There are two international threats of war in the coming months or years which seem distant to people in Northern Ireland.
The latter is the more imminent risk.
China has made clear that it does not and will not accept Taiwan’s status as, in effect, an independent nation with radically different values.
Russia has been massing troops on the border of Ukraine, an ethnically divided country that it considers to be very much within its sphere of influence.
As in Hong Kong, the prospect of western minded populations and governments with freedoms that we take for granted in Europe and America being overwhelmed by huge, autocratic superpowers is terrifying.
What is happening in Hong Kong itself is grotesque: one of the most open and dynamic cities on earth is being systematically brought within the Chinese system of complete repression and the snuffing out of a free press and democracy. Taiwan faces a similar prospect, but by invasion not stealth.
The dangers in Ukraine are much harder to grasp because most people in Britain have little real sense of the existing culture and politics there. But a Russian invasion would be a disastrous global development.
It is fashionable to say that the West cannot do much about either situation, and that might be true, beyond sanctions that have little ultimate impact. There will be little public appetite for direct military input in Ukraine or Taiwan.
But even so, we should be under no illusions as to what is at stake — massively retrograde steps against the values that we hold dear, that are at the heart of our own societies, and have helped drive human progress around the world.
At the very least the UK and US are right to try to build international coalitions against such aggression, coalitions that some western nations seem — for financial reasons — loath to join, even verbally.
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