The Doomsday Clock sits 90 seconds to midnight. The closest the clock has been since the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists established the clock in 1947, when two superpowers first developed the means of ending civilisation and life on this planet. The USSR and USA faced off. With around 200 000 dead in the latest war in Ukraine, Putin is in the dock.
The BBC has assembled a star-spangled cast. No Putin, but a Putin representative. Putin’s ‘special military operation’ is now acknowledged formally in Russia as a war, but because Germany are finally offering tanks, it’s rebranded by Putin as another German invasion. A re-running of the second world war in which Russia lost around 20 million combatants. Later called The Great Patriotic War. The difference here, of course, is Putin is the invader. Ukrainians the patriots. But truth tends to be complex.
Boris Johnson. ‘Putin is a very difficult and calculating man. It was very, very difficult to find leverage, and to find ways of constraining him. You know, he threatened me and at one points said, you know, “Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute”’.
Boris Johnson is an equally difficult and calculating man. Let’s not forget he adopted Brexit. Three years later it has proven to be an increasingly disastrous economic and social policy based on nationalism and racism, but which got him the office he coveted as Prime Minister. The Conservative Party received donations of millions from Russian billionaires and oligarchs who had looted the former USSR and managed to escape with their wealth largely intact. Boris gave a life peerage to a former USSR spymaster and a seat in the House of Lords. Nigel Farage channelled money from the KDP, Russian security services, and into mainstream politics. Johnson was the figurehead that was going to redirect £150 million a week to the NHS. The erstwhile hero that got it done, while enriching himself and promoting brand Johnson. Here he plays Putin’s nemesis while trashing British democracy. Don’t forget, among his lesser crimes, he tried to illegally suspend British Parliament and ride roughshod over the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the EEC.
Jose Manual Barroso, President European Commission.
‘I’ve met Putin 25 times. And to me Putin is someone who knows how to manage risk. When I saw him in the days before the invasion of Ukraine, I think emotion was stronger than rational thinking. Now he’s expressing and very, very deep frustration and resentment against the West—but not only against the West, against the past, against history.’
No President Barrack Obama. His remark about Russia being ‘a regional power,’ was meant to have chaffed at Putin’s pride. Gorbachev was meant to have experienced something similar. But we don’t know because this programme is told from the side of the right and the true.
No moron’s moron and 45th American President. Trump’s election victory in 2016 was celebrated in the Russian Whitehouse. He favoured dogmatism over dialogue. In other words he lied, lied and continued lying as he faces multiple charges ranging from fraud to rape. Money was funded directly to the Trump brand via Russian players in the Great game. Facebook and Twitter aren’t Russian stooges, but Russian bot factories churning out propaganda for the Trump brand proved not too good to be true, but to be true.
Instead we have a low ranking official from Obama’s administration giving the official view, which is Putin is a dictator. We know that. Trump is a would-be-dictator.
Petro Poroshhenko, Former President of Ukraine.
‘After the election, I called the Whitehouse for congratulate Trump. And definitely, er, I tried to prepare for this, er because I doubt Ukraine was among his first priorities. My message to the Trump, was exactly this, from the very first conversation, “Don’t trust Putin”’.
Radek Sikorski, Foreign Minister, Poland.
‘Eastern Partnerships were not always attended by everyone. This time everyone came, including the Prime Minister of Britain, because we knew this would be a historic moment.’
If President [of Ukraine] Viktor Yanukovych signed, it would be his country’s biggest step towards the West since his country leaving the Soviet Union in 1991.
But after a recent trip to Moscow, rumours had started that he was feeling the heat from Vladimir Putin about joining the EEC.’
Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative.
Simon Smith, UK Ambassador to Ukraine.
‘He really had the frightners put on him.’
Dalia Grybustkaite, President of Lithuania, ‘I and Merkel, we had been speaking to him eye-to-eye, And, because we spoke Russian, he was more sincere. And he gave us some kind of understanding that he was under pressure personally, under pressure.’
Christoph Heusgan, Merkel’s Diplomatic Advisor, ‘Chancellor Markell told Yanukovych very clearly, we expect you to agree to it. We believe that also, this is what your population believes. This is what we have been striving for, for the last few years, actually. And not you are backing down. This is incomprehensible to us.’
The same incomprehension could be attributed to Boris Johnson and his decision to leave the EU.
Simon Smith UK Ambassador to Ukraine.
‘There was this expression in the Ukraine about milking two cows.’ Boris milking two [or more] cows?
Radek Sikorski, Foreign Minister, Poland.
Putin was offering cash, virtually the next day. The kind of opportunity Farage, Johnson and David Cameron have recently jumped at.
