The West is tantalisingly close to crushing its biggest security threat – so why hesitate?

Ukrainian servicemen of the 108th Separate Brigade of Territorial Defence fire small multiple launch rocket systems toward Russian troops

As Ukraine continues to erode Russia’s military machine, those who call for Putin to not be humiliated must be disregarded

Robert Clark

4 September 2023 •

As the summer months begin to give way to autumn, the stoic Ukrainian soldiers are fighting through the heavily defended Russian lines across the south of their country, as multiple breaches across the most heavily defended lines have been widely reported

These reports are giving increased reason for optimism for eventual Ukrainian success in splitting the Russian land-bridge, and potentially routing the more heavily numbered invaders altogether. 

This would prove quite the military coup, when only 18 months ago many in the West were writing off the Ukrainians’ ability to repel the invaders and defend their lands.

In the subsequent months attempting to do so, Ukraine has significantly reduced in conventional land combat capability the single biggest threat to European security – the Russian military under a post-imperialist Putin regime, defined by gangsterism and extra-territorial ambition. 

There are broadly two different trains of thought amongst western policy makers regarding how one should view the situation vis-à-vis a depleted Russian military and, alongside it, the Putin regime, and the long-term threat posed to European and thus British security. 

The first school of thought is an idealistic interpretation of international relations, which sees eventual Russian military and thus strategic defeat in Ukraine as somehow far worse for European security, enraging the Kremlin further to act more desperately.

Accordingly, policy makers and observers who subscribe to this idealistic pacifism, are already calling for peace talks and a peaceful settlement, which inevitably involves Ukraine acceding their own territory to pacify Russian aggression. This misguided school of thought aims to save embarrassing Putin to act more unpredictably. 

Putin is far from unpredictable. He is a product of his environment and age; a tyrannical gangster trapped in a Soviet-era mentality of the world, who will time and again seize upon the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of his foes and neighbours alike. An international bully, who like all bullies only respond to strength, not weakness. 

In order to react and pre-empt such behaviour, realism supersedes idealistic pacifism. Here we have seen both French and German heads of state played with and disregarded by Putin, as Emmanuel Macron frantically sought to engage with Putin as Russian troops were massing on the Ukrainian border, and even early on in the conflict, whilst Olaf Scholz’s Germany, and Angela Merkel’s before, had been pumping Putin with billions of euros in oil and gas revenues for years.

Even now, Germany has an over-reliance on Russian energy whilst still politically stalling on raising its own defence budget, having short-changed NATO spending by literally hundreds of billions of euros over the years as Berlin is routinely shaped and governed by idealistic pacifism – even as the Russian bear is at the gates of Europe.  

The ability to look hard facts clear in the eye, take the world as it is not how one would like it to be, and take the political leadership and integrity needed to deal with these events, is what often separates successful strategies from disastrous ones. 

Ukraine have done fantastically up to now, and deserve the West’s continued support long after this counter-offensive, likely only two months remaining at most. 

Whilst Ukraine continues to erode the Russian military machine, the idealists who preach not to press into Crimea, who call for Putin to not be humiliated, must be disregarded. Time and again, Putin has demonstrably evidenced how his Russia proves the biggest threat to European and British security. 

This year’s Integrated Review Refresh correctly articulated Russia as the single biggest threat to UK national security. From the Salisbury poisoning, repeated naval patrols into the Channel, buzzing British skies with fighter jets, threatening our underwater cables, and repeatedly signalling an intent to use nuclear weapons – Putin’s Kremlin is a menace which must be dealt with – as much as the idealistic pacifists may wish to choose business as usual.

This means a long-term commitment to supporting Ukraine both militarily and economically – way past this counter-offensive. In terms of national security, we are witnessing incredibly high levels of return for a relatively modest monetary outlay. 

Even the United States, having spent almost US$50bn – roughly the annual size of the UK’s defence budget – are spending less than five per cent of their defence budget helping Ukraine. Less than five per cent, to degrade a peer adversary. We won’t see any near that level of return if and when the west has to confront an increasingly assertive and aggressive China. 

