It is perhaps easy to become fatigued by news of the war in Ukraine. It is now fifteen months since Vladimir Putin’s tanks rolled over the frontier for what they thought would be a straightforward victory, an imperial conquest more akin to 1940 or the Napoleonic era than the 21st century.
Through sheer bloody-mindedness as much as western-supplied weaponry, the Ukrainians have fought the war to an effective stalemate. It’s perhaps all too easy to move on to other things; a frozen conflict, far away, and with energy prices settling back to normal one could make the argument that for all intents and purposes the war has no day to day consequences.
That’s understandable, perhaps, but wrong. Every week or so, some atrocity committed by Russian forces – be it yet another bombing of an apartment block, or news of the more than 1,000 attacks on the Ukrainian health system – jolts you back into realising that, no, it’s 2023, and there is war on our continent.
Next week Rishi Sunak will meet Joe Biden in DC, with free trade on his mind but more pressingly the desire to show the world that the two most important nations in NATO still stand steadfastly behind the Ukrainian people. In the Kremlin, Putin will no doubt be hoping that we bore of this war; that we become immune to the images of destroyed cities.
We got bored by Putin’s invasion of South Ossetia; we got bored by the conflict on the eastern front of Ukraine, which has raged since 2014; we even got bored by Putin’s use of ‘little green men’ in Crimea.
That cannot be allowed to happen again – not just because it would give Russia a free hand, but because it would encourage other dormant imperial powers, not least China, in their own foreign adventures. And in the US’ case, at least, it’s beholden on Joe Biden to box in any potential successor into support for Ukraine’s cause. The west – and the States in particular – cannot go wobbly on this one.