to push us around. But I again cite the example of Argentina. They didn’t care that we were nuclear armed and 40 years ago invaded part of British overseas territory regardless. The occupation ultimately failed, but that is beside the point I am making, since nuclear weapons had no involvement in the ensuing war.

              Let’s imagine an alternate scenario in which Argentina managed to fend off British efforts to retake the Falklands. What then? Does Britain threaten to drop a hydrogen bomb on Buenos Aires? Isn’t it quite likely that the Argentines would have ignored this threat? Nuclear weapons do not exist for that scenario.

  3. Most media reports appear to lack hard information as to what is going on in the Ukraine. There are maps of where has been bombed, but few of whether the Russians have taken any territory. The Institute for the Study of War – known for its control of terrain maps for Syria – has produced the first one for the Ukraine at https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-ukraine-warning-update-russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-25-2022 You can see substantial areas are now under Russian control – and yet no newspaper has a map like this.

    • In the period since you posted that comment, the mainstream news sources have started posting their maps with more or less the same information about the extent of Russian control, albeit some further progress has been made by Russian forces. I’m looking at the BBC and Reuters, for instance.

      It does look like the Russian strategy is to encircle cities and minimise civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure. It is reported that the Russians are keen to negotiate but Zelensky has backed out of talks several times. It is unclear to me what Putin’s true objective is. Is he just trying to neutralise the Ukraine, with or without annexation of small ethnic Russian areas (his publicly-stated objective)? Or does he intend to split the country up, perhaps annexing the eastern Ukraine and turning the western half into a buffer state? Or is he going for the lot, with the fact in mind that he would then have a land border with Poland, and Russian land missiles would be right in the heart of central Europe? He did once say that he wants to do away with defensive ICBMs altogether, and this may be a way of doing so by putting NATO in a position where they have to back off the Ukraine and re-position much further back.

  4. The neo-con “invade the world, invite the world” narrative is getting stronger and stronger all the time. This is essentially US foreign policy, with a strong dollop of multiculturalism and even Bonapartism (as the state floats above a divided population), with contracts galore for the military-industrial complex. Whatever this is, this isn’t democracy. Government ministers who burst into tears because they are unable to bring more Afghans in – literally – are not even thinking about OUR interests at all – they have abandoned the nation-state and now operate through a conceptual prism of globalism. Some of them claim to be conservatives, but of course aren’t. For this reason, even when NI is being annexed and the EU is dusting off plans to destroy the City of London – it’s hard to believe it, but UK ministers are fawning over the EU and US, begging for a ringside seat in the next global war. We don’t even really factor in the Tory government’s imagination.

    • I can’t see that PR China is a force against this, but I am more optimistic about Putin/Putinism. He appears to be a national-traditionalist and only interested in Russia’s national advancement – which is fair. To my view, that would make him a difficult and possibly dangerous ally. Better perhaps to pursue a neutral attitude combined with a globalist rules-based system which is minimalist in its aims and simply ensures that national sovereignties and varied human cultures are respected, mass immigration (which is just slavery) ends for good and polarities in global power are diminished in favour of diffuse power and influence – which national sovereignty can help.

      Perhaps it is possible (and maybe even essential) to be a nationalist and a globalist at one and the same time.

  5. You never know, Dr. Gabb, you might make the front page headlines: “Gabb backs Putin!”, with a large photo of you in a manly pose, looking domineering, perhaps pointing to somewhere off camera. I realise that’s a total distortion of what you actually said, but it would be entertaining.

    • I’ve given up expecting anything from the mass media but gloating lies. If these people told me an atom bomb had fallen on Dover, I’d buy a geiger counter before stocking up on toilet paper.

  6. The Shortest History of Ukraine

    1991-94: Independence, economic crisis and the adoption of a French-style president and prime minister constitution.

    1994-2004: Economist Leonid Kuchma administers shock therapy during two five-year terms as a Gaullist executive president. The economy recovers, at a price in oligarchy and corruption. EU membership is not on the table during this period.

    2004: The first pro-EU revolution by television, the Orange Revolution.

    2004-2014: Ukraine becomes a German-style parliamentary republic. EU membership is a contested issue for two presidencies and three parliaments, dominated by pro-EU Yulia Tymoshenko and pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych. When Yanukovych refuses to sign an association agreement with the EU he is forced out after a second revolution.

    2014: The second pro-EU revolution by television, the Euromaidan Revolution.

