All around the western world the word on the street and the media is, “we have a cost of living crisis”. Pressure is being brought to bear on governments to impose windfall taxes on energy companies, bail out citizens, increase civil servants earnings and take away the pain. Populist politicians naturally call for bail outs for everyone. But let’s just reflect on what’s really going on. Although there has been no formal declaration, we are all at war! Russia is invading Ukraine, but in the process they are directly and indirectly causing multiple impacts on the entire world. This is 21st Century warfare, in which the aggressor threatens nuclear warfare, disrupts food supply chains and stops critical energy supplies, which cause untold upheaval across the entire world.
Of course we need to address the cost of living, but if we allow the crisis to become a cost of living crisis, we are introducing serious risks. Popular pressure may be placed on appeasement in order to solve the shortages and price inflation. Popular unrest may very likely break out in many countries, with violent street demonstrations motivated by genuine citizen concerns but exacerbated by darker forces that have no interest in democratic government.
We are all aware that Russia has long been involved in skulduggery, undermining western governments for years, and will see such outcomes as further justifying their war effort. In fact unrest and revolt in western countries will only encourage Russia to prolong the war and delay negotiation.
We need to accept we are all actually already at war and act accordingly. We need to ensure all citizens in the western world understand that this is a war directed not just at Ukraine, but at the entire western world. Putin’s motives are to expand the Russian empire and to undermine and destabilize the west. The cost of living impacts are not an accidental outcome, they are deliberate acts to attack and weaken the democratic west. Clearly there have been wars in the recent past that have had very dubious rationale. Think Iraq, or Afghanistan. But the current war with Russia is directly comparable with the second world war where the fascist dictator and regime made unprovoked war against other countries in clear breach of international law. Almost no one likes war. But there is such a thing as a just war – in which we accept that war is necessary, where we need to stop the perpetrator’s actions and ensure he (sic) is in no position to repeat the aggression.
In a just war citizens understand there is a price to pay, and accept hardship. They understand that allowing the aggressor to achieve their aims is completely unacceptable and we all need to take whatever actions are necessary to support the effort. Think back to the second world war, gardens were turned over to producing food. Rationing of food and fuel were accepted actions. Recipes were circulated to help people adjust to shortages. And people helped each other. We have to be thankful that the frontline war is a proxy war, and that our sons and grandsons are not being called up to fight (yet). However the Ukrainians are carrying that load, and it is up to us to be resolute in supporting them.
Another aspect of war is that certain critical actions need to be accelerated. In the second world war factories were rapidly converted to produce munitions and equipment. Today we should be clearly prioritizing delivery of renewable wind, tidal and solar energy and taking an axe to the regular planning processes to massively accelerate delivery of energy security. In Ireland we allow anyone to object to almost any form of public project and delay solar farms, onshore and offshore wind farms for years. I’m waiting to hear that this process has been streamlined.
In wartime leadership is vital. We need to hear from politicians in all western countries that they are adopting a war footing. Frankly the images of politicians visiting Kyiv for blatantly obvious media opportunity is disgraceful. We need to hear from all governments that they are establishing a war council to accelerate all key priorities that both protect the disadvantaged, but also establish all aspects of necessary security of the state. This means strengthening the military, state security, cyber security etc. In our democracies we allow and encourage open debate and challenge. But in wartime we need to recognize the need for speed of delivery. Yes, this does potentially open the process to abuse. Here’s where true leadership must come into play and for appropriate governance to be exerted.
We are not in normal times. Although we have not formally declared war on Russia, they have effectively declared war on us. We need to act accordingly.