While women and children huddle together in basements and impromptu bomb shelters across Ukraine, Western governments cower behind that impregnable shelter that is convenient dogma.
Direct involvement of Nato forces would represent an escalation of hostilities with Russia, goes the argument, and that ends in Mutual Assured Destruction. Therefore, we will continue to supply Ukraine with lethal support (or weapons, as one might more simply name them). We will wage economic war upon Russia with sanctions, bringing the economy to its knees. (Except when it comes to oil and gas, obviously. It can still get a mite cold in March, you know.) Ultimately, the Russian people will overthrow Putin, or he'll be that scared that they're going to, he'll sue for peace. Certain that triumph is only a matter of time, Western leaders get back to the more important business of getting re-elected.
Meanwhile, Mr Putin, a keen student of history, continues to atomise cities and their inhabitants. A new level of ferocity. No, wait, hang on. He's had practice. He did it in Grozny. He did it in Aleppo. Worked both times. Neither time did anybody try to stop him.
To be fair to him, he has quite clearly stated his intentions, more than once. He wants to restore the USSR. In Belarus, he's installed a puppet dictator. In Chechnya, at the turn of the century, he used artillery. Georgia fell to him 2008. He took parts of Ukraine in 2014 and is back for the rest now. How's he managed it?
He's weaponised the "no escalation" dogma. He's looked the West in the eyes and said "Really? You want to risk a nuclear war over Chechnya? Be honest, you don't really know where it is, do you?" Western politicians have got together, (with a big atlas) and agreed that actually, one does have to be very careful about getting directly involved, and by the way, have you seen the polls? Putin has thought to himself, "Wow. I had no idea they were so self-serving! I'm on to something here. I'll have another go." It's got to the stage now that he's categorising anything he doesn't like as "escalation". A no-fly zone would be an act of war. Sanctions are a hostile act.
I've watched learned expert after learned expert come on and explain the importance of not escalating. Some have mused that Putin might be ill. Perhaps he's lost his mind. I mean, invading a country. He surely can't think he'll get away with it?
Humbly, I put it to you, dear readers - yes, both of you, that he's simply following the exact same process that has already worked for him, with impunity, more than once.
The resistance in Ukraine has been ferocious. No matter. Putin will use sheer weight of numbers and shells to triumph. He'll kill every man, woman, child and animal in Ukraine if necessary. If the offensive continues to stall, he'll use a battle-field nuclear weapon. Why? He has good evidence to suggest that we'll let him, that's why.
Want to alter his thinking? A larger part of his invading force is parked in a big column just north of Kiev. Warn him to withdraw it, and then if he doesn't, obliterate it. I don't suggest the West declares war or attacks Russia. I suggest it acts to save the capital city and population of the Ukraine, a sovereign state.
Cooler heads than mine are arguing that as sanctions bite, and dissatisfaction grows within Russia, Putin will fall. Those cooler heads marvel at all the Ukrainians are doing, using the weapons that we're effectively throwing over the no escalation fence. Can they win? We ask. Sombrely, the experts shake their heads. "Militarily, no. But... I mean, at this rate, they're ungovernable. Bravo!"
Just so that we're clear, this means that the policy of Nato, or the West, or the World, whatever you want to call it, is:
- Sanction Russia and some Russians.
- Provide arms and support to the Ukraine while it fights on.
- Name streets after the fallen heroes of Ukraine once Russia flattens it.
- Look the other way as Putin subjugates the remaining populace - mostly by killing them.
- Negotiate with Putin about the relaxation of sanctions if he makes a solemn pinky promise not to be nasty again.
- Let the next load of politicians deal with it when he annexes the next country.
I hope that there are people making the argument internally that we cannot abandon Ukraine, that we cannot allow Putin to continue to prove to himself that the West lacks the stomach to fight him.
He won't stop.
It's not the job of the Ukrainians to stop him. It's not the job of the Russians to stop him.
It's NATO's job.