    2014-2019. Television oligarch Petro Petroshenko, a key figure in both revolutions, serves one five year term as president. A constitutional commitment to EU and NATO membership takes the issue out of politics. Conflict with Russia begins.

    Petroshenko loses the presidential election to Volodymyr Zelensky, a television personality and apparent joke candidate who conducts his real campaign on social media.
    And then…

      • Just seen this. Yes, there was a sub-plot involving the constitution. The 2004 revolution made Yushchenko president and Tymoshenko prime minister. It also reduced the powers of the presidency. One of Tymoshenko’s first acts was to initiate a process of alignment with the EU. Yushchenko, supposing that foreign and defence policy were still reserved to the president, tried to overrule her, but she outmanoeuvred him and reduced him to a figurehead. It is this aspect of the 2004 revolution, more than the rerun of the Yushchenko-Yanukovich election itself, which gives the events of 2004 the character of a coup.

  7. I’m hoping the Chinese will broker a compromise and end the war. What I most don’t want is to see Russia humiliated and alienated. The Ukraine has to live next to Russia forever, and yet appears to have done nothing to try to find a compromise that suits both sides. France and Germany buried the hatchet after 1945. Let’s say: the Ukraine stays permanently out of NATO, but can join the EU. The Crimea is recognised as Russian. The DNR and LNR republics are allowed to go their own way. The Ukraine agrees to become a bilingual country like Finland — or if not, to let all 8 of the Russian-speaking provinces go. All sanctions are lifted. An international treaty bans unilateral sanctions not approved by the UN Security Council.

  8. The Ukraine is making a lot of propaganda videos showing Russian prisoners of war crying, phoning their mothers, etc. But the Geneva Convention bans “Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”. Is putting a camera in the face of a crying 18-year-old captive degrading???

  9. Mary Dejevsky is the first to broach the subject of why we are cheering the Ukrainians on to their deaths instead of telling them to negotiate properly with the Russians, and agree to neutrality, in order to save their lives and cities. See https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/are-we-cheering-on-ukraine-to-destruction- There she writes “At what point should the West stop its cheerleading for valiant Ukraine and urge instead that its leaders cut their losses and sue for peace, to save their country and themselves?” I do not believe cities are appropriate locales for warfare. If you have lost the war on the battlefield (and no pitched battles have been fought in this war – at least not out in the open), and you are surrounded, you should surrender the city to the besiegers, in order to save the people and the city. That is what Paris did in 1940. I know Churchill said “London could easily devour an entire hostile army fought street by street”, but it would have been a terrible idea to turn urban London into a sniper’s paradise. The Ukraine must negotiate now: offer permanent neutrality, recognise the Crimea as Russian, and probably Donetsk and Lugansk too, and maybe some other areas that the Russians have conquered. The longer they listen to jaundiced Western advice to spin out the concessions, the ultimate concessions will be deeper and more painful, and will follow a huge loss of Ukrainian lives. What Zelensky is doing is not “bravery”; it’s foolhardiness.

  10. This has got to be resolved soon, as the Ukrainians will be blamed for sacrificing their cities and populations, and the Russians will be blamed for wasting their young soldiers’ lives and the whole future of the Russian economy on a poorly planned war. It is difficult to deny that a full Russian acknowledgement of defeat would be the best outcome, especially if we can get there without razing Kiev to the ground first. The West has its share of the blame, and has to step in now and offer the neutral status for the Ukraine that is the key to stopping this from going any further. Putin may be overthrown eventually – not a bad idea, in itself.

  11. The Telegraph today: “Facebook and Instagram users in some countries will be allowed to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, Reuters has reported.

    Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will also temporarily allow some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to a series of internal emails to its content moderators.

    These calls for the leaders’ deaths will be allowed unless they contain other targets or have two indicators of credibility, such as the location or method, one email said, in a recent change to the company’s rules on violence and incitement.

    The emails said calls for violence against Russians are allowed when the post is clearly talking about the invasion of Ukraine. They add that calls for violence against Russian soldiers were allowed because this was being used as a proxy for the Russian military, and said it would not apply to prisoners of war.

    The temporary policy changes apply to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.”

    I support full freedom of speech other than things clearly illegal on Facebook, but it is a fact that many truthful things are banned, while other extreme things are allowed. To call for violence against Russians????? We are being swept up into a hysteria. Is this what happened in 1914?

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