Steve Aiken: If Vladimir Putin is appeased then Iran, China and North Korea will draw conclusions and the path to world war opens

It is clear, even through the fog and friction of war, that Vladimir Putin’s ‘shock and awe’ invasion is not going to plan.

By Steve Aiken
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 11:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 12:03 am
Dr Steve Aiken OBE MLA is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. He was a Royal Navy officer for 30 years, and was a member of the Directing Staff and is a graduate of the Joint Services Advanced Command & Staff Course
Dr Steve Aiken OBE MLA is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. He was a Royal Navy officer for 30 years, and was a member of the Directing Staff and is a graduate of the Joint Services Advanced Command & Staff Course

The idea of a lightening swift attack to seize the vital ground of Kiev, and to, maybe not just, metaphorically, decapitate the Ukrainian government, has already run into the ground.

Despite a laggardly start the west has now introduced measures that have real bite; and the supply of arms, including directly from Germany, will ensure that any gains President Putin makes, will be at enormous cost.

What military and political strategists should now be doing is looking ahead — there is a very real possibility that Putin will have to escalate his military operations as otherwise, he may actually be defeated on the ground.

The increasing deployment of ‘stinger’ and other hand held air defence weapons will mean that low, and medium level air space will be heavily contested.

Just how many losses can the Russian Air Force actually sustain before its moral and fighting ethos crack?

The images of tanks and armoured vehicles, taken out by hand held anti-tank middles (many made here) will be disheartening to the ordinary Russian soldier who will be struggling to understand why he is actually attacking a ‘fraternal’ nation.

As casualties amount amongst the contract and reservist soldiers, especially amongst the combat experienced airborne troops and the ‘Spetnaz’ special forces, senior Russian military figures will now be looking at the longer term impacts, with losses that will be very hard to sustain.

The spectre of the ignoble defeat in Afghanistan will be rising again.

Unless there is a major breakthrough in the next coming days, the impulse to double down and utilise the tactics of Grozny and Aleppo will drive the Russian general staffs decision making.

That, and if Ukraine resistance morphs into the kind of hybrid warfare in urban environments (that the United States and United Kingdom struggled to fight, and then lost, in Iraq), will mean that this may become a long term, and very costly conflict.

Putin, in these circumstances, will be in survival mode.

Dictators and despots when cornered only act on the rationality that they see.

We need to be ready to challenge when he lashes out, which he will do.

We have already seen his willingness to use nerve agents, radiological weapons and to directly target our critical infrastructure.

Making abundantly clear that we will retaliate for such escalations will be a vital deterrent against such actions.

Also Nato is the bedrock of our security.

We must enhance our support to our allies in Eastern Europe; we must facilitate Sweden and Finland, and integrate them rapidly into our air, maritime and cyber security apparatus.

We must signal an immediate increase in defence spending, across the whole alliance; however, critically, we must ensure that our enhancement of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, is supported by the reversal of the ridiculous cuts planning in our regular Army.

Several commentators have suggested that this is the ‘high-water’ mark of Putin; he has crossed the rubicon and entered the realm of pariah despots.

We cannot appease or conciliate with a leader who flouts every convention of international humanitarian law, our focus must be, and remain on him.

If we do not, we are opening up the international system to global anarchy; those in power in Iran, China, North Korea will draw the appropriate conclusions — and the path, regrettably, to the next world war opens.

The stakes have never been higher.

Finally, while the Ukrainian people suffer, so do the ordinary Russians.

The path to long term peace and stability in Europe is through the defeat of Putin — that must be our strategic goal.

Dr Steve Aiken OBE MLA is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. He was a Royal Navy officer for 30 years, and was a member of the Directing Staff and is a graduate of the Joint Services Advanced Command & Staff Course

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