Cast your mind back to 2012 and the US Presidential election.
Apart from the striking civility of political debate even a decade ago, what’s most memorable about the campaign is Barack Obama’s savage putdown to Mitt Romney’s foreign policy credo. “The 1980s called – it wants its foreign policy back,” said the President.
Romney’s crime was saying that Russia was the US’ biggest geopolitical foe.
Romney may not have been right; then, as now, the answer is probably China. But for the rest of the world, the answer is bang on.
For the evidence, look at Ukraine’s borders. Over the past few months, Russian forces have stacked up within striking distance of Ukraine – an independent, sovereign nation with a young if distinctly imperfect democracy.
Foreign policy experts believe Russia is readying for a full-blown invasion. It would not be its first – Russian forces and Russia-backed fighters have already annexed vast parts of the country – but it is a striking escalation of hostilities and, worse, the world seems unwilling to put too much on the line to prevent it.
American isolationism has left the world weaker, and given Russia a stronger hand. Worse, however, is the wilful ignorance of the Russian threat in other capitals.
Last week Angela Merkel finally stood down as Chancellor of Germany, with her lasting legacy to the continent being a gas pipeline which effectively gives the Kremlin the ability to control Europe’s energy policy. It is a gross error, and one that the world will have to live with for decades.
Yesterday the G7 said Russia would face “massive consequences” if it did indeed choose to invade. The issue is that Joe Biden has effectively already ruled out military action, so the West is effectively left only with economic sanctions.
Thanks to Merkel’s decision, those sanctions are hamstrung by Russia’s domination of Europe’s gas supply.
Let us hope Ukraine does not reap what others have sown.