‘I was pretty clear that everything I heard from Yanukovych that he wasn’t serious about a partnership with the EU.
I spoke with President Aliyev from Azerbaijan, who I always who I always thought was quite a good reader of the situation.’
David Cameron was clearly not a good reader of the situation in Europe, Ukraine or at home in Britain. After thirteen years of taking money from the poorest in Britain and giving it to the richest, including recent Russian billionaires buying fast-streamed citizenship and property. Cameron and Osborne, the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, without due diligence, pandered to Farage and his rich-wing, Putin-backed, gang of xenophobes. Later, the former Prime Minister of Britain was caught trying to milk his former comrades and contacts for public money to enrich himself—tens of millions—and his chums, hundreds of millions sterling in dodgy deals. Here he’s shown as a great world leader, who is worth listening to. The British version of Viktor Yanukovych.
Obama. The White House, 28th February 2014.
‘Putin has now crossed a line. And there will be costs for any military intervention in the Ukraine.’
Caroline Atkinson, Obama’s Adviser for International Economics.
‘The President was very keen for action, but not military action but economic action- which can be very powerful if the US is doing it. And the natural thing was to turn to sanctions. But we also wanted to be joined together with allies in Europe.’
Kim Darroch, Cameron’s Security Adviser.
‘One country has literally seized a chunk of territory from another.’
[When was the last time Israel has done that?]
‘Number 1, if you talked about energy, a lot of European countries, particularly central European, but also Germany had quite a heavy reliance on Russian oil and gas. Some European countries, notably Germany and Italy, sold a lot of stuff to Russia.’
Francoise Hollande, President of France. ‘in the Italian political class there was a certain indulgence towards Putin.’
‘in London, a number of Russian oligarchs had been welcomed there.’
As there was towards Le Penn. Her nationalistic party and racist agenda came close to the highest office of French political power, and it was recently funded by Putin’s KDP in terms of ‘loans’. Leaving the EU is no longer part of Le Penn’s party appeal. The UK has proven a cautionary tale.
Putin’s invasion has also proven a cautionary tale. His triumphant march towards Kyiv didn’t happen, but might still. The threat of nuclear war increases. But most of his military hardware was found to be outdated and not fit for purpose. His troops unmotivated and ill-used. For very little US investment in money or manpower, the Russian army was largely taken out. Win-win for the US. Another geopolitical win in Europe’s reliance of Russian gas was overstated. Putin’s leverage slackened. Win-win for green-energy policies that took up slack. But with energy for sale at cost price, a closer alliance between Putin and President Xi brought other threats.
But in the same way that even Le Penn would no longer countenance leaving the EU, another dictator President Xi has been shown what could happen if his plans for the reunification of Taiwan with China, despite the increasingly volatile rhetoric, might well be left to wither. Another win for the US.
Dalia Grybustkaite, President of Lithuania.
‘The reaction of Europe at the time was very upsetting. The cheap energy was so comfortable. And so addictive they were not able to overstep their pragmatic policies.’
‘Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours…not out of strength, but out of weakness.’
Jose Manual Barroso, President European Commission.
‘He said that Russia was a regional power and this is not helpful, because it feeds on resentment. And for me, Putin is essentially a product of resentment because of the decline and also humiliation of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.’
What is to be done? As Lenin asked in 1901-02.
‘This first episode tells the story of how, when Putin first attacked Ukraine in 2014, Europe’s leaders clashed over how to stop him. Amidst massive demonstrations demanding closer ties with the EU in Kyiv, Ukraine’s president flees to Russia. Putin exploits the power vacuum to make the most audacious move of his presidency to date: sending troops into Crimea.
We go behind the scenes for the critical summits and fraught phone calls as the west tries to find a way to push back. The crisis heightens as the fighting spreads to Donbas in Eastern Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is shot down. Key players including David Cameron, Francois Hollande, Jose Manuel Barroso and Ukraine’s then-president Petro Poroshenko relive the EU’s indecision and the all-night negotiations with the warring parties: a ceasefire is signed in Minsk, but Russian forces remain in Donbas.
Putin, meanwhile, appears more confident than ever. The lesson is clear, says French president Francois Hollande: ‘When we do not punish at first, we are forced to punish more severely later
Putin turns to the Middle East. After Gaddafi’s overthrow in Libya, Putin shows just how far he’s willing to go to keep his ally, President Assad of Syria, in power.
Leaders including Boris Johnson, Theresa May, and Volodymyr Zelensky discuss how they confronted Putin and manoeuvred to try and prevent his invasion of Ukraine.’