Ukraine’s ability to degrade Russia at pace and scale is a once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure peace once again returns to Europe, and we must now press home this advantage over the coming winter months and into next year. 

Robert Clark is the Director of the Defence and Security Unit at Civitas. Prior to this he served in the British Army.


  1. Comment by :
    Aj Arn
    Scholz and MicroN have played the long game as tools of Putin just as Merkel and Sarkozy did.
    All that horse feathers vetoing of ANY European Nation giving their Leopard 2 “Heavy Weapons” to fantastically brave Ukraine, lest Putin “escalate”.
    All the while giving their buddy Putin all the time he needed, unhindered by a Counter-Offensive, to construct his Maginot — sorry Surovikin — Line of impregnable fortifications to defend long-term his theft of Ukrainian lands and population.
    With German and French Novorossiyan Quislings at the heart of NATO, Ukrainians are fighting — incredibly bravely — for a burned harvest.

    • Comment by :
      Dave Dafydd
      Lest we forget what Ukraine has already suffered.
      On Channel 4 tonight, Ukraine: Holocaust Ground Zero
      “An exploration of the shocking impact of the Holocaust in Ukraine, where some of the most horrific Nazi massacres of World War II occured. Featuring contributions from Holocaust survivors”.
      Rather pathetic that Germany offered only helmets initially, knowing what individuals were capable of during WW2. Of course, the Soviet Russians were equally brutal and inhuman.
      We in the West must do all we can to assist them in forcing Putin and his ilk right out of the whole of Ukraine, very soon. Has Trump any idea of the history of Europe?

      • Comment by :
        Howard Stollery
        The war in Ukraine does indeed represent a huge opportunity for NATO members to go all in to support Ukraine in its determined fight against the Russian incursions. The U.S. is big brother to the other Nato members with its large contributions and technical support, which in a sense lets them off the hook. “An apres vous, Alphonse” situation.
        Just today I was reading in the NYT about the misallocation of vast funds for the USN to build large conventional ships designed to fight a last century war. This is an in-depth very serious investigative article that calls for a totally different approach, including unmanned vessels such as for remote observation from base in Bahrein. Just a fraction of the many billions of dollars spent on sinkable large ships are needed to deal with Russia right now, but instead are intended to fight a Pacific war should one break out and the U.S. decide to join in.
        The article at last points out the hazard of building large war ships in the missile and unmanned small boat or submersible age, but instead the money goes where political advantage lies. Large donations to key senators, then favourable budgets to the shipbuilders. The result is the U.S. has the financial strength to defeat current and possible enemies, but the internal political corruption militates in favour of its enemies, current and future.
        The military budget that is designed primarily to ensure employment and secure political votes in the process is a widespread feature of many members of NATO, even though there is a war on, and that’s ok because its members are not doing the dying? Looking at this sad picture as a professional manager, the need for overall centralized management of members of the alliance is a missing link. Putin knows all this.

  2. “Putin is far from unpredictable. He is a product of his environment and age; a tyrannical gangster trapped in a Soviet-era mentality of the world, who will time and again seize upon the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of his foes and neighbours alike. An international bully, who like all bullies only respond to strength, not weakness.”

    The writer knows this and we know this, yet the allies, with the exception of the Balts, Poland and UK, still don’t.

  3. “The West is tantalisingly close to crushing its biggest security threat – so why hesitate?”

    Look at the faces of our inglorious leaders of some of the most important countries, Biden, Macron, and Scholz. All three don’t emit any sort of confidence. They don’t look like the types of leaders we need in such trying times. They are better off as janitors, hot dog salesman, or resident of a nursing home, but NOT as leaders of such countries.
    A Ronald Reagan or Winston Churchill would have acted differently. This war would be over with a decisive Ukrainian victory.
    Alas, today, we only have the Three Stooges.

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