Putin’s announcement this morning of a ‘special military operation . . . to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine’ was probably the most aggressively unhinged statement that’s been made by a European political leader in three quarters of a century. If outsiders interfered, he warned, they’d face ‘consequences . . . such as you have never seen in your entire history’ – which can’t mean anything except a nuclear strike. He threatened Ukraine’s government even less conditionally. The ‘junta’ had been responsible for the ‘genocide of millions’, he said, so Russia plans to put perpetrators of those crimes on trial.
There’s every reason to assume he means that, and worse. Six days ago, Foreign Policy magazine cited US intelligence which suggests that Russia had already drawn up lists of prominent Ukrainians to be targeted or killed. And though it’s ordinarily sensible to be sceptical of anonymous intelligence sources, it would be stupid in hindsight to doubt that report. Western assessments of Putin’s intentions have turned out to be demonstrably true, while his repeated denials of a planned invasion are all palpably false.
Plenty of apologists will still excuse the destruction, assassinations and show trials ahead with observations that the West has done lots of bad things too. The toadies who work at RT are going to keep parroting Putin’s lies, while the partial peaceniks who rally behind Stop the War these days will say that ultimately, all the killings are NATO’s fault. But with a three-pronged invasion by air, sea and land under way, a more urgent truth should be obvious. The Kremlin is out to destroy an independent state and incapacitate or murder many of its leaders. Ukraine deserves our